Recently Skylum delivered four new Luminar Neo extensions; Background Removal AI, Upscale AI, Focus Stacking and Supersharp AI. But are you left with more questions about them than answers? Look no further, help is here!
In this article, I’ll give you an overview of the six extensions for Luminar Neo that are currently available. I’ll show you what they each do, and why you might want them. Then if your interest is piqued, there are three video tutorials on the HDR Merge and Focus Stacking extensions if you want to go deeper.
Watch the video overview and read all the way to the end of the article if you want to get information about the options for purchasing them. There are so many choices it’s a bit confusing – I get it! So I’ll try to help you make heads or tails out of it all and make the right decision for you.
Luminar Neo extensions overview
There has been much talk about the new Luminar Neo extensions, and a bit of controversy as well. Many Skylum customers jumped off the Adobe ship because of the subscription model and now Skylum has something similar.
But please bear with me, I’ll try and explain why I think this is a GOOD thing!
The first thing you need to do is to get an overview of what each of the extensions does and see if they are even something you need or will ever use in your workflow.
These are the Luminar Neo extensions currently available:
- HDR Merge
- Noiseless AI
- Focus Stacking
- Supersharp AI
- Upscale AI
- Background Removal AI
Start by watching the video below now. It should answer a lot of your questions.
If you have additional questions or you want to share your thoughts about the extensions, please post a comment in the Disqus area at the end of the article.
Extensions are a good thing?
You may be wondering why I think these extensions for Luminar Neo are a good thing. Maybe you think I’ve finally lost it. Let me explain the pros and cons of the current options for getting the extensions.
There are actually quite a few benefits of having these additional features as add-ons or extensions for Luminar Neo.
- It keeps the base price for the main software lower – so if you only ever want to do basic, simple edits to your images – you pay less for Luminar Neo.
- It allows room for you to grow into the extensions as you expand your photo editing skills.
- You have the choice of continuing to buy Luminar Neo with a lifetime license (you keep it forever but get only minor updates) OR a subscription model. Adobe doesn’t offer you a choice.
- Currently, you can also buy the 2022 extension pack outright and own it.
- Soon you will also be able to buy the extensions individually so you can pick and choose which one(s) apply to your individual situation.
- Comparative products are more expensive (more on this below).
- You have to pay for them (but if they were included with neo you would too but it would be hidden inside the overall cost).
- The current options and pricing are a bit confusing.
- Not all the extensions work with using Luminar Neo as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Apple Photos.
Comparison to other similar software
In regards to the extensions being extra add-ons, let’s take a look at similar products on the market and how Luminar Neo and its extensions compare. There is precedent with other software companies so having extensions is not a new idea.
Topaz has Photo AI which includes three tools: Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, and Gigapixel (similar to three Neo extensions). That package will set you back $199 USD. If you want to buy them separately they are $79.99, $79.99, and $99.99 respectively.
Compare that to the current pricing for Luminar Neo (as of the time of this writing) which is $269 for the full package of all six extensions. So you get the same three as in the Topaz product, but you also get HDR Merge, Focus Stacking, and Background Removal AI – all of which are really cool and totally worth it!
ON1 also has similar options to Luminar Neo – you can buy it outright or as a subscription, and the extensions are optional as well. So there is very similar pricing for both ON1 and Skylum products.
Personally, I’m not a fan of ON1 Photo Raw. I’ve reviewed it twice and gave it a second chance in 2022 but I still didn’t care for its interface or its tools. I much prefer Luminar Neo.
If you look at the available pro extensions for ON1 Photo Raw – some of those are included in Luminar Neo. So if you look at the five available, only three of those are extra for Neo.
- Effects (basically does what Neo presets do)
- NoNoise AI
- Portrait AI (included in Neo)
- Resize AI
The bundle of those five is $129.99 USD (keep in mind when comparing to Luminar Neo extensions there are only three that aren’t already part of Neo).
