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Skylum Luminar 4 Software Review

Luminar 4 photo editing software is designed with every type of photography in-mind and with plenty of new AI tools to make photo editing even easier, it's lining up to be an interesting piece of software.

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Luminar 4 |

Quick Verdict

Luminar 4 has some brilliant AI tricks up its sleeve with one-click improvements, a brilliant sky replacement tool and some good portrait enhancing features. Plus, the user interface is clean, modern and easy to use/organise. It is a bit different to versions of Luminar we've seen previously so those who are upgrading might need some time to adjust but other than that, it's a brilliant piece of photo editing software for those wanting a quick way to edit photos. 


+ Pros

  • Easy to use 
  • Quick processing
  • Good use of AI
  • Sky replacement tool is excellent
  • Uncomplicated tools
  • None-destructive editing
  • RAW editing
  • Plug-in versions available 
  • Price
  • Great for beginners 

- Cons

  • Might be too basic for Pros 
  • Overcooked presets 
  • User Interface is very different for those used to older versions


Luminar 4 from Skylum is a photo editor for PC and Mac that's slowly gained favouritism amongst photographers looking for a none-subscription-based photo editor that can pack some punch. With clever AI and plenty of useful tools, Luminar 4 looks impressive but does the software, in real-life, produce results that are as good as the PR suggests they should be? Let's find out. 


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Skylum Luminar 4 Features

Luminar 4 Library |

Luminar 4 from Skylum is a photo editor and image catalogue/library that can be used as a standalone product or as a plugin with software such as Adobe Photoshop. It offers a vast toolset for editing and enhancing images which include AI tools, Instagram-ready filters, instant looks and other essential tools you need to complete your images. 

Plenty of new features have been added to Luminar 4 which includes a new Edit Module (something we'll cover in more detail shortly) and new tools which have been making headlines since the summer at least. The most talked-about new tool is AI Sky Replacement which, with Skylum's machine learning technology, is the first tool of its kind to offer fully automated sky replacement technology. You also get an AI Skin Enhancer, Portrait Enhancer and a Smart Contrast tool for improving contrast without losing detail. AI Structure boosts detail in select areas without the need for applying complicated masks/selections, there are several new adaptive presets and a new Colour Styles Libary means you can change the colour/mood of photos with specific cinematic styles. 

As well as new tools, several improvements have been made to existing tools which include the Golden Hour filter, Denoise filter and the Adjustable Gradient filter. Plus, as with most software upgrades, there are stability and performance improvements. 

New Features of Luminar 4:

  • Edit Module Revamp
  • AI Sky Replacement
  • AI Skin Enhancer
  • Portrait Enhancer
  • Smart Contrast
  • AI Structure
  • Colour Styles Library (LUT Mapping)
  • Luminar Looks

Updated Features of Luminar 4: 

  • Stability & Performance improvements
  • Golden Hour Filter
  • Denoise Filter
  • Adjust Gradient Filter 


Skylum Luminar 4 Ease Of Use & Performance

Luminar 4 Smart Contrast |

If you've used Luminar before, you'll notice that this version does look quite a bit different with a streamlined user interface that's much more modern and easier to navigate. It's not a bad thing, far from it, but it might take those who are used to the older versions a bit to get their heads around but once they do, the UI is rather intuitive. 

Luminar 4 has 2 primary workspaces: Library and Edit which, as the names suggest, give you an area for browsing/sorting/navigating photos and space for enhancing images. 

The Libary is basic but does the job with albums and folders to keep your images organised. You can also flag, rate and add coloured labels to your images as you do in other Photo Libraries such as Lightroom. There is an option to view an image's metadata but this is under a separate tab called 'info'. 

The Edit interface is where you find the big changes/improvements to Luminar 4 as this is where you find all of the new tools you can improve your photos with. When you open the Edit window, you'll see there's a side panel which is home to 5 new categories you can click on to switch the tools that appear here. The categories are: Essentials, Creative, Portrait and Pro.

With the tools under the Essentials tab, you can develop images faster with the help of AI and basic enhancements while the Creative tab gives you options to alter the mood/look of an image with film simulations, grain and other styles. You also find the AI Sky Replacement tool here so you can add new skies to images. Under Portrait are the AI Skin enhancer and Portrait enhancer AI tools along with effects you can apply to portraits and the Pro tab gives you advanced control over contrast, colour and selective editing. 

