A few months ago I started to feel like my post-processing routine was getting a bit stale. I guess as soon as I can call it a routine I should be changing it up a bit! But the software I was using had some problems.
My workflow consists of 1, 2 or 3 steps, depending on what I want to do with the image:
Step 1: RAW processing using Lightroom – sometimes this is all it takes
Step 2: More complex processing using Photoshop Elements – this is where I’ll do more complicated cloning and healing, blending exposures, and anything that requires making selections (and until now anything that required the use of layers and masks – more coming up on that later)
Step 3: Adding filter effects using other software such as one or more of the Topaz plugins or Nik Color Efex Pro.
It’s this third step of the process where I felt problems were lurking.
Here’s a little background on what’s wrong with the software I was using. If you’re not interested, just skip down to find out more about Luminar.
First there’s Topaz. I absolutely love Topaz plugins and I’m still using them. The problem is that Topaz Labs is rolling those plugins into their new Topaz Studio, which doesn’t play nice with Lightroom. That’s a deal breaker for me. I’ve been in contact with their support team, but they still haven’t fixed it and Studio has been out for months. Support for my favourite plugins is ending as they roll them into Studio. It’s very disappointing.
Then there’s Nik. I used to love Nik Color Efex Pro, but the writing was on the wall in 2016 when Google made it free, simultaneously announcing they wouldn’t be developing it anymore, and fired the team that was working on it. Then this year Google announced they wouldn’t be supporting it anymore either. And in fact, it broke in the latest update of Photoshop CC. While the software has now been bought by another company, we don’t know if or when a new version might come out. Besides, you’re about to find out why Luminar goes way beyond the current version of Nik.
Then, for HDR, I’ve been using Photomatix, which is just feeling old and boring. Nothing new here.
So I decided to spend some time searching for new alternatives for post-processing. After trying a variety of software packages, I have 2 new favourites made by the same company: Luminar and Aurora (for HDR) both made by MacPhun.
If you’re interested in HDR, check out my full review and video demo of Aurora HDR 2018.
Why Luminar is my new Fave
I tried a number of different software packages, and Luminar 2018 SuperNova came out on top. Why?
First: it works. Photos come in and out of Lightroom like a breeze – an absolute must in my book.
Second: it’s easy and fun. There are all kinds of presets and filters to work with. Some of the filters are very similar to ones I used to use in Nik Color Efex like “pro contrast” and “darken/lighten center”.
Third: Layers and Masks!!!! More on that below, but this is huge.
Fourth: the results are beautiful.
Here is a video demonstration where you can see how I processed one of my photos from my recent trip to Scotland.
My favourite filters
Here’s a look inside some of my favourite filters in Luminar:
This filter automatically analyzes your image and instantly corrects it using over a dozen controls at once, yielding naturally beautiful results with one simple slider! Accent can substitute for many traditional controls like shadows, highlights, contrast, tone, saturation, exposure, details and others.
Use the Golden Hour filter to bring warmth, softness, and golden glow to all of your photos. Simply dial in the amount of warm toning using the Amount slider and use the Saturation slider to introduce an even more overall color vibrancy. Quickly emulate the magic that happens just after sunrise or just before sunset.
The Image Radiance filter gives an overall “dreamy” look by adding a glow to the lighter areas of the image. This is a great filter to use for portraits and even landscapes to create soft, saturated results.
With this simple yet powerful filter, you can create a more detailed and dramatic image. Adjust and accentuate different aspects that affect the overall contrast of your photo. Add more dimension to your photos to make them stand out!
And for those of you who like to delve into digital art:
The sun rays filter allows you to add artificial sun rays to your image for a very dramatic effect. You can adjust the location and size of the sun as well as the number, length and tone of the rays. Very cool!
Texture overlay lets you can blend two images together. This can be used for a fine art look, to create vintage-style photos, create double exposures and more. Change the amount of the texture effect, zoom and use blend modes for more options.
But wait, here’s the best part …
Layers and Layer Masks!!
Using layers and layer masks within Luminar means that every filter you apply has it’s own layer mask and it’s super easy to paint on the effect only where you want it.
This is HUGE!!
Before this, if you wanted an effect applied only to one part of an image, you would have to use layers in Photoshop. Now it’s all just a bit easier when you can do that in Luminar. It works with the presets too. So if you like how one preset looks on the foreground and how another preset looks on the sky, it’s no problem at all to make that happen with two clicks and a few brush strokes.
In just a couple of minutes I took this photo:
And made it into this:
How does this fit in with Aurora?
Earlier I mentioned my other new favourite piece of software which is MacPhun’s Aurora HDR. That software is used to blend exposures for high dynamic range images. It also has presets and filters that work in the same was as those in Luminar and it even has layers and layer masks. The filters in Aurora are mostly related to the HDR-ness of your photo like HDR Enhance, HDR Structure and HDR Details Boost. It also has a few of the same filters that are in Luminar.
But Luminar has a whole bunch of other things that are not related to HDR. So once you’re done in Aurora, you can then move over to Luminar for more effects if you want.
If you’re not working on high dynamic range images, just stick with Luminar.
Luminar 2018 SuperNova is currently available for pre-order and the product will be released on November 16th.
It works on both Windows and Mac platforms and can be used as a stand-alone application or as a plugin with Lightroom or Photoshop (including Photoshop Elements).
Why pre-order? You get the best price plus a bunch of bonuses.
- Current users of Luminar can upgrade to the new version for $39
- New users can purchase Luminar for $59
- Bonuses include presets, a cinematic LUT pack, and a one-year SmugMug membership
- 30-day money back guarantee means the pre-order deal comes with no risk
Note, the last day for the pre-order offer is November 15th. The product ships on the 16th.
Here are some more examples of images I processed with Luminar 2018 SuperNova.