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Keith Cooper’s City Light Luminar presets

  |   Article, Articles and reviews, Black and white, Image Editing, MacPhun, Skylum, tutorials   |   2 Comments

Keith Cooper’s Luminar Presets

The ‘City Light’ set for Macphun Luminar

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Keith Cooper has produced a range of Black and White image adjustment presets for Macphun/Skylum Luminar image editing software.

These are updated and refined versions of ones he created for Tonality Pro.  If you have Tonality Pro, it works as a plugin for Luminar and you can still use the original presets.

The Presets

The presets specifically cover sets of adjustments that I’ve found useful for producing black and white architectural images.

They are quite deliberately fairly subtle in operation, since in my world, the excesses of HDR and ultra contrasty images rarely meet client requirements.

The idea is that first and foremost you see the image, without wondering what plugin or software was used in its creation.

The presets can also be used for luminance editing of colour images, where you take a dull colour shot, create a B&W version and then blend this with the original in luminance mode. Don’t worry, this is easier to do than explain…

bright stonework

The presets (Mac & PC) are now available for download []

They are completely free of charge, but if you find them useful and would like to make a small donation, it really will help with the running of the site.

Thanks, Keith

New for Luminar

Image adjustment settings are different with Tonality and Luminar, so it’s not possible to simply convert the Tonality settings to Luminar ones.  I’ve gone back to the original colour files and I believe the differences are slight.

An example of one of the presets gets round some of the deep shadow issues you often get in photographing architecture on a bright day (click to enlarge)

city-light Seattle

The presets all deal with different aspects of lighting and shadow since you can’t always wait for ‘perfect’ lighting.

Think of the presets as jumping off points for exploring what you want. I’ve an example that shows how turning off one part of the adjustment settings in the preset may look better, and another where the results from a preset are used as a luminosity blend to enhance a colour image.

One important difference between using the Tonality preset and a similar one in Luminar, is that if you turn down the intensity of the preset in Luminar, the image colour will return.

My preferred solution to this is to add a new layer to the image and include the B&W filter (no settings needed). I look at use of layers in some more detail later on (see also my Luminar reviews)

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Keith’s ‘City Light’ Luminar presets

The basic presets are shown with the colour original, followed by the ‘vanilla’ conversion to black and white and then using the preset.

The colour versions of the images have had minimal processing from the RAW files captured.

Several of the images look relatively underexposed in areas, this is because I often try and retain detail in highlights such as lit areas or the sky.

As digital SLR cameras have improved, the ability to pull detail out of shadow areas allows much more latitude in exposure and far less likelihood of clipping highlights.

I always work with 16 bit images.

Applying any major adjustments to 8 bit files (such as JPEGs) is just asking for posterisation and other undesirable results. Phone cameras may be popular, but have no place in my photography work.

Late Afternoon (rain)

A damp winter afternoon shows the largest permanent market in Europe, in Leicester.

The interior lighting is pretty much balanced in intensity with the light outside.

The market at Leicester - colour image

The basic conversion is just a bit flat

The market at Leicester - simple B&W

Boosting warmer colours emphasises the lit area with more contrast in the interior.

One way you can see this is by comparing the coloured patches on either side of the market sign.

Adjustments? – Why not move some of the colour filter settings in the B&W filter in the preset? See how different parts of your B&W image change relative brightness

The market at Leicester - using preset

Late Afternoon (rain) 2

Taken around the same time as above.

late afternoon near leicester market - B&W image

The heavy shadowed areas are too dark – no shortage of detail in the sky, but not below, as you can see in this simple conversion.

late afternoon near leicester market - black and white

Advanced contrast and boosting warmer colours (yellow/red) in the B&W filtering gives a better view, whilst retaining the essential gloom of a late winter afternoon.

late afternoon near leicester market - using tonality preset

Adjustments? Look at the ‘Advanced Contrast'(shadows)’ setting and the ‘Clarity’ option. Both can change the balance of the dark areas of your image

Early evening (rain)

An evening scene – one that works fine for colour (remember that this is an unprocessed colour image).

Leicester town hall at dusk - colour

Quite interesting in B&W, but it lacks some of the ‘glow’ of the colour version.

Leicester town hall at dusk - monochrome

The preset boosts quite a few features in the image. This is one that shows up more effectively at large print sizes.

What works for an image here could easily be excessive on a 36″x 24″ print.

If you’re experimenting with it, look at the settings I’ve adjusted in the preset and boost or cut them a bit.

Many of the standard presets push things a bit far for my likeing – I want people looking at the image, not the editing effects.

It’s easy to over-do things so use with care.

Leicester town hall at dusk - using tonality preset

Perhaps it’s not so clear what the differences are?

Look again at this, the ‘plain’ conversion. Move your mouse over the image to see the changes.

