Hands On with Luminar – NEW from Macphun

Fishing Boat in Trapani, Siciily | RAW photo After processing in Luminar
After Luminar

Check out my updated review of Luminar 2018 here!

Luminar by Macphun

Introducing Luminar – the latest addition to Macphun’s lineup of photography applications.

What is Luminar?

Luminar is a unique all-in-one photo editor. It’s interface embraces the fact each photographer’s editing style is as unique as they are. Designed for creativity and convenience, Luminar allows users to choose from pre-built interface configurations that match their style and editing needs, or create their own. Custom settings can be switched with a single click. Luminar also has the ability to grow with a photographer as their skills improve. There are a multitude of stunning presets for the beginner, along with advanced controls for the seasoned photographer.

Key Features

Adaptive User Interface

  • Multiple Modes: from basic to advanced
  • One-click switch between modes
  • Change modes anytime

All-in-one photo editing tool set

  • Includes essential editing tools for different photography styles
  • Live editing, live processing, live previews
  • Non-destructive editing
  • Works as a standalone app or plug-in
  • RAW converter & processor
  • History Panel

For a full feature list, visit the Luminar home page.

Hands-on with Luminar

I’m one of the lucky few who has had the opportunity to work with the pre-release of Luminar! Please keep that in mind as you go through the screenshots below. Since I was using the pre-release a few things may change or look a little different once the software launches to the public.

A bit about my test photograph

I captured this photo back in April of 2010 in Trapani Sicily. This is a RAW image, captured with a Canon XSi and Sigma 18-200mm lens. As with most RAW photos, it is pretty flat – lacking in both contrast and color. The scene, as I remember it, was extremely vivid. The crystal clear water was a mesmerizing jewel-tone, and the gnarled fishing boat was accented with vibrant green, blue and orange. My goal is to make this photo reflect my vibrant memory. With that in mind, lets dive in and see what Luminar is capable of.

Fishing Boat in Trapani, Siciily | RAW photo before processing in Luminar

RAW Capture – Before Luminar

First – explore the presets

When I’m getting to know a new piece of software, I often start with the presets. They give me a quick overview of what a program is capable of. After scrolling through and testing a few options, I landed on the Auto Smart Enhancer preset. It enhanced the color in the water and the paint on the boat without adding so much detail as to make the overall image crunchy.

Luminar Screenshot | After Auto Smart Enhance Preset

After ‘Auto Smart Enhance’ Preset

Second – adjust the preset

When a preset is applied in Luminar, all of the Filters that make up that preset are available in the panel on the right allowing the user to manually adjust individual aspects of the preset, if desired. The orange dot next to the Filter Header allows you to turn a filter on and off. I will often go through the options, turning them on and off one at a time to see how that filter affected the photo and then make adjustments as necessary.

Luminar Screenshot | After refinements to Auto Smart Enhance Preset

After Refinements to ‘Auto Smart Enhance’ Preset

A few of the global changes I applied:

  • Increase Vibrance to +10
  • Decrease Foliage Enhancer to 5 (It was making the green paint on the boat a little too green)
  • Increase Clarity to 15
  • In the Adjustable Gradient filter I cooled down the top (-30 warmth), added warmth (+5) to the bottom and changed the angle (rotation +10) and placement (shift 41) of the gradient. This enhanced the blue in the water and emphasized the rocks in the foreground. The one issue with this adjustment is that it made the whites in the boat a little too blue. I’ll address this in the next step.

Third – local adjustments

As I mentioned in the last section – while adjusting the gradient enhanced the water, it made the boat itself a little too cool (blue). To correct this I created a second layer and used the brush tool to apply an effect just to the boat.

Luminar Screenshot | After Local Adjustments

After Local Adjustments

  • +New Layer (Adjustment Layer)
  • +Add Filter ->>Color Temperature
  • Temperature +30
  • Brush Mode – brush effect onto the boat

While I was working on the boat, I decided that it could also use a boost to the detail.

  • +Add Filter ->>Details Enhancer (+20 Medium Details, +40 Large Details
  • +Add Filter ->>Clarity +10
  • +Add Filter ->>Sharpening (+25 Amount, +50 Masking)
  • +Add Filter ->>Highlights/Shadows +100

Final Touches


On most of my photos I darken the edges just slightly by adding a Vignette. For this, I added a final layer (+New Layer – Adjustment Layer), added a filter (+Add Filter ->>Vignette) and set the Amount to -50.

Luminar Screenshot | After Vignette

After Vignette

Note: For those who aren’t familiar with layers and masking –  I added another layer so that the effect would apply to the entire image. If I had added the effect to my previous layer (the one where I locally adjusted the boat) the effect wouldn’t be visible. On a masked layer where the brush is used, any effects/filters will only be visible where the effect was brushed in.