Portrait Enhancer |

No matter which options you're working with, they're easily applied by pulling sliders to increase/decrease effects. Plus, there's a History panel where you can track all of the edits you have made and go back to a specific one which means your workflow will always remain nondestructive (even if you close an image, quit the software and go back later) and you can also work with Layers, as you can in Photoshop, to add textures, combine multiple images, apply masks, change blending modes and use specific adjustments. For those who shoot RAW, you can edit these, too. 

Other features include the Histogram so you can see the complete tonal range of an image, a Crop tool, Clone & Stamp tool, Erase tool and a Lens & Geometry option which can be used to fix distortion issues. Image Canvas shows you your image as you edit and you can also change the background colour of your canvas - different shades of grey provide proper contrast and a neutral viewing area.


Luminar Looks

Luminar 4 Lab Collection |

A Look Browser features a selection of presets so you can create complicated looks with 1-click and a pop-up menu to the left of the screen allows you to change collections. These 'looks' will be popular with Instagram fans and they're also a great way to gain inspiration for your own presets, of which, you can create and add to the collection.

There is something for everyone in the Luminar Looks and they can be a really quick way to add something a bit different to an image when you're struggling for ideas on exactly where to start. The same can be said for the Colour Styles Libary where cinematic styles can be added quickly and easily to images. You can't see the settings which are used but you can continue to edit/tweak the photo with the various options available. 

However, some of the filters are a little overcooked with very saturated greens, blues and reds which won't be to everyone's taste. You can reduce the strength of the effect but you have to really reduce it to create an image that's not so 'POW'. Having said that, we really like what the presets have done to the portrait below as with not much effort, we've created four different looks.

You do have to wait a while for the effects to be applied but that's understandable with the processing that's going on.  


Luminar Looks Combined |


AI Structure

Luminar 4 Structure

The AI Structure tool improves the detail/clarity of specific areas of an image without changing the entire photo. It can also identify people/faces and not apply structure edits to these which is a good thing as people/faces don't look right when skin is given more texture and detail. Buildings, however, look great when their edges stand out and the AI Structure tool can give objects, that need it, just the right amount of extra detail. 

It also does this without the user having to apply a complicated mask or brush out the effect when you've applied it to the wrong area.

Adjustments are subtle, which is what you want, and they're easy to make as you just move sliders. If you do want to adjust what areas are adjusted with more control, you can edit the mask, too. 

Overall, AI Structure boosts detail in select areas without the need for applying complicated masks/selections which makes it really easy to use. It's also rather clever that it just knows which areas of an image need improving - impressive. 


AI Sky Replacement

Before After Sky |
Before/After Sky Replacement


With all of the hype that's surrounded this tool, we were really interested in putting it to the test and we're happy to report it didn't disappoint! We're not over exaggerating when we say this tool is brilliant. Gone are the days when you need to zoom in and carefully create masks/precise selections around treelines as Luminar does the hard work for you. All you have to do is select a sky, wait while the software does some calculations and 'ta-dah' your new sky is in place. it even recognises tiny bits of sky amongst annoying fiddly collections of branches (as the image below shows). We had no issues with halos and dodgy missed areas either - it really is a superb auto tool. 


New Sky Complex Selection |
New Sky in place with a complex selection


The software also makes adjustments to the rest of the photo so it blends with the new sky and, should you need to, you can make manual adjustments to tone down saturation, move the horizon and many other minor tweaks that make the image perfect.

If you don't have your own collection of skies, the software comes with a pre-loaded list of selections to choose from. 


Sky Replacement | 1/250 sec | f/8.0 | 24.0 mm | ISO 100
Sky Replaced


It's an incredibly clever piece of technology that's really easy to use and produces great results but, it does struggle when there are reflections, such as lakes, as it thinks the lake is sky and the reflection just doesn't look right and there were some scenes where we had to use gradient masks to apply the effect to more areas of the image than the software thought were needed but overall, it did an excellent job. 

