I spend WAY more time in Luminar than I do in Lightroom, and it's partly due to the collection of built-in filters. They are just fabulous and quite capable. If you are using Lightroom but are Luminar-curious, this is for you!
When I first got my hands on Luminar, I liked it. I found it to be intuitive and easy to use, while also being powerful - and that my friends is an incredible combination. However, it wasn’t until I really started spending a lot of time in Luminar that I realized that it is actually way more powerful, flexible and adaptable than Lightroom.
Luminar blows Lightroom away in terms of the breadth of filters that are built into it and in terms of ease of use - it’s not even close. Luminar is just much easier to get started with. I spent years using Aperture, and when I moved over to Lightroom a few years back I had to buy an online course to learn how to use it. Moving into Lightroom is like learning to speak another language. I had very little idea what to do with it or how to get started. It’s just not very intuitive.
But you simply don’t have that with Luminar. The tools and filters are easy to understand and they simply work (and if you need help, check out my YouTube channel). Now that I have been deep into Luminar for several months, I don’t even use Lightroom other than to manage my library/catalog (and that feature is rumored to be coming to Luminar at some point).
I’m not saying that Lightroom is a bad product - in fact, I have grown to like it over the last few years of using it - but Adobe does not seem to innovate at the same pace as Macphun, and that is a little concerning to me. I rode the Aperture ship nearly to the point of drowning, so when I see a product that doesn't appear to be getting a lot of incremental new stuff, I get a little worried. Now I don't think that Adobe is ignoring LR in any way - and they certainly aren't abandoning it - but it's definitely not advancing at the same pace. And personally, I want my software to continue to push forward.
In other words, I am very glad that I am using Luminar, and despite all the amazing features that are packed into Luminar, we are technically still only on version 1! Can you imagine how much more awesome it will be in 1 year or 2 years? Literally, the sky is the limit. (And in case you were curious, Macphun has already released two updates with new features added each time, and Luminar only launched back near the end of last year, a few months ago. It's been great.)
Now that I use Luminar exclusively for my editing instead of Lightroom (except for HDR, for which I still use Aurora HDR, though sometimes I bring the base HDR into Luminar to edit), I was examining my workflow and the filters that I like to use, and realized why I love Luminar so much - there are simply some amazing filters in it that don’t exist in Lightroom. This gives me the ability to create custom looks and grow my vision for my shots. It's incredible.
So for any of you out there that are on the fence about Luminar, this is for you. If you are serious about editing your photos, Luminar is way more capable than Lightroom - period.
While there are plenty of filters in Luminar that don’t exist in Lightroom (at least a dozen or so), below is a selection of them that I find myself using a lot, with before and after examples (or videos) to help illustrate their capability.
Now to be fair, some of these things can be accomplished in Lightroom in other ways, but not nearly as easily. That’s part of the beauty of Luminar - you don’t have to learn complicated ways to do things. Just use a slider and get it done. Easy.
Before any Lightroom-lovers take offense, I am not trying to bash the product. I have Lightroom and I generally like it. It's a good product. And yes, it has some features that are not in Luminar yet, such as a catalog/library. That's a fair point. My point here is that Luminar is rapidly encroaching on it and exceeding it in several areas. You don't have to abandon LR anyway - just test out using Luminar as a plug-in for editing some of your images. I trust you will be impressed with it!
By the way, there is a HOT DEAL on Luminar going on right now, up until Feb 19th. Click here for details. Get Luminar plus some great bonuses, and save money in the process. It's a win!
Ok, are you curious yet? Great. Let's get started!
1) Color Balance
I use Color Balance a LOT. I put it into some of my presets, and when I don’t use a preset on a photo, I will bring Color Balance into the mix in some way or another. It’s an incredible tool that can significantly change the look of your photos. The best part is that it is very simple to use. You select Shadows, Midtones or Highlights and then move sliders to get the colors aligned to your liking.
I use this filter on a lot of sunset and blue hour photos, because it helps me accentuate the color tones that are already present in the scene without over-saturating the photo. However I also use it on a lot of cityscape photos, which allows me to better control the color in the final look of the photo, or to significantly change the color tones if I am so inclined. It's very flexible. You never know what you will get, so I invite you to experiment with this filter and see what results from it.
Here’s a video about the Color Balance Filter if you would like to see it in action:
2) Cross Processing
Cross processing is a digital representation of an old film trick where people would deliberately develop film in chemicals intended for a different type of film. Basically, they would use the wrong chemicals and come up with some very different looks. It's interesting stuff.
In Luminar, this is just a fun filter for experimenting with different looks. You have 10 different options at your fingertips, all named after a city somewhere. Each has a particular color look to it, and then you move the slider to increase the intensity of the effect. You may use one to pump up a sunset shot, and you might use another to get sort of a vintage look. It’s quite fun and worth experimenting with. It's another one of those "you never know until you try it" scenarios.
Technically, there are 3 “cross process” presets built into Lightroom, although they are buried in the left-hand menu under Presets and then Lightroom Color Presets. Not only are they hard to find, but they are fairly useless to me (and there are only 3 of them), plus there is not a way to easily adjust the intensity of each effect. Luminar makes it much easier by making this a filter with a slider. Choose one of 10 effects, and drag the slider to increase or decrease the amount. Easy.
As you can see in the below example screenshot, I have used “Seattle" which gives it a nice twilight sort of feel. I like to use this setting on a lot of my sunset and blue hour photos as it seems to complement them quite well. (And note that this is the ONLY filter used on the photo below, since it is just for example purposes. In reality I would use more filters on this photo.)