The argument can be made that you don’t need any extensions and that with Lightroom and Photoshop you can do all of these things. Yes, that is true to a point.
You can do image upscaling, HDR, and AI masking in Lightroom. But for sky replacement and background removal you have to go to Photoshop and the latter has a steep learning curve! I also find the noise reduction and sharpening tools in both PS and LR to be sadly lacking.
AND the point is that many photographers, especially beginners and hobby photographers, do not WANT to learn how to use Photoshop. So if you fall into that category, I strongly believe that Luminar Neo is still your best option.
HDR Merge extension
I am a fan of Skylum’s original HDR software, Aurora HDR. I used a pretty even mix of Lightroom and Aurora to blend my bracketed images. Now the new HDR Merge extension for Luminar Neo has replaced Aurora and I’m just as impressed with its results.
To see how easy it is to use, and the great natural-looking results it can produce, check out the video below.
A bonus of the HDR Merge extension that I discovered by accident, is that it does a GREAT job on single images as well. Drop a high-contrast raw file into it and see what it can do.
I did a video to demonstrate that as well. It’s really quite impressive, check it out. You can literally save images you might otherwise have thrown away.
Look at the examples below. That is what the HDR Merge extension was able to do to fix these two very high-contrast images. I was really blown away by the results. It made editing challenging images like these much easier and faster.
Focus stacking – NOT just for macro photography
If you’ve never tried focus stacking here is a little sampler of what it can do.
The idea is that you take a series of images, each focused on a different point in the scene. Then you merge them all together and the effect is that more of the image is in sharp focus. Imagine if you can, being able to use a tiny aperture like f/500 and the insane amount of depth of field you’d get from that.
That’s what focus stacking is all about.
It’s commonly used for macro photography where the depth of field is often only a millimeter even at f/16. But you can use the same technique on landscapes as well. Watch the video below to learn more, and to see how SUPER EASY the new Luminar Neo Focus Stacking extension is to use (even for total beginners)
Luminar Neo extensions – purchasing options
As promised I will try and solve some of the mysteries of the pricing and options for buying the extensions. I agree, it’s a bit overly convoluted and complicated.
I’ll break down the options one step at a time.
You have two choices:
#1 – Buy the extensions outright
If you go with this option you then have two more choices:
- Buy the 2022 Extension package now (as of the time of writing this, the price was $269 USD for all seven extensions – note one is yet to come).
- You can wait until all seven for 2022 have been released and buy them individually (this will be an option is what I’ve been told, but no pricing or details are available at this time). This gives you the ability to pick and choose the ones you want/need and only pay for those.
NOTE: Choosing this path means you will get only the extensions announced and released in 2022. You will not get any new ones that get released in 2023.
#2 – Opt for a subscription plan
To get all the extensions you need to sign up for the Pro Package and you have the choice of paying annually (is the better deal) or monthly.
NOTE: If you go this route you will get all the extensions, even future ones that will be added in 2023. As long as you pay for the Pro Plan you will continue to get not only updates for Luminar Neo, but all of the extensions as well.
The other benefit of going with a plan is there is a saving if you pay annually and if you use my promo code: DPM-NEO you’ll get an additional discount. Remember this is ONLY valid on annual plans!
Luminar Neo Training
For those who own Luminar Neo and want to learn how to use it, from start to finish, with one instructor, I encourage you to check out my Complete Luminar Neo Course.
With over 16 hours of video lessons and over 6 hours of live Q&A sessions to answer all your questions, this course is kept up to date with all feature improvements.
Watch complete walk-throughs of night photography, street photography, landscape photography, portrait edits and more as well.
So do you need these Luminar Neo Extensions?
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions about the Luminar Neo extensions and clarify what is the right choice for you. The bottom line is that you have choices. Nobody is forcing you to get the extensions and if you’re happy using Luminar Neo as it is – then keep doing that!
If you have any other questions or if I missed something, let me know in the comment area below. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you!