In this in-depth review of Luminar Neo, we’ll take a close look at the application and review the newest technology and tools. This write-up will cover some of the best features of Luminar Neo, as well as things we hope to see added or improved in the future.
What is Luminar Neo?
Luminar Neo is a new AI-driven creative image editor made by Skylum Software. It features several innovative tools that leverage artificial intelligence and 3D depth mapping to make complex editing quick and easy.
It works as a standalone application for macOS and Windows. Luminar Neo can also seamlessly integrate Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Photos for macOS and Microsoft Photos as a plugin and extension to accommodate a wide variety of workflows.
Luminar Neo is designed for all levels of photographers, from beginner to pro, to make creative image editing accessible and fun.
“There is a fine line between the photo you took and the photo you imagined. Often, small details make the difference. In Luminar Neo, we’ve built an editor to help you create the photo you imagined.”
Ivan Kutanin, Skylum CEO
Wide variety of powerful AI editing toolsNEW RelightAI tool with 3D Depth MappingNEW Remove Powerlines toolNEW Remove Dust Spots toolNEW Luminar Share mobile appAbility to use tools multiple timesImproved performance (compared to LuminarAI)Great plugin for Adobe/Photos for macOS
Missing key features: Undo/redo, perspective correction, histogram, batch processing and moreLimited masking options (brush only, no gradient or radial mask)Limited Layers capabilitiesVery basic Catalog module
In the spirit of full disclosure it is worth noting that I am a former Skylum employee. Even though I’m no longer officially representing the company, I continue to be a champion for their products and an active Luminar user.
Top features in Luminar Neo
Luminar Neo is a powerful creative editor with a full set of editing tools. We’ll take a look at some of the most useful options and features below.
1. Editing tools powered by Artificial Intelligence
Luminar Neo comes with a fantastic array of creative editing tools to help make your creative ideas come to life.
Many of Luminar Neo’s tools were developed to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to make editing fast, easy, and most importantly, effective. These tools execute complex edits with speed and ease while producing exceptional results.
Most of Luminar Neo’s tools can be used globally (meaning they affect all pixels in a photo) or locally (meaning you can apply the edits to specific areas). The AI does a great job of minimizing manual masking, but masking tools are available if you need them.
In addition to AI tools, Luminar Neo also has several basic editing tools to control Exposure, Tone, Contrast, Color and more.
RelightAI lets you independently control the lighting in the foreground and background of your photo. It creates a 3D depth map of your image that allows you to adjust brightness and warmth for near and far objects — no manual masking required. It also has controls that let you set the location of the transition between foreground and background, as well as a Dehalo slider to smooth the transition between light and dark areas.
Overall I found RelightAI to be useful for both creative and problem-solving edits. While it works on a variety of photographic subjects including landscapes, it really shines when editing portraits. Luminar Neo does a great job of recognizing people in photos.
Remove Dust Spots (NEW)
Remove Dust Spots, located in the Erase tool, does exactly what you’d think — it automatically identifies and removes dust spots from photos.
Hopefully, you won’t need to use it on every photo (if you do, it is probably time to clean your lens and/or sensor), but when you need it, Remove Dust Spots is quite nice to have. It is a great timesaver and works quite well!
Remove Power Lines (NEW)
Remove Power Lines, located in the Erase tool, automatically removes power and phone lines from landscape photographs.
This tool is effective when the power lines are up against the sky, but if there are lines in front of architecture, foliage or other intricate details, the results can be unpredictable. Overall, I found that Remove Power Lines lessened the time I’d spend manually removing power lines, but didn’t eliminate the need for some manual brushwork.
Portrait Background RemovalAI (COMING SOON)
According to Skylum, Portrait Background RemovalAI will use human-aware technology to isolate the subject and remove the background with a single click.
This will no doubt be a popular feature with portrait photographers when it is released!
MaskAI (COMING SOON)
MaskAI will bring precise AI-powered masking to Luminar Neo. According to Skylum, it will allow for easy compositing, the ability to precisely apply local adjustments, and facilitate other complex editing tasks.
This is the feature I’m most excited to try and will update this review once I have a chance to test it.
AtmosphereAI uses 3D depth mapping and content-aware technology to add fog, mist, or haze to the background or foreground of a photo.
It does a beautiful job of adding a touch of depth and mystery to landscape photos.
BodyAI uses human-aware technology to realistically shape a subject’s torso and abdomen. It effectively corrects lens distortion when photographing portraits with wide-angle lenses and can give the appearance of removing or adding weight when needed.
Portrait BokehAI uses human-aware 3D depth mapping to mimic the look of photographing a portrait with an expensive, large-aperture lens by softening and blurring the background and accentuating the quality of light behind the subject.
In order for Portrait BokehAI to work well, there needs to be depth in the image — meaning physical space between the subject and the background. On the right image, this tool creates beautiful results. However, when the subject is too close to the background (or there is little to no contrast in the background), the effect is not as convincing.
CropAI analyzes a photo’s composition and suggests a crop based on the contents. The suggested crop is often an improvement, but I usually tweak the placement of the crop before finalizing the results.
EnhanceAI contains two sliders: AccentAI and Sky EnhancerAI. AccentAI is essentially a slider version of an Auto Tone button. Move the slider to the right to improve tone, color, contrast and more using AI analysis. Sky EnhancerAI recognizes the sky and makes blues richer, clouds more defined and can intensify sunrise and sunset colors.
When I’m editing photos in Luminar Neo, EnhanceAI (specifically AccentAI) is usually my first stop. With one slider I can improve the overall tone of my image without having to mess with all of the sliders in the Develop section (but if need them, I can use those, too).
