When we get started with photo editing, we generally use Apple’s Photos for the small improvements in between, and Pixelmator or Photoshop for the big jobs. Adjust the exposure a bit? There’s a slider for that in Photos. Replace the gray sky with a bright blue sky with a few beautiful clouds?
We need Photoshop and the necessary skills for that. Or not? The Luminar AI app shows that you no longer need to be so smart for even the most complicated operations. Artificial intelligence (AI) will do that for you. We were quite amazed when we saw the results of Luminar AI. But let’s start at the front.
Luminar AI for Mac
Luminar AI is made by Skylum. A few years ago, we already tested an earlier app from this developer, namely Aurora HDR. Even then, we were impressed by what kind of HDR effects we could conjure with it – without too much effort. Luminar AI is Skylum’s latest app and, unlike Aurora HDR, focuses more on general image editing rather than just HDR.
At first glance, it seems to have more in common with Photos than Photoshop. There is a ‘Catalog’ where you import your photos, ‘Templates’ for super fast edits (presets), the ‘Edit’ view where you can work with lots of scroll bars and an ‘Export’ tab. The difference, however, is what you can do with those presets and edits because we wouldn’t get the results better with Photoshop.
Incredibly good templates
As an example, we use a photo from our last vacation in Italy (see above). We import it into the app (although it would also be possible to open it via an extension from Photos), and start with the ‘Templates’. Luminar AI automatically recognizes what can be seen in the photo, because we immediately receive suitable suggestions for the templates to be used. There are some clouds and a lot of water to be seen. The suggested templates are called ‘Cloudy’ and ‘Water features’. So apparently the AI is really not stupid.
Via ‘Water features’ we quickly get a super nice photo, and ‘Cloudy’ does not disappoint either. But just when we think Photos can do this too, we’ve chosen a template that turns our dramatic cloud cover into a tranquil night sky. Surprised, we undo the operation and repeat it again. But Luminar AI has automatically replaced the entire sky and completely changed the atmosphere. Wow.
Even better edits
We switch to the ‘Edit’ tab. If you get this far with the presets, what is possible with manual edits? As mentioned, the ease of use can be compared to the possibilities of Photos. You activate a chosen effect and adjust it via sliders. The tools make the difference with a small AI logo next to them. Unlike Photos, these make it possible to really add new things to a photo, instead of just adjusting the existing colors.
A bit like in Photoshop, but easy. We activate the option ‘Sky AI’ and can simply replace the sky with one of the many ready-made images. If desired, we can even use our own recordings for this. You don’t need any Photoshop knowledge at all, and yet you get results that are as good as if you had edited something manually. And in addition to ‘Sky AI’, there are also tools with artificial intelligence for portraits, people, composition and general enhancement. These all work just as great.
We don’t need to talk about the quality of the edits. They are great. We only encountered some difficult photos where Luminar AI had problems recognizing the subject or the sky clearly. And even then, with the tools of the tools, it was still possible to make something out of it, although in that case, it was no longer a matter of one click. In our opinion, the speed of the app is heavier.
You need a powerful Mac to run Luminar AI completely smoothly. Our somewhat dated 12-inch MacBook needed some thinking time in between, but on the MacBook Air M1, it ran very smoothly. However, given the intricate operations, this is no big surprise and high-level criticism.
Finally, there is the price, because, with 99 euros, Luminar AI is certainly not one of the cheapest programs. But we are happy that there is no subscription model. And in our opinion, the convenience and time savings you achieve with the app certainly make up for that amount. For us, Luminar AI is the best alternative for people who find Photos too basic and Photoshop too complicated.