Contact us: +44 116 291 9092
Title Image

Luminar 2018 review

  |   Articles and reviews, Image Editing, MacPhun, Skylum, Software review, Software update   |   23 Comments

Review update: Luminar 2018

Added image editing features and Windows support

Site update: Sorry for site slowness - the site has outgrown its hosting. Keith is working on this, but we are photographers not web developers!
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not subscribe to Keith's YouTube Channel
...Keith's book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.
Our site contains affiliate links - these help support the site. See our Advertising policies for more

Luminar has been updated to ‘Luminar 2018’

It adds a number of new features, along with general performance increases.

Keith has looked at previous versions and gives the new version a look-over.

[contentblock id=38 img=html.png]

Looking at Luminar

The basic functionality of Luminar is unchanged from my earlier reviews, so I decided to look at a few of the newer features that make the package a much more rounded and generally useful one.

Most of this review is based on using the stand-alone Luminar application – my own day to day use of it is as a plugin in Photoshop, where it’s very capable. I’ve also not included the fact that it also makes use of all the Macphun PS plugins that I’ve got (see my reviews).

There are plenty of resources available to get you up and going – this is the startup screen.

luminar intro

RAW processing

Luminar previously opened camera RAW files but in effect, you had absolutely no control over how it processed your image.

The new version includes a RAW processing filter.

raw develop

This would be the first filter to apply.

In general it’s best thought of as getting your camera image to a point where you can then apply filters and edits to get the look you are after.

In the before/after examples below, there’s actually rather more than a simple brightening of the (original underexposed) image.

raw before

It’s part of the Canal that runs through Leicester, and is when I was testing the Samyang 14mm/f2.4 for a review

An ‘auto’ button would be a nice addition, to help those not used to RAW conversion get started?

raw after

There are a good range of additional adjustments, although the ease of adjustments could do with some improvements in some areas.

raw lens adjustments

There is no automation of the CA fix and the correction won’t work with an offset (or shifted) lens. There are no distortion profiles for lenses, but as an introduction to RAW processing, the filter is perfectly adequate.

raw transform

The image transformations could also do with some help (a horizon tool for example). There are crop and transform tools in the toolbar above the image, which might be a better way of adjusting your image (RAW processing just does the RAW processing) but these once again feel quite basic (if you are used to other editing packages). For example, I can’t pre-set a crop to a given pixel size (just aspect ratio), or resize an image.

set raw wb

The RAW processing is competent if not elaborate.

Initially I also thought – where is the clipping indicator, for if I push RAW exposure too high or low?

Well – looking again at the histogram display, I spotted two faint triangles above each end. Clicking on these activates high and low clipping indicators. Here’s what shows if I push the exposure up too far [click to enlarge]

clipping indicator

I guess the reminder is that when you are trying out a new way of editing, don’t make too many assumptions about what is and isn’t there…

There is a list of currently supported cameras for RAW file support at Macphun.

Filters and Presets

Once you’ve tweaked your RAW settings, you may want to apply filters and presets.

Be aware that adding a preset is adding a collection of filters and will replace your carefully set RAW adjustments…

Fortunately, Luminar has an working (linear) history option.

If you are working with raw files, I’d suggest adding a new adjustment layer after setting RAW options.

raw contrast saturation

‘Advanced Contrast’ and ‘Hue/Saturation’ added to the  RAW adjustment layer [click to enlarge]

If you’r curious about what filters do, add a preset – this will add a number of filters that you can tweak/adjust/remove

gloomy morning

Just remember that any preset collection of filters can be ‘turned down’, and you have all the features of layer blending. masking and opacity available.

If that sounds, complex, then yes, it can be.

The whole point is that you don’t have to use all these filters and layers – to my mind though, many of the presets seem aimed at the more excessive end of the creative spectrum.

This preset is optimistically entitled ‘Image enhancer’ [click to enlarge]

image enhancer preset

Actually if you turn it right down it’s quite useful for some images… ;-)

It’s worth checking images at full enlargement, since some effect may interact with image detail in unwanted ways.

Look at these tree branches.

tree branches

Using the polarising filter looked good until I spotted that ghosting in areas where it was not seeing sky to darken.

polarising filter

I’d note that issues like this can arise with plugins from many different sources – you just need to be careful.


Lookup Tables are featured in the ‘what’s new’ list, but  with no way to create or edit them, you are limited to loading them from a list without previews.