FaceAI is a collection of several artificial intelligence-based tools for retouching portraits. Slim faces, adjust the lighting on faces, make eyes stand out, whiten teeth, and more — no manual masking required.
FaceAI is a dream for portrait photographers. Complex retouching tasks are made simple and the results are stunning.
SkinAI is specifically designed using AI technology for smoothing and retouching a person’s skin. The results are remarkable. Even when moving the slider to higher levels, realistic skin texture is preserved, while lines and blemishes are de-emphasized.
SkyAI is Luminar Neo’s sky replacement tool. It allows you to use one of many included sky textures or you can create and use your own. SkyAI has several sliders that allow for precise placement and blending for a realistic effect.
SkyAI is one of my favorite features in Luminar Neo. A lot of other apps do sky replacement, but in most cases, Luminar Neo does it best!
StructureAI allows you to adjust midtone contrast and clarity. Human-aware and content-aware AI technology applies the effect selectively based on the contents of the photo so that areas that need extra detail get it, and areas that should have less detail are preserved.
StructureAI works exceptionally well and is put to use on almost every photo I process.
2. All New Luminar engine, built for performance
Luminar Neo was rebuilt from the ground up and is designed for speed. According to Skylum, Luminar Neo is significantly faster than LuminarAI for complex editing tasks.
Performance gains will vary based on your computer’s specifications. On my machine (a very well-equipped 2019 MacBook Pro) I didn’t see a noticeable change in performance compared to LuminarAI, but it is worth noting that LuminarAI typically worked smoothly on my machine as well.
3. Mirror photos between desktop and mobile with Luminar Share (NEW)
The Luminar Share mobile app (for Android and iOS) is designed to transfer photos between Luminar Neo and your mobile devices. The app creates a local peer-to-peer connection between your mobile device and computer (no internet required) allowing you to mirror photos from your mobile device’s camera roll to Luminar Neo and share edited photos from Luminar Neo back to your mobile device.
I had a rocky start with Luminar Share, but after some help from the Skylum Support Team, I now have the mobile app up and running.
I was skeptical about Luminar Share’s usefulness and have other fairly simple ways of moving photos between my computer and phone. However, I was delighted to find that Luminar Share saves me a few steps.
With Luminar Share, I don’t have to go searching through my Downloads folder or dig through my Apple Photos library. Also, since the shared photo from my iPhone now resides in Luminar Neo’s Library I can go back and re-edit it anytime — the changes are not baked in.
I’m optimistic that Luminar Share will be far more useful than I initially realized.
4. Use tools multiple times
One of the limitations of LuminarAI was that a tool could only be used once. Luminar Neo solved this problem and now lets you use and add any tool multiple times. This is extremely useful when you want to use a tool at different levels (or in different ways) to accentuate or de-emphasize different areas of a photo. You can also use multiple instances of a tool to create an extreme effect if maxing the slider out isn’t enough of what you’re looking for.
Learn more about using tools multiple times in Luminar Neo.
5. Luminar Neo integrates with Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Photos for macOS and Photos for Windows
For those who have an established workflow with another asset manager or other image editing tools, Luminar Neo makes an excellent plugin.
Luminar Neo works with Lightroom Classic (from version 6), Photoshop (from version CS5), Photos for macOS and Photos for Windows.
What’s missing in Luminar Neo?
Version 1 of Luminar Neo is quite powerful but is lacking several features you may have expected in this first release including:
HistogramClone & StampDodge & BurnUndo/RedoHotkeysCopy and Paste Adjustments for batch processingLinear & Radial Gradient MasksCopy/paste masksCustom preset creation
According to Skylum, these will be added in Luminar Neo 1.1, but a release date has not yet been announced.
Limited Layers capability
The implementation of Layers in Luminar Neo is disappointing. They work similarly to textures in LuminarAI’s Local Masking, and as far as I can tell offer no additional functionality. At this time, only image layers can be added. There is no mechanism for creating an adjustment layer or stamped layer.
No improvements to the Catalog
Luminar Neo’s Catalog module is virtually the same as what was available in LuminarAI, with only minor changes to the user interface. Users who were hoping to see additional organization tools such as Stars, Color Labels, Keywords and the ability to edit metadata will be disappointed.
Who is Luminar Neo for?
If you love working with your photos and want to have a wide variety of editing tools at your fingertips, Luminar Neo is for you.
Luminar Neo is a good fit for:
Enthusiast and pro photographers who want editing tools that perform complex tasks with ease.Portrait photographers who want retouching tools that save time and produce amazing results.Landscape photographers who want a wide array of creative tools at their fingertips.
Luminar Neo may not be a good fit for:
Photographers who want quick edits and prefer to be behind the camera, instead of the computer. Wedding and event photographers who need batch processingPhotographers looking for a Lightroom replacement
Luminar Neo pricing
Luminar Neo users can choose between a 1-year subscription or a lifetime license of Luminar Neo. Pricing is based on “seats” which represent how many computers you can have Luminar Neo installed on. Special pricing is available through March 3, 2022.
$59 for 1 seat or $79 for 2 seats. Subscribers get the added benefit of receiving all future updates and new feature add-ons.
$79 for 1 seat or $99 for 2 seats
Luminar Neo comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t love it, you can request a full refund within 30 days of your purchase.
Luminar Neo — AI photo editing to boost your creativity
Luminar Neo’s advanced AI technology-driven tools make it an innovative solution for photographers who want to do intricate editing without complexity. It offers flexible options that can fit a variety of photographic workflows.
Luminar Neo is designed for all levels of photographers, from beginner to pro, to make creative image editing accessible and fun. While the initial 1.0 release still has a few weak points, the overall toolset is useful and enjoyable to use. It will be fascinating to see how this software evolves with updates in the coming months.