For some photographers, developing images with software is an exciting part of the creative process; for others, it’s a chore, and maybe even intimidating. Adobe Lightroom has become the standard for “serious” photographers in recent years, and for good reason — it is an incredibly powerful application that can handle every aspect of the post-capture workflow. But mastering Lightroom comes with a learning curve and complexities that you may not want. If you’re the type of photographer who would rather spend more time behind the camera and less time at the computer, software that takes a playful approach to image processing may be right for you.
One such option for Mac users (and coming to Windows soon) is Macphun’s Luminar. This software is actually quite powerful, able to handle RAW files with non-destructive editing, support for multiple layers of effects, batch processing and, if you want them, many of the same adjustment sliders you’ll find in Lightroom and similar applications.
The difference with Luminar is in its method. While Lightroom does include preset adjustments, they’re limited and not emphasized. When you first open an image in Luminar, you’re immediately presented with a variety of presets that serve as a starting point for development. Click on one of them, and multiple filters are instantly applied to your image on an Adjustment Layer (Layer 0). In the sidebar, you can see which filters are being applied and refine the look by adjusting each filter’s slider control.
You can also adjust the overall intensity of the preset (essentially reducing the opacity of the layer). Six groups of presets — tailored to different genres such as Outdoor, Travel and Portrait — come preinstalled. More are available on the Macphun website or, using a combination of filters, you can create your own.
You may find that one of the included presets creates exactly the look you are trying to achieve. If not, you can fine-tune the effect with the slider controls, or add more layers and stack additional presets and filters. Luminar also has tools for localized retouching and noise reduction, making it a complete stand-alone application. For most image enhancements, you won’t need additional software, but Luminar can optionally be used as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom, and as an extension for Apple Photos.
A free trial of Luminar is available, and if you like it, it’s relatively inexpensive at $69 — a nice alternative for those looking to avoid annual subscription plans. Contact: Macphun, macphun.com.