Skylum have recently released Luminar AI and one of the things that has come up a bit is what is the difference between the new Luminar AI and Luminar 4. I have seen many posts which suggest that Luminar AI is just an update to Luminar 4 however, based on information from Skylum that is not the case. Whilst it is true that many of the tools that exist in Luminar AI also exist in Luminar 4 there has been a significant rebuild of the underlying engine which powers Luminar AI. This rebuild was required to allow the program to perform better, but also to take better advantage of many of the underlying AI tools which are used in Luminar AI.
Luminar AI functions as a plugin to lightroom and a number of photo editing tools however, it should be noted that support has also been dropped for other tools so you should double check / do a trial to see if it works for you. Luminar AI is not supported on Windows 7 / 8.1, and is not supported on macOS 10.12. System requirements may have also changed a bit.
Luminar 4 contains a number of existing tools including AI and non-AI based tools. The AI tools include AI Enhance, AI Sky Replacement (V1), AI Augmented Sky, AI Structure, AI Skin Enhancer and Portrait Enhancer as well as all of the typical editing tools. Luminar AI includes many of these AI tools, but also adds a number of new AI tools which include: Composition AI, Atmosphere AI, Iris AI, Body AI. One of the interesting new filters is Atmosphere AI, this is a tool which in effect depth maps your image and determines the placement of objects to adjust the depth of field when applying fog or mist to your images to increase the atmosphere.
Luminar AI has a different interface and presents a different approach to editing. This approach favors the use of “Templates” which are AI powered suggestions which are selected based on Luminar AI's understanding of your photo. Skylum have trained Luminar AI to classify more than 7,000 kinds of objects. It considers things like colors, subject matter and a range of other parameters to offer suggestions on “templates”which are selections of filters which are targeted towards fixing your photo. For example if you put a sunset photo in it may identify that your photo is a sunset and offer Dust to Dawn templates which improve these sort of sunset photos. Whilst templates are offered and designed to offer a pre-packaged workflow for those who want to just focus on the output, you can choose to use the template as is, use the template as inspiration and make your own changes (by adding or removing individual filters) or just not use the templates at all and go straight to the edit tab and apply your own filters.
User templates can be saved to be batch applied to photos, and you can download templates (e.g. through the Luminar-X membership and other sites) however from what I can tell these may not be AI powered in that they will not necessarily be suggested as options and you would need to manually pick them (although they may contain AI filters).
In terms of the editing section, there have been a number of changes. As discussed above many of these include the addition of new AI tools and a reorganisation of the user interface to group these tools into categories which include “Essentials, Creative, Portrait, Professional”, this means many of the tools you know may have moved (for example Split Toning has moved from Toniging into the Creative Group). One of the most significant changes however, is that Layers no longer exist. Some of the transform features are now within the Composition AI tool whilst other features are absorbed into the Local Masking tool which allows you to apply paint masks, radial masks or gradient masks and subsequently apply filters on that mask. You can add up to 10 local masking adjustments to a single image (if you need more, you may need to export the image, re-import it and continue). Skylum report a number of new features coming in 2021 which include Sky AI (V2) which will mirror the sky in reflections of water, in addition to Bokeh AI which will emulate background haziness of a high-quality lens.
In terms of export, Luminar AI offers the same typical export tools, but also allows you to Export to Smugmug and 500px.
The future of Luminar has changed somewhat between Luminar 4 and Luminar AI, and for some this has put a bit of a bad taste in their mouth. Whilst Luminar 4 was touted as a lightroom replacement Skylum have recently noted that they were wrong in trying to take this path and their aim is not to create a lightroom replacement but rather a photo editing tool which is designed to help users focus on the results rather than the process to get there. This means that whilst Luminar 4 (and Luminar AI) contain some basic photo cataloguing functions, the intent of both of these is now no longer to be a digital asset manager (DAM) so if you are looking at a lightroom replacement then Luminar (of any version) is not likely to be suitable for you). In addition, since Luminar AI has had a rebuilt engine, the catalogue cannot be transferred between Luminar 3 / 4 to Luminar AI.
There are a number of things that I think would be great to include (either they are missing, removed, or I wish they existed), but either because it's not the direction the company is going or because of changes these are not possible;
- No batch rename exports
- Cant batch process, can only save templates and/or apply the same adjustments to several photos.
- Can't add watermarks to exports, there are some workarounds but they are fairly clunky
- Layer based editing has been removed (and replaced with the Local Masking Group)
- No ability to create virtual copies of files to apply different edits to the same file (e.g. one Black & White, one Color)
- Since Luminar AI is not a DAM, it does not support keywords and labelling of files
- Can't import existing catalogues (e.g. Luminar 4)
Overall, I still think Luminar AI presents a good direction forward and I have started using Luminar AI more than I use Luminar 4. Whilst Luminar AI may not be designed for everyone (i.e. if you want a lightroom replacement, or you want to conduct photoshop like edits), its core audience is for people who want to focus on getting great photos in minimal time. If you care about the results, rather than the process, and if you want to spend less time editing and more time capturing your images. Its for amateur photographers, instagrammers, bloggers, teachers, students and more.