Macphun’s Luminar Neptune release uses AI to brilliant effect

Luminar is Macphun’s image editor and its Neptune release updates the app with an AI-based filter and features that will appeal to professional photographers. With it, Luminar enters the league of extraordinary image editors.

When Luminar was initially released, I must admit I was prejudiced — in fact, so much so that I told the PR agency I would not write a review of “another app that’s automating a creative process”. When I saw Scott Kelby’s support on the Macphun website, I knew there had to be more to Luminar than I initially thought.

The Luminar Neptune release was a chance to take a second look and the app does indeed offer a lot of features that are truly appealing. The adaptive interface is one of them. It’s not just efficient for amateurs, but for pros as well. In short, whereas I thought Luminar was not an app that could stand the comparison — in terms of high standards — with Macphun’s own Aurora HDR, it actually can and does.

And now, Luminar Neptune offers a number of improvements and new features that would justify an upgrade price, but for existing users, it’s just another free update. The biggest new feature in the Neptune release is a filter that is based on artificial intelligence. The Accent AI filter automatically improves images, replacing dozens of other controls in the process. I’m a bit allergic to those automatic improvement algorithms because, usually, I can do better.

I expected that I could easily beat the Accent AI filter, but I quickly found out it would take me a lot of time and effort to come close to its results. This filter does seem to combine a number of different controls in intelligent ways — based on what it “sees” in your image. The Accent AI filter will spare a lot of photo editors a lot of time, while it will enable the average iPhone amateur to turn less-than-average photos into nice images.

The Neptune release is also faster and it brings with it an improved crop tool, improved history and support for new RAW formats. The Luminar adaptable interface hasn’t changed, but the new Quick & Awesome workspace has been added. It is ideal if your photo is sharp in focus, well detailed and properly exposed. It features three Luminar filters, including the new Accent AI, Saturation/Vibrance and Clarity filters.

Luminar’s Vignette filter has been updated with two Styles. The Paint Overlay and Highlights Priority styles differ a lot only when you really crank up the Amount, turn down the Feather and Inner Brightness settings. Otherwise, the difference is subtle. There is also a very nice Place Center button and Pre- and Post-Crop modes — giving you a lot of creative freedom.

The masking tools have been enhanced as well, resulting in buttery smooth editing. With the Neptune release, you will also be able to “round-trip” images from Luminar to Aurora HDR and other Creative Kit apps by Macphun. Luminar costs €69, but the Neptune release is a free update for existing users.

Here’s a (big — 40MB) morphing animation of an image to what I made it into. To see the effect, click on the image, then wait a little until it’s completely loaded and see the result I achieved in four minutes.

Luminar Neptune