LUT listing

This one is entitled ‘Street Adobe’ [click to enlarge]

lut street adobe

‘Filmic landscape’

image enhancer preset

‘cool winter 4’

LUT winter

Well, there you go, they do things to images…

Mixing things up

There really are a lot of ways of working with Luminar. There are lots of helpful tutorials, including written material for those of us who don’t like learning from video [note that this is a relatively new product and Macphun are committed to updating and expanding its functionality and resources].

Creating a new layer that’s a black and white conversion of the image and then blending it back (in luminosity mode) with the colour image can give some useful option for colour photos on dull days.

Here’s the B&W conversion [click to enlarge]

bw converted

Now, I’m ‘painting in’ some of the B&W layer in luminosity mode, on to the colour image.

painting in a layer

I can make the mask temporarily visible (now covering the whole sky)

layer visibility

You can see how the sky has been darkened.

paint in sky

After a few more tweaks, I’ve an image that’s perhaps too intense for my tastes, but isn’t too bad…

[click to enlarge]

canal view

Saving your files

If I’m using the file for further work I can save the image in a number of formats.

There are a number of export options -Photoshop .psd  is one I’ll use if I’m going to print the image.

save as psd

I note that I do have the option of using a large colour space, but the .psd files are only 8 bit (and no layers)

This is potentially limiting for subsequent editing, so I’d likely use the TIFF option which does allow for 16 bit.

save as formats

I can save in Luminar’s native format.

lmnr format

Saving only the edit settings makes for a small file.

save just settings

Saving the edit history is a bit bigger.

save history

Saving the original file (my camera’s RAW file) adds a lot.

save original

Or I can save the whole lot

save everything

Printing is rather limited at the moment, if you’re used to Photoshop (or even Lightroom, which I’ve never much liked).

This is the basic print dialog (Mac) – OK it’s sized the image to print on A2, but there is no real control.


[contentblock id=39 img=html.png]

Some thoughts

Luminar continues to grow in capability (with more to come, such as asset (file) management next year).

It still has a few rough edges, but then I remember that I use also Photoshop which has been around for 25 years… Remember too that I was looking at the software just prior to release, so not all support resources were available.

Printing is functional, for example, but gives no options for page layout or colour management.

Of course, in using Luminar from inside of Photoshop, I get to avoid all these issues, whereupon it becomes a very useful set of image filters and adjustments. 

That said, the software is now getting to the point where I’m looking at suggesting it stand-alone for our clients who might want to make edits to images we supply, and work on images of their own.

If the features I’ve shown are of interest, have a look at some of my earlier reviews, which cover many features in more detail than here:  Luminar review

There is a useful Luminar FAQ page provided by Macphun

Launch offers… (Nov 2017)

Pre-Order Availability: Buying – Check Macphun for Luminar special offers

Luminar 2018 will be availabe for pre-order on November 1, and released on November 16.

Pre-Order Pricing:

  • Current users of Luminar may upgrade at a special pre-order price of $39 ($49 MSRP)
  • New users can purchase Luminar 2018 at a special pre-order price of $59 ($69 MSRP)
  • A collection of bonuses will also be included with every purchase.

Pre-Order Bonuses:

  • A Pack of signature presets and textures fro pro photography Nicolesy
  • An Exclusive pack of LUTs
  • 1-year Power plan from SmugMug ($72 value). For new accounts only
System requirements

Luminar 2018 Mac Technical Requirements

  • Apple Mac devices: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini
  • Processor: Intel 64-bit Core 2 Duo or better from late 2009 or newer
  • Memory: 4 Gb RAM or more
  • OS X: High Sierra 10.13, Sierra 10.12.6, El Capitan 10.11.5, Yosemite 10.10.5
  • Hard disk: 2 Gb free space, SSD for best performance
  • Display: 1280×768 size or better

Luminar 2018 Windows Technical Requirements

  • Windows-based hardware
  • PC with mouse or similar input device
  • Direct X 10 compatible Graphics Cards or better
  • Processor:Intel Core i3 or better
  • Memory: 4 Gb RAM or more
  • OS X: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit only)
  • Hard disk: 2 Gb free space, SSD for best performance
  • Display: 1280×768 size or better

Never miss a new article or review - Sign up for our occasional (ad-free) Newsletter and Keith's YouTube Channel

Other areas of our site that may be of interest...

All the latest articles/reviews and photo news items appear on Keith's Photo blog 

tilt-shift book

Keith explains tilt and shift lenses

Keith has written a book that looks at the many ways that tilt/shift lenses can benefit your photography from a technical and creative point of view.

ISBN 9781785007712

Book now available

There is also a specific index page on the site with links to all Keith's articles, reviews and videos about using tilt and shift.