A slight picky note: It would be great to be able to see what each sky looks like (as a preview) before having to apply it to your image.

You do have to be patient, too, as there's a lot of processing going on so the new sky isn't added instantly but this is understandable. 


Smart Contrast

Luminar 4 Smart Contrast |

A simple but rather useful tool, Smart Contrast can be used for, as the name suggests, improving contrast but it does it without losing detail. This tool can be found under the 'Light' settings in the Essentials tab and you drag a slider to increase/decrease contrast. Don't overcook it as the effect can look too strong if you do but if you don't have the time, or notion, to sit and make tiny adjustments for hours on end, the Smart Contrast tool will quicken your workflow up so long as you're careful with how you use it. 


Portrait Enhancer & AI Skin Enhancer 

Luminar 4 Skin Enhancer |

The Portrait and Skin enhancing tools are also impressive with options for enhancing eyes and lips and the ability to smooth skin. There aren't as many options as you see in software such as PortraitPro which is designed to specifically enhance portraits but there's enough on offer to make subtle differences. 

Again, everything is done with sliders which makes the tools easy to use and the only slight issue we had was when small strands of hair fell across the face as the software enhanced these, too, which made them appear overly sharp but generally, both tools perform well. 


IMG 3990 | 1/200 sec | f/2.0 | 100.0 mm | ISO 100


Value For Money

Luminar 4 is priced at £81 new and £64 for those upgrading which is really great value for money when you consider the amount of technology that's packed into the software. An alternative would be Photoshop Elements priced at £85 but the AI is nowhere near as clever. If you want more of a traditional photo editor, Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC can be purchased as part of the Adobe photography package but it's not the cheapest option out there. There's also Affinity Photo (£48.99) or DxO PhotoLab 3. Essential and Elite editions for £112 and £169, respectively. Corel PaintShop Pro 2020 also retails for around £89.99.

Skylum Luminar 4  Verdict

Luminar 4 is a new and exciting example of modern photo editing software that's been streamlined and tweaked so it's even easier to use. It has some brilliant AI built-in with one-click improvements, a brilliant sky replacement tool and some good portrait enhancing features that all make creating great photos fun and simple. 

The user interface is clean, modern and easy to use/organise. But, it is a bit different to versions of Luminar we've seen previously so those who are upgrading might need some time to adjust but other than that, it's a brilliant piece of photo editing software for those wanting a quick way to edit photos.

Will it convert die-hard Adobe fans who have used Photoshop and Lightroom forever? Maybe not as it does still feel a little basic for some pros but, for enthusiasts or those who capture images on smartphones, you will probably love it. Although, a smartphone/tablet version, as Adobe has introduced, would probably be welcomed by photography fans who regularly edit photos on their smart devices for social media. Those not wanting to spend too much cash on their photo editing software will also appreciate all that Luminar 4 has to offer, for the price, too. 

Overall, Skylum has impressed us with clever tricks, nice party tricks and a great price - Highly Recommended. 


Skylum Luminar 4 Pros

  • Easy to use 
  • Quick processing
  • Good use of AI
  • Sky replacement tool is excellent
  • Uncomplicated tools
  • None-destructive editing
  • RAW editing
  • Plug-in versions available 
  • Price
  • Great for beginners 


Skylum Luminar 4 Cons

  • Might be too basic for Pros
  • Overcooked presets 

  • User Interface is very different for those used to older versions



Ease of use4.5/5
Overall Verdict


Skylum Luminar 4 System Requirements 

  • Compatible with Mac and PC (MacOS 10.12 or higher, Windows 7 or higher)
  • RAM: 8GB or higher
  • Disk Space: 10GB free space 


Skylum Luminar 4 Specifications

Software Features
Required Ram8000MB
Trial Download AvailableYes

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trailguru 9 16 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2020 6:07PM
I was about to ditch Capture One and re-catalog my library when Skylum announced they changed direction with the launch of Luminar AI and stopped Luminar 4 development, including the catalog feature. Lucky escape for me. I'll stick with Capture One and warn fellow photographers that Skylum has a poor track record for legacy and owner support and aren't worthy of investment.

One wonders whether all those photographers, who helped with Skylum software development, think it's a good thing to leave their fellows high and dry like this?

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