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Luminar Neo Software Review

Skylum's Luminar Neo has a great line-up of tools that promise to make photo editing a doddle so we're putting them to the test, to find out just how good they are.

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Quick Verdict

Luminar Neo is a comprehensive, photo editing tool that's powered by AI which makes it a great option for amateur photographers who are getting to grips with photo editing and simply want a little bit of help with some tasks.

+ Pros

  • Easy to use 
  • Reasonable Price
  • Great results
  • Simple UI

- Cons

  • Processing slow in places


Skylum's Luminar Neo is a photo editor for Mac and Windows that's powered by AI technology which promises to make complex photo editing tasks quicker and easier so we're putting the latest version to the test to find out how useful its AI tools, and other features, really are. 


Luminar Neo Features

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As already mentioned, the standout feature of Luminar Neo is its powerful line-up of AI tools which can help you replace skies, remove powerlines, change the lighting in a scene, remove dust spots and enhance portraits with a few clicks of your mouse button. As well as AI helping you save time and make some editing tasks easier, you get core tools you'd expect to find in any photo editor nowadays and there are presets available for creating Instagram-ready shots. For those who use Lightroom or Photoshop, you can install Luminar Neo as a plug-in which gives you access to the functions of a catalogue that are missing from Luminar Neo. You can also access Extensions which include HDR, Merge, Noiseless AI, Background Removal and more. 

You can use Luminar Neo alongside Luminar Share which is a basic app that allows you to transfer images between smartphone and software. 

Luminar Neo Features:

  • AI Landscape Tools such as Replace Skies
  • AI Portrait enhancement tool 
  • Core photo editing tools
  • LR and PS plug-in
  • Additional Extensions
  • RAW photo editing
  • Easy masking tools


Luminar Neo Ease Of Use & Performance

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After installing Luminar Neo, your first task is to upload images and it's refreshingly simple to do. Click the 'Add Photos' button, find the photos you want to open in Luminar Neo, select them, click 'add' and everything appears in the UI. There are no complicated questions or multiple options to confuse the user, just a really simple process. 

It's important to note at this stage that images aren't imported into Luminar Neo as they are with Catalogues in other software. Instead, they are referred to from their original location but opening images is a quick process and you aren't waiting around for long at all. Just remember that images will need to be stored somewhere on your hard drive and if you delete them from here, you'll no longer be able to access them in Luminar Neo. Deleting from Luminar Neo, however, will mean the original file remains in place on your hard drive. You can access and upload images from memory cards and external drives but do remember these will need to remain connected to your computer otherwise the software won't be able to see the images. 

To the left of the Catalog UI is a column with options for viewing photos, in the centre are your photos displayed as thumbnails and to the right is EXIF data. It's a lovely clean interface that's easy to understand and use. If you like, you can create albums to group images together and you can also apply basic flags such as 'favourite' (something Lightroom users will be familiar with). Double-click an image and you can take a closer look with a larger view and all of the other images appear at the bottom of the UI as smaller thumbnails. 


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Once you are ready to edit your image, you can choose to work with the 'Presets' or 'Edit' tabs. The 'Presets' tab feature looks you can apply to your images with one click and it's here we see the clever AI in use as it shows you presets it thinks will best compliment your photo. Our shot is of the sea and beach so we see presets such as 'Scenery' at the top of the list with other Presets listed below. Some of the names are a bit ambiguous and need clicking on to understand how they'll change your photo. You might think clicking one of these names will apply a preset but it actually opens up more options for you to choose from which did take a little bit of time to load. Hover over a preset and it's applied live to your image so you can see how it looks before committing. To apply the preset, simply click on it. You can adjust the strength of the filter/preset, undo it to remove it or click a heart symbol to say you love it.


Luminar Neo Software Review:


If filters and presets aren't what you're looking for then click on the 'Edit' tab to access more automated as well as manual editing tools, some you'll be with familiar with if you have used photo editing software before while others are specific to this software.

You have the options to work with layers but it's not like the layers system in Photoshop (it's a lot more basic and for adding specific creative looks), there's a crop tool which you can use manually or ask AI to assist you but we weren't that impressed with the results when relying on the software to make cropping choices for us so we'd recommend you do this manually. 

If you click on 'Layer Properties' you can change the opacity of the layer (useful when working with multiple layers) and find masking tools which you can apply manually or use AI to assist (something we'll look at shortly). 

Under these is a long list of tools which the organisation of won't be to everyone's taste but you soon learn how to navigate them. 

Click a tool and you'll see sliders you can use to adjust the look of your image and some have sub-menus for even more control of how your image looks. Applying edits is really easy as you just move a slider up and down to increase/decrease and effect.