In this example, I took a lovely sunset photo (previously edited) and applied the "London" Cross Processing option to give it a golden hour sort of treatment. Just experiment with this filter and have fun - there are a lot of things you can do with it!
3) Orton Effect
Oh, the Orion Effect - you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it and find that sometimes it is the perfect complement to a photo. It adds a bit of contrast and some soft focus, all wrapped up in a dreamy overlay sort of thing. I don’t know how to describe it, really. Just try it for yourself. I think it looks great on landscape photos when you are looking for that little something extra, or to add a little interest to a gritty cityscape. So fun.
The below screenshot is a good example of what the Orton Effect will do to a photo. The base photo is a 3 exposure HDR that was merged in Aurora HDR 2017 but no further edits were made to it. It is highly detailed and “crisp” in the Before photo, but as you can plainly see the addition of the Orton Effect gives it a little more interest and moodiness, while softening it up a bit.
Additionally, there are two options for this effect: Type 1 and Type 2. I generally use Type 1 as I just prefer that look. You can also see other sliders below it that give you more flexibility to customize the impact of the filter on your photo. You can further adjust Softness, Brightness, Contrast and Saturation. Lots of power to customize your look.
4) Top and Bottom Lighting
Top and Bottom Lighting, which I like to just call TBL, is so handy. It’s perfect for all sorts of photos, though I generally use it on landscapes and cityscapes because a single exposure rarely has the perfect light distribution. It seems there is always a section of my shot that needs to be brightened a little, and that’s where TBL comes in. With the ability to shift and rotate you can use this tool for all sorts of lighting adjustments in your shots. It works well as a polarizing filter for a sky, to brighten a foreground and more (conversely, you could darken with it).
Using it in the example below basically saves the shot. With that dark of a foreground, you lose basically half the photo so being able to bring it back is a huge win. Again, this is the only filter in the example below, which is not how I would actually edit the photo for display (see example video below for more on how I handled this photo).
In Lightroom, this would need to be done with a combination of gradient masks and exposure settings, but in Luminar it’s a standard filter with simple sliders (though you can also use the gradient mask and exposure filter if you want to). I believe that Luminar’s approach is much easier to understand as well as to implement for most users.
Here's a video showing how I edited this photo in real life, and it illustrates the use of Top & Bottom Lighting, along with a bunch of other filters in Luminar:
5) Golden Hour
This filter is perfect for golden hour or any sunrise/sunset sort of photo when you want to accentuate the golden tones in the scene. It can also be used to change the mood in a photo by giving it a golden tint (see screenshot below as an example of this idea). It really amps up those lovely warmer tones and gives your photo a nice pop of color too. I love to use it on photos taken on the edges of the day in beautiful light. It’s quite easy to use too, since it’s just two sliders: one for amount and the other for saturation. Simple and effective!
In the example below, I took a previously edited photo which was darker and moodier, and applied the filter to give it a completely different look, more of a colorful sunrise version.
This video shows it in action along with some of the other filters that were recently added to Luminar.
So that's it - any questions?
I hope this has been helpful and possibly eye-opening for you. Luminar is a full-featured photo editor and in my opinion it is the best there is - and believe me, I have tried just about everything. Despite all the power under the hood in Luminar, it is still quite intuitive, easy to use and the interface is a dream to work with (and thanks to their innovative Workspaces in Luminar - which I haven't even talked about here - you can customize the appearance and use of Luminar to fit your workflow). Tools are placed in logical spots and you won’t spend a long time trying to figure things out. You will be up and running with it as your primary photo editor in no time at all.
Powerful + intuitive + easy to use: what's not to like about that?
Interested in reading more about Luminar? Click here to see my full review and tutorial. It covers a LOT of ground!
Follow me on YouTube for Luminar tips and tricks!
Should you need to see more examples of Luminar in action, I recommend taking a look at my YouTube channel, where I have over 50 videos now, primarily focused on Luminar and Aurora HDR, both from Macphun. I keep adding new tips & tricks videos, as well as workflow examples, every week. I love doing this stuff, and it's free for you. Win. The below screenshot gives you an idea about what I cover in my videos. Answer: lots of stuff!
Follow me here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jimnix17
Three more things before you go!
- If you are interested in trying Luminar for free, you can download a trial copy on their website. It’s a great way to test things out before you commit to buying it.
- If you decide to buy it, use the coupon code JIMNIX at checkout to save $10 on the purchase.
- I briefly mentioned my preset packs above. Thus far I have released a pair of awesome preset packs for Luminar, which you can find on my Presets Page right here. Both are very reasonably priced and are packed with a lot of options. They are an easy add to Luminar if you like to experiment with a lot of different looks. I also have a free pack available there, and I am close to releasing a NEW PRESET PACK which I will share soon-ish. Thanks!
Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have any questions!
Full Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Macphun, and if you buy through my links I receive a small commission which I reinvest in the growth of this site. However your price is the same whether you buy through my links or not. You are doing me a small favor - which I greatly appreciate! - and that allows me to continue bringing you great content week after week. Note that Macphun did not ask me to write this, and did not compensate me for writing this, either. In other words, this is not a sponsored post. This is my blog and I wrote it because I believe it to be true, and I use Luminar for 99% of my photo editing because I absolutely love the product. Please let me know if you have any questions about this.