Skylum; the creators of Luminar AI and Aurora HDR have announced a range of new features within their upcoming Luminar Neo release which is planned for release sometime Winter 2021. In this post I take a look at some of these new announcements and provide some example images (where provided). Note this is not specifically a post about the differences between Luminar AI and Luminar Neo but if you are interested in that you can click here.



Layers is a feature that has been missing since Luminar 4 and for many people is a very important addition. The addition of Layers allows photographers and artists to have much greater control over their work by being able to combine multiple images on a single canvas (including RAW images), and applying Blending, Masking and Opacity to achieve a range of different effects. Layers are really the base to many of the incredible images you see so are essential to be included in a photo editing tool which is more targeted to creatives. Because images with transparency (e.g. PNG) can be added to layers, it also opens up a new realm of compositions which are not strictly photographic. In the photo below a number of layers have been applied to a desert image to show an Aurora, a Door and a number of other elements.

Relight AI – Depth Aware Lighting Control

Relight AI is a new AI powered lighting tool that uses a 3D Depth Map to provide discreet and creative control to artists. By using a depth map it allows you to independently adjust lighting in the foreground and background to recover detail and colour. Fix a portrait where the foreground subject is underexposed without affecting the background, or alternatively enhance a landscape photo where the background is overexposed but the foreground is fine. In the below image you can see that Relight has been used to adjust the lighting on the foreground without it having a significant effect on the background. In the photo below, the left is the before whilst the right is the after.


Portrait Background Removal AI

One of the common issues is removal of backgrounds within images. Where these images are complicated it can be a significant process to correctly mask the foreground elements of your image (e.g. a person) so that the background can then be removed and replaced. One feature that has been announced is Portrait Background Removal AI, this allows you to easily mask and replace the background in one click (see below). It is reported that typically automatic background removal is sufficient however there is also the ability to refine the edges if required for some of those tricky images. In the image below the far left hand image is the portrait with the background, whilst the middle and far right images are edits where the background has been replaced with a new background.

Content Aware Masking

In my mind, whilst many of the announcements have been exciting I am most interested in content aware masking, also known as Mask AI. This feature gives Luminar Neo the ability to identify hundreds of items (i.e. Skies, bridges, flowers) which can then be used to generate AI powered masks. These masks allow for greater flexibility to allow you to accurately control the transparency of a layer, use the mask to target how a specific tool is applied to narrow its target, or to combine multiple AI powered masks to speed up editing. As an example, Mask AI could be used to identify flowers within an image and then to apply a tool like Color Harmony to just the flower. Mask AI is reported to include masks for portraits, skies, water, mountains, vegetation and architecture with more masks expected to be released over time. In the example image below you can see that Mask AI has identified and masked the mountain.

Stronger Foundation for Future Tools

Whilst I have gone over the differences between Luminar AI and Luminar Neo in a previous post, one of the major differences is the underlying engine. Whilst Luminar AI was designed for novice editors the architecture / engine underneath it made it difficult to create complicated edits and didn't support advanced features like layers, it was really designed to give people an easy way to get the best out of their images without having to go to a lot of trouble. The new Engine within Luminar Neo is a hybrid engine which has been rebuilt to offer greater speed and efficiency leading to an editing environment that is faster and more stable and will unlock new and useful options for editing and compositing.

Whilst the function of these engines is outside of the scope of this article, I have provided a quote below:


After evaluating the needs of the most-demanding creative artists, Luminar Neo is built around a new, robust and powerful engine which marries the speed and efficiency of sequential rendering to the creative flexibility of parametric editing. 

In traditional editors, sequential rendering stores modified pixels at every step of the edit, which can make rolling back changes more difficult. Parametric editing previews changes but does not apply them until the image is exported. This approach makes rolling back changes simple and fast but requires much longer render times, particularly with tools built with AI technology. 

Luminar Neo takes a hybrid approach. Changes are rendered as the edit progresses. In addition, a smart edit history provides infinite levels of undo for every image. As a result, the overall editing environment is faster and more stable. This approach allows users to selectively remove and reorder the application of tools and effects then quickly render these changes with the flexibility of a parametric editor. 


It should be noted that Skylum report that Luminar Neo will ship this winter with Layers, Relight AI and other exciting tools. Portrait Background Removal AI and Mask AI are planned to be released in the first free update to Luminar Neo which is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2022.



This pricing is reported to be valid from September 20th (8am NYT) through to October 18 (8am NYT) 2021.

For artists making a new purchase:
$65 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
$76 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo

$94 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo+Luminar AI
$115 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo+Luminar AI
If you are interested you can find out more by clicking here.


For artists who own Luminar or Aurora:
$44 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
$59 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo
If you are interested you can find out more by clicking here.


Bundle Deal
$73 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo+Luminar AI
$98 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo+Luminar AI

If you are interested you can find out more by clicking here.

Skylum are offering a 30 day money back guarantee (from the date the software is released).




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