We've a whole section of the site devoted to  Digital Black and White photography and printing. It covers all of Keith's specialist articles and reviews. Other sections include Colour management and Keith's camera hacks - there are over 1200 articles/reviews here...

Articles below by Keith (Google's picks for matching this page)


We're an affiliate, so receive payment if you buy via Amazon US

  • Sarah Middleton | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve just downloaded the free trial of this software. I like some of the filters and have been using it as a Lightroom and Photoshop plugin. When I open an image from either LR or PS, Luminar presents it differently. In particular, the colours are much more saturated. When I’ve made adjustments and then Apply them to return to the host program, the reverse transformation happens, so that the colours look much more drab.
    Did you note this happening?

  • Marc Thibault | Nov 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    ok t.y. for your comment appreciate,,, have a good day

  • Marc Thibault | Nov 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    ok t.y. v.m.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 9, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Check the FAQ page – 1 month money back guarantee.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 9, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Different software functions, so not answerable.

    I’m in the process of writing up a review, but in the meantime I’d note that most of it is similar to Optics Pro V11.

    Check the DxO tab in the categories list at the top right of the page to see all my DxO reviews – (quite a few over the years)

    As a RAW processor, Optics Pro is one of my favourites

    Luminar has layers and blending and filters – very different

  • Marc Thibault | Nov 9, 2017 at 3:38 am

    Do yu know if Luminar 2018 is better that the new DxO photolab,,??ty.

  • Marc Thibault | Nov 9, 2017 at 3:29 am

    i love the sun effect,filter,maybe i will buy just for it ty

  • Marc Thibault | Nov 9, 2017 at 3:27 am

    do yu know if they give one trial for testing for 1 month maybe??ty.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 8, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Can’t help there – never used a Nikon camera (not for want of asking for something to review ;-)

    The RAW support is still work in progress – works well with my 5Ds files, but still doesn’t have the flexibility in RAW processing I’m used to and want for my work.

    That’s why I use it as a plugin in Photoshop

  • Marc Feldesman | Nov 8, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Nowhere does Luminar list raw compatibility. Neither Aurora 2017 nor Aurora 2018 support native Nikon D850 NEF files. Neither does Luminar 2017, and I’ve been unable to learn from anything I’ve read whether D850 support is there. Aurora supports Nikon D850 files as a Lightroom plugin because it converts the files to tif before doing its magic. But Luminar is useless to me if it doesn’t support both D850 and D500 files out of the box.

  • R. Fleming | Nov 6, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks For taking the tome to reply. Your review was the best of many that I read, and was the “clincher” for me to purchase the product. I wanted to make sure that you got at least the credit for my purchase.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 6, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Thanks – it did remind me that the link at the end of the article was missing!

  • R. Fleming | Nov 6, 2017 at 4:43 am

    Hello! Trying to find link to purchase Luminar 2018 for Windows on this page but was unsuccessful. Did I miss something? Great review and based on your enthusiasm I’m ready to push a “buy” button. Any suggestions? Thanks! Rhonda

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 5, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    They are very open to suggestions – it’s still got a way to go.

    I’m afraid I don’t do comparative reviews, that’s something for the likes of DPReview who like that sort of stuff ;-)

    Some of my reasons are at

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks – the software is still definitely a ‘work in progress’, but showing some good signs

  • Susheel Chandradhas | Nov 5, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Oops, I think that came across wrong… I meant that I expected Luminar to be a little more full featured. Your review is pretty darn good. Thanks again.

  • EmreS | Nov 5, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I looked and I could not find it so I’m asking around (including directly to macphun). It would also be nice if you included side-by-side raw conversions from other applications so we can compare.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 5, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t know – I only use bitmap masks in my photoshop work, so this just isn’t something i’ve ever had a use for.

    One for checking on the Macphun site?

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm


    One of the problems with packages like this is that once they get advanced enough, it’s very difficult to do a ‘complete’ review (certainly of a length that anyone would read ;-)

    As such I try and give a feel for how I’d use the software, for the sorts of work I do.

  • EmreS | Nov 5, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Can you define parametric masks (Bezier, eliptical, etc.) instead of bitmaps? If so, is the resulting edit history smaller (in terms of file size) and can you combine them?

  • Susheel Chandradhas | Nov 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Thank you for your review. I was expecting it to be a little more ‘full featured’. I’m glad that your review paints a clear picture of what I could expect after purchase.

  • Keith Cooper | Nov 1, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I’m hoping that this is on the ‘to fix’ list. It feels a little unfinished in this respect.

  • wjgo | Nov 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Thank you.
    Its ashame that they are not previews for the LUTs, because that should be easier to do than than some of the complicated filers.

Post A Comment