There's a storm brewing on the horizon – a photo editing software battle or possibly an all-out war. Adobe's recent announcement and Lightroom “upgrades” have a lot of people upset and looking for a Lightroom alternative.
The LR bandwagon is a busy place as many photographers are rapidly jumping off!
Many people are tired of the subscription model and paying monthly fees just to have their software of choice.
Others yet have resisted that route. But they will now be forced to make a decision as Lightroom 6 is the last version that will be available for outright purchase.
So, if you're in that boat you will have two options to choose from:
One: You can either bite the bullet and sign up for Adobe's photographer's plan for $9.99 USD a month.
Two: You can stick with LR6 for infinity, but it won't be updated or supported by Adobe moving forward.
So that new camera you buy next year – its raw files won't be recognized by LR6.
Enter Luminar – the Lightroom Alternative
There are a LOT of players stepping up to the plate, looking to take a bigger piece of the photo editing software market from Adobe. Some companies we haven't heard a peep from in years, and others brand new to the market are appearing with RAW processors.
A few Lightroom alternatives available include the following:
- ACDsee Photo Editor 10 – $59.99 USD (Note: it is for Windows only) I'll admit I don't know much about this one, but there is a free trial if you want to test it out.
- On1 Raw 2018 – $119-149 USD – now available for purchase.
- Corel AfterShot Pro – $59 USD – They made Paint Shop Pro which I used pre-Photoshop way back in about 1993! They still make that and now have come out with a raw processor as well. A trial version is available.
- DxO OpticsPro (note: now called DxO Photo Lab) – $129-199 USD – two versions available, as well as a trial option.
- Affinity Photo – approx $54 USD – They do have a free trial available. Perhaps I'll try it out and write about it soon as well.
- Phase One Capture One Pro – $299 USD – this one is high-end aimed at professionals. If Lightroom is too complicated, this one will be way over your head.
- Luminar 3 – $79 USD – See a comparison
I wanted to offer a special incentive to my readers who may be interested in getting Luminar. They were nice enough to provide a $10 off discount coupon.
Lightroom vs Luminar Feature Comparison List
You can see a full list of features in a side-by-side comparison between Luminar and Lightroom here.
I think Macphun is getting ready to take on Adobe head-to-head by presenting an alternative to Lightroom.
Example Luminar workflow
Because Luminar has the ability to apply edits on a layer, you can group together the type of edits you're applying. Meaning, if you want to punch up the sky as I did – make a “Sky” layer and apply all the filters that will do a nice job on the sky.
Then you can adjust each filter to your taste, then apply a layer mask, filter masks, or lower the layer opacity to control the overall look.
Then select your next area to work on, make a new adjustment layer and apply filters that are applicable there.
It's super easy to paint in an effect on a small area, or multiple areas of the image – without affecting the entire photo.
Here is an example of one image, with each step in my workflow in Luminar outlined.
Is Luminar the best Lightroom alternative?
If you watched my review of Luminar back a few months, you'll know that it impressed me.
I liked it a LOT more than I thought I was going to.
In fact, I like it so much I've recently been using it to “finish” my images after processing them in Lightroom.
But is it going to be a good alternative for Lightroom? That's the question I've been asked multiple times.
I'll list a few of the pros and cons of Luminar to help you decide. It does some things really well but still falls just slightly short in other areas, in my opinion.
Here's a short video walk-through of Luminar 2018 (a previous version) to give you an idea how it works.Luminar seems to be a good Lightroom alternative now that Adobe has changed their subscription model and you'll want to be ready.Click To Tweet
Pros of Luminar 3
- Handles raw files well.
- Works as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Apple Photos OR as a stand-alone product.
- Simple to use and a user-friendly interface.
- NO monthly subscription needed. One purchase is good for licensing up to five of your devices – for $79
- Works with layers so you can do non-destructive editing.
- Works with Presets and Filters which make it easy to do one or two-click editing and call it a day.
- It is flexible and adjustable with layer opacity, masks, and local adjustment tools that allow you to apply effects to your entire image, or just a portion of it.
- You can save a native Luminar file that preserves your layers and history – so you can come back to editing any time, with all your options and edits available for adjustment.