Noise Reduction

One of the great tools included in Luminar is noise reduction. If you’ve used Noiseless, also by Macphun, it will feel quite familiar. While it does result in some loss of detail – it does a great job of removing the color noise, especially from the areas where I lightened the shadows such as the reflection of the boat in the water.

Luminar Screenshot | Noise Reduction Tool

Noise Reduction Tool

Erasing Distractions

The last step is to remove distractions – for me this means a couple of the lighter rocks in the foreground (light areas draw the eye) and to remove the buoy and rope from the front of the boat. Luminar’s built in Eraser tool did a great job! The tool is quite similar to Snapheal – another app from Macphun.

Luminar Screenshot | Eraser Tool

Eraser Tool


Luminar Screenshot | After Eraser Tool

After Eraser Tool

Before and After

As you can see, Luminar made a HUGE difference to this photo. Instead of flat and dull, this fishing boat anchored just off of Trapani looks a lot like the way it looked when I was there. Beautiful and vibrant.

Luminar Screenshot | Before & After Luminar

Before & After Luminar

The Final Photograph

Fishing Boat in Trapani, Siciily | RAW photo After processing in Luminar

After Luminar

When you are finished editing in Luminar you have a few options:

Export to Image

Upon export you specify the following:

  • Output Sharpening
  • Resize
  • Color Space
  • Format (i.e. JPEG, TIFF, Photoshop, etc.)

Share to:

  • Email
  • iMessage
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flickr

Open In:

If you aren’t quite finished, you can easily jump to other applications such as Aurora HDR, other Macphun apps, Photoshop, Lightroom, and more (assuming you have them installed).

Non-Destructive Save

Each option listed above bakes your changes into the saved file of choice meaning that you will not be able to reopen Luminar and view/change your adjustments. However, if you’d like that option you can choose “Save As” in the File menu. This will allow you to save your photograph in Luminar’s proprietary file format which will allow you go back and modify your Luminar edits if you so choose. Please note that this file format is NOT readable by Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.


Overall, I’m quite pleased with Luminar’s performance! It has a wide range of options and tools for a variety of photographers allowing for both global and local adjustments. The workspaces concept is well executed and can be customized to fit anyone from beginner to pro to fit the unique needs of individual photographers.

Luminar would be a fantastic choice for the photographer who doesn’t want to mess with Adobe products such as Lightroom or Photoshop. Luminar performs tasks such as layers, masking, cloning/erasing making a trip to Photoshop unnecessary for most people. Furthermore, Luminar is far more affordable than buying in to the Adobe infrastructure.


New Customers

Current Users of any Macphun Software, including Aurora HDR

Pre-Order Bonuses Include:

  • e-Book: Build a Profitable Photo Business by Will Burrard-Lucas
  • Video Tutorials: Educating Tina. Director’s cut By Matt Granger

System Requirements

  • Processor Core 2 Duo from late 2009 or newer (Late 2012 or newer recommended)
  • Minimum 4 GB RAM (8 GB RAM recommended)
  • macOS 10.9.5 Mavericks or newer (macOS 10.11+ recommended)
  • 2 GB free space on hard drive (10 GB free space recommended)
  • Display resolution 1280 x 800 or higher
  • Retina displays supported

If you have any further questions about Luminar, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Enjoy Luminar!

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. This post also contains affiliate links which means that I may receive a commission if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase. I only share products that I believe will be valuable to my readers. All opinions are my own.


Disclosure: One of the ways I support this website is by partnering with awesome companies, whose products I use and love. These partnerships allow me to earn a small commission when you make a purchase through one of my affiliate links, but there is no additional cost for you. Thank you for your support!


  1. cp dukes on November 10, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I use a Mac. Without a good and useable photo management module Luminar is not competitive with Lightroom CC. Will this happen? When? I worry also about the nondestructive save not being readable in other programs.

    • Angela Andrieux on November 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      cp dukes – Luminar definitely will not replace Lightroom…at least, not yet. I’ve been told that Macphun will possibly add a photo management aspect to Luminar in a future release. If that happens it could be a game changer for some. Especially those who don’t want to be tied to Adobe’s monthly subscriptions.

      I do share your concern about the nondestructive files not being readable by Photoshop, etc. I really hope they move to a TIFF or PSD format with layers intact.

      For now, I will say that after working with the pre-release, Luminar is a very capable photo editor. I truly enjoyed working the photo that I used in this blog post. If I wasn’t already entrenched in the Adobe infrastructure, and was using Apple Photos to manage my library, I’d be chomping at the bit for Luminar’s release. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  2. […] Today I decided to reprocess it with Aurora HDR 2017 (the new version) and add my stylistic touches with Luminar (read my review of Luminar here). […]

  3. […] I decided to reprocess it with Aurora HDR 2017 and add my stylistic touches with Luminar (read my review of Luminar here). […]

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