Any tool with 'AI' next to it can use clever tricks to make your editing process quicker and easier but before we look at these in more detail, the word 'Edits' towards the top of the right column gives you access to your history so you can click back to a specific edit point should you need to. 

Most tools are self-explanatory but some you will have to click on and play around with to understand what they do but applying changes couldn't be easier or any quicker in our opinion. 


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Of course, the standout feature of Luminar AI is its AI tools and even though sky replacement and removing backgrounds in a few clicks is something we're used to seeing in photo editing software now, that doesn't stop it from being really impressive and helpful. Manually masking a sky to cut it out and add a new one then balancing the rest of the image takes ages but now, thanks to AI, it's literally a few seconds. The way Skylum presents these tools in Luminar Neo also makes them really easier to use and apply, too, making them ideal for those who don't have that much photo editing knowledge. 

Everything from auto masking to relighting a scene worked really well and impressed us. There is some wait time while the software does some processing but it's not a long wait. Not all changes work on every image, either, for example, you have to find just the right sky for your scene but this has always been the case. Some tools also take a bit more patience than others, too, as adding bokeh so it looks natural and playing around with the light balance in a scene has to be done just right so it doesn't look fake. Some AI tools aren't really needed, either, such as the Crop AI which didn't really produce any results we needed and it would have been quicker for us to just do the edits manually. 


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While we are discussing AI, we have to mention Mask AI which can detect up to 9 elements in a photo, tell you what they are and mask them separately. It does a decent job and certainly speeds up what can be a very tedious manual process but it didn't always get things right and occasionally missed some areas of a photo. The wood in the above shot, for example, came up as 'Flora' and it got confused where the sea met the sky. Click back off the Mask AI tool and you can make further adjustments with the other Masking tools on offer. 


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The Portrait Background removal tool is really useful and, again, speeds up a process that could take ages to complete manually so even with complicated scenes that some of the AI missed and needed further adjustments with manual tools, it still saved time in the long run. 

The final AI tool we're going to give a specific mention to is found under the Erase tab and this is the option to remove power lines which was beyond impressive and pretty quick. No need to use the clone tool to remove annoying wires any more. 


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Before/After using the 'remove powerlines' AI tool


Saving an image after editing through us for a while but there's a tiny share button top right you need to press where you can save/share images in various ways. There's also no print module, instead, it's File>Print which is rather basic. If you use the Luminar Share app you can send photos directly to your smartphone for speedy social sharing but most will choose to save files directly to a folder. 


Luminar Neo Software Review:


Performance-wise, if you have a computer which matches the specs listed by Skylum, you'll be fine. You do have to be patient when some AI edits are been applied and it's a bit weird that there's no indication of how much processing time remains. 

Overall, if you want to save time when editing photos, like to play around with filters (Instagram fans) and aren't a fan of the complexities of Photoshop then Luminar Neo could be the photo editing software for you. 


Value For Money

Luminar Neo can be purchased as a lifetime license, as a yearly payment or paid for over 12 monthly payments. Three versions are also available which all give you access to Luminar Neo but come with different add-ons such as extension packs and license numbers. 

Prices are listed as £79 for the Explore annual payment, £99 for the Pro version and £139 for the one-time payment option. 

For a limited time (until the end of May 2023), ePHOTOzine members can currently save 30% when purchasing Luminar Neo software and using our exclusive code (EPZ30) at the checkout.  With our discount, a Luminar Neo Pro Subscription (1-year) is currently available for £69.30 instead of £99 (billed yearly) and a Luminar Neo Lifetime License is priced at £97.30 instead of £139 (one-time purchase). 

To see what other photo editing software is currently recommended by us, take a look at our software reviews


Luminar Neo Verdict

Luminar Neo is a comprehensive, photo editing tool that's powered by AI which makes it a great option for amateur photographers who are getting to grips with photo editing and simply want a little bit of help with some tasks. Adding new skies or removing things like powerlines is fast thanks to the clever AI tools built in but there aren't quite enough features on offer to keep the pro photographer happy. There's a very basic image cataloguing system and as a result, we feel those using a Lightroom and Photoshop combo already will probably stick with that. Others who aren't fussed about an advanced cataloguing tool and are just looking for a fluid photo editor that can also offer them a little bit of help when needed will really like what Lumiar Neo has to offer. 

Luminar Neo Pros

  • Easy to use 
  • Reasonable Price
  • Great results
  • Simple UI

Luminar Neo Cons

  • Processing slow in places


Overall Verdict

Skylum Luminar Neo Specifications

Software Features
Required Ram8MB
Trial Download AvailableYes

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