- Luminar comes with a lot of really great filters including the Accent AI Filter that is sometimes all you need. You can see my favorite filters shown below.
- You can easily export and post your images to social media, email and other sites with an easy “Share to” system all set up for you!
Cons of Luminar
I mentioned there are a few things that Lightroom still does better than Luminar.
In all fairness, I think that in time they may just catch up, but for now, there are a couple little things you will miss in Luminar if you're currently a Lightroom user.
- The RAW processor (filter) isn't a full-featured as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) which operates inside both PS and LR. It's missing targeted adjustment tools (so you can darken a certain tone by selecting it on the image), auto perspective correction, auto level, and crop, etc. Basically some of the automated handy stuff LR can do.
- Currently, there isn't a way to see all your images and sort, cull, and manage them. That is coming with their announced Digital Asset Management module being added in 2018. So, I'll wait to reserve judgment on that until I've tried it out.
- The Cloning and Healing tool is a bit clunky. But it's a new feature, so I expect it to only get better. LR's cloning tool was not great in its first iteration either.
- It's easy to go too far. I find the presets and sliders in Luminar will take your image over the top into “over-processed land” really fast if you aren't careful. But use restraint and apply them subtly, lower the opacity of filters and layers, and you'll be fine.
What's new in Luminar 2018
Perhaps you already have Luminar and are wondering if it's worth upgrading to Luminar 2018.
I say yes!
It's incredibly affordable to do so and there's already been a lot of new stuff added, and more coming.
Here are just some of the new features and filters. Many of the existing ones have been updated and improved as well.
- Better filter masking
- New user interface
- Lens corrections (distortion and chromatic aberration control)
- Transform tool for perspective control and corrections
- New filters (Sun Rays, Brilliance/Warmth, Hue Shift, Dodge/Burn, Lookup tables)
- Real-time denoise
- Save filter masks as a preset
- Supports other third-party Plugins for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
Updated Windows version
If you are using a Windows machine, there is now an almost equally functional Windows version. The beta version has had many upgrades and you can now purchase the full program for Windows. More features are being rolled out over the next few months.
- You can see the full list of upcoming new features for Windows here.
- If you use both a Mac and a PC, you can compare versions here. You can also install Luminar on both machines. Your license is valid for up to five of your devices- bonus!
What's coming next?
Name change – introducing Skylum
First, Macphun made an announcement recently that they will be rebranding in 2018 and their name will change to Skylum. So that will give you an idea of how invested the company is in continuing development of PC software.
They've gone so far as to remove the “Mac” from their name. So they will no longer be just Mac software specialists – but photo editing software specialists across both platforms.
They are setting up to give Adobe a run for their money – especially in light of Adobe's recent announcements and Lightroom updates. More on the below.
Digital Asset Management coming soon
The second exciting thing is that Macphun has also announced that they will be adding a Digital Asset Management element to Luminar in 2018. Here's what it says on the Luminar 2018 FAQ page.
Here is a short preview from the Macphun YouTube channel.
Luminar photo editing software for portraits?
Why not. Let's have a look.
The bottom line
I'm personally not going to be switching from Lightroom any time soon (I'll be using the LR Classic version).
But I will continue to use Luminar in addition to Lightroom.
If you're feeling like you're going to stick with LR, I'm there with you. But I suggest give Luminar a try anyway.
You might be as surprised by it as I was, and add it to your toolbox.
Luminar might just be the answer for you – if you fit either of these categories
First, if you're currently using LR6 and refuse to pay the monthly subscription fee.
Secondly, if you aren't using any photo editing software yet and find it all a bit intimidating.
You'll likely be pleasantly surprised at how easy Luminar is with its Quick and Easy workspace and use of Presets.
Either way – you can't go wrong taking Luminar for a spin.
At $79 the price point is certainly pocket-book friendly, and with a free trial available, what have you got to lose?
Is Luminar 3 the Lightroom alternative you think would work for you? Let me know in the comments.
UPDATE: I wanted to offer a special incentive to my readers who may be interested in getting Luminar. They were nice enough to provide a $10 off discount coupon.