Original ImageHover Image

Adjustments? This preset has a curve to balance the tone I’m after – try moving some of the point a bit to see how this affects your image – You can always re-apply the preset to bring settings back if you think you’ve messed things up.


A daytime shot of Seattle, that looks fine in colour

Seattle skyscraper - colour

As before, the basic conversion to B&W lacks punch and contrast.

Seattle skyscraper - basic black and white

More contrast and lightening some aspects of shadows looks much better as a print.

Seattle skyscraper - tonality preset for black and white

Adjustment? Try altering Clarity and Structure, but be careful with halos round clouds and buildings stickig up into the sky.

Daytime Shadow

A frequent problem if you’ve not got a choice in when a shot is taken.

In not burning out the sky (I want to keep detail and colour) the building is heavily shaded.

charles st in leicester - colour image

Moving to B&W looks better in some respects

charles st in leicester - black and white

Using Luminar to boost shadow detail helps a lot, but watch for sensor dust showing up more in skies.

If I was using the image for a print I’d likely mask together both versions using the unaltered sky from above.

Luminar supports layers, so you could also do it in there (see my reviews for more detailabout making use of layers and masks).

charles st in leicester - black and white using preset

Adjustments? There’s a big boost in Shadows and clarity here. Try adjusting these and the Smart Tone setting to get balance in your image. Lighting adjustments like this need care

Bright street

Whilst I’ve a whole building in shadow above, looking across the street shows intensely strong shadow.

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - colour

The basic conversion is a little too high contrast in many areas.

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - black and white

A more balanced range of contrast.

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - using city light preset

Adjustments? The ‘Shadow’ settings are the key to this image. Change this and ‘Smart Tone’ for quite subtle changes in the balance of the image.

Bright Stonework

The bright stonework of Southwell Minster

Southwell minster - colour

It’s OK in B&W but lacks a little impact.

Southwell minster - basic B&W

Darker skies and a bit more texture in the 11th century stonework.

Southwell minster - using tonality B&W preset

Adjustments? The colour filter sliders in the B&W conversion filter are key here. Be careful reducing the blue setting too far if you’ve a deep blue sky since you can easily show too much noise in the sky (zoom to 100% to see).

Alternate uses of the presets

The effects of the presets can be blended and masked in numerous ways.

Luminosity blend

Take this colour image in shade. The sky is spot on, but the shadowed area is just too dark.

Some might leap for HDR, but it’s not needed (almost never needed IMHO).

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, Colour

First up I’ll duplicate this layer

layer duplicate

I now have a duplicate of the colour image that I can apply filters (and presets) to.

This is a black and white version after using the ‘Bright Street’ preset.

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, black and white version

I now want to blend this B&W image with the colour one in the layer below.

For this I’ll use the Luminosity mode.

blend to luminosity

Blending this back with the original colour image as a luminosity mask  and you have a much better image.

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, Colour with luminosity blend

Luminosity masks like this can easily flatten colour, so be prepared to tweak afterwards.

Adjustments? You can add filters to the colour image and/or the B&W layer. See how altering the B&W layer settings shows up in the composite colour image. What you are doing here is one of the most powerful image editing techniques that I’ve used for years with Photoshop. Once you understand some of the capabilities of layers, you move your editing skills to a whole new level – remember that a layer can have a mask too, and only apply to parts of your image.

Partial preset

Take this view of the railway station in Leicester…

Leicester railway station - colour image

Applying the ‘Bright Stonework’ preset works well, but there is too much fine detail in the sky and brickwork for my liking

Leicester railway station - full B&W tonality preset

Turning off the clarity/structure/microstructure options in the Luminar settings just keeps the tone mapping aspect of the preset.

A more subtle result…

Leicester railway station - partial B&W tonality preset

Adjustments? Remember that you can delete or replace any of the filters in the presets. If you find something you like, then save it as a personal preset.



Luminar offers so many variations in its settings that it’s all too easy to get lost and miss things it could do.

Look on the presets as starting points to explore options for your own photos.

Look at applying them to sections of your image if need be.

Just because a building looks great in the edited version, you don’t have to accept the results for the sky or other parts.

This set of presets lets me quickly explore options and then adapt them to what I want for the image.


The presets (Mac & PC) are now available here for download []

They are completely free of charge, but if you find them useful and would like to make a small donation, it really will help with the running of the site.

Thanks, Keith

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  • Robert B | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Hello Keith
    Very interesting article, thank you! I wanted to try your Presets, but was not able to find them at Luminar. I have written to their support mentioning your Name, but they were only able to direct me to theit marketplace where various Presets are, but not yours… Could you help please? Many thanks in Advance!
    Best regards, Robert

  • ColBill | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Outstanding article. Thanks

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