Luminar 4’s AI assistance is actually quite good

Luminar 4 is Skylum’s most AI-driven app until now. It has a plethora of features that no longer depend on your masking or layer blending skills without – much to my surprise – taking out the creativity completely. What Luminar 4 does help you with, is to automate the work that requires you to painstakingly draw selections and blend layers to correct luminosity errors.

The Luminar 4 installer installs a stand-alone app on your system as well as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom Classic CC, Photoshop Elements and Apple’s Photos (and Aperture). The Library module has largely been kept the same as in Luminar 3, although updates will add more management features in the future. The image editing modules have been improved in terms of much more AI-assisted functionality.

Except for re-designed modules, such as the Edit module, Luminar 4 incorporates Skylum’s new AI Sky Replacement. This is a module that uses machine learning technology and it’s claimed to be the first image editor that offers fully automated sky replacement. Of course, I had to try it on a difficult image of a bicycle bridge spanning a busy road with lots of buildings in the background. The bridge itself has holes in it for the cyclists to enjoy the ugly scenery.

Much to my astonishment, the Sky Replacement module worked without first creating a mask and it succeeded at recognising the holes in the bridge and showing the sky through them correctly. General atmospheric conditions for each sky are included when you apply the AI Sky Replacement tool, so with a heavy overcast sky, the image becomes darker only where it would be when it really were overcast. You can also fine-tune the effects, such as the “relighting” strength, if you think it’s overdone. In a few cases, like with dramatic skies, the edges of the bridge showed some artefacts as if your lens would suddenly have a bit of chromatic aberration

There’s also an AI Skin Enhancer, which automatically removes skin imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles in addition to smoothing the skin. Nothing too exuberant here, but fairly realistic enhancements if you keep the amount applied in check.

Although the AI assistance you get in Luminar 4 is excellent, you can still opt to create your own masks. Even a combination of the two is possible. The AI Sky Enhancer, for example, works well on its own, without any mask having been made, but you can restrict the effect by creating your own mask.

Colour corrections can be done as always, i.e. judging them and the adjustments needed, based on visually assessing the image (on a calibrated monitor!) or by loading a DCP profile.

In short, it is no surprise Luminar 4 has won several awards and is probably going to win several others. It’s available for pre-order now.