digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

Get Inspired · Find Creativity · Seek Adventure

Macphun Luminar: Video Walk Through and Review

Recently I decided to try out Macphun Luminar, a new imaging processing software that competes with, and may I say, possibly outperforms Adobe Lightroom.

macphun luminar image processing software

As the name sort of implies, up until now, Macphun products have been for Mac only – but not anymore! This week they are releasing Luminar for Windows as well (use the link to get the Window's beta version)!  So please keep reading and watch the videos below to see if this is the software for you.

Luminar stand-alone version

Macphun has two versions of Luminar available. You can use it by itself as a stand-alone product, or as a plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop (or Aperture if you use that still). I will walk you through both to show you how they work.

This version of Luminar is for you if . . .

This version of Luminar is for you if you can relate to any or all of the following:

  • You currently aren't processing your images at all.
  • You do not have Lightroom or Photoshop.
  • The Adobe subscription model drives you nuts and you refuse to participate in it.
  • You're looking to upgrade from a simple image processor like Apple Photos or Windows Photo Editor.

What Luminar can do for your images

In this first video, you will see the stand-alone version.

So, what do you think? Pretty slick hey? So if you're ready to give Luminar a try just head over to their site and download the trial, or buy it and dive right in. Windows user – no problem – just head over here for the Windows beta version!

Before and after images

Original RAW file before any processing.
Lightroom processed version.
Image processed and enhanced using Luminar.
Original RAW file, unedited.
Processed and converted to black and white using Lightroom.
Processed and enhanced using Luminar.
A faded vintage look created using Luminar.

Luminar as a plugin for Lightroom

You can also use Luminar as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, and even Apple Photos!

This version of Luminar is for you if . . .

This plugin version of Luminar is for you if you can relate to any or all of the following:

  • You already use LR, PS, Aperture or Photos to process your images.
  • Photoshop baffles you but you're wondering if there is another level you can get to with your images.
  • You like to play around and experiment with your photos, processing is half the fun.

What else Luminar can do for your images

In this video, you will see the plugin version in conjunction with Lightroom.

Before and after images

Original RAW file, unedited.
Processed in Lightroom.
Image processed using Luminar.
Before – Lightroom only.
After – enhanced in Luminar.
Before – unedited RAW file.
Before – Lightroom processing only.
After – Luminar enhancements made after Lightroom.
RAW unedited image.
Before – processed in Lightroom.
After – Luminar enhancements added.
Raw file unedited.
Lightroom version.
Luminar version.
Lightroom only version. Meh! I thought this was great until . . .
Luminar – it's luminous!
Lightroom processing couldn't get close to what I was able to make in Snapseed on my phone! Here is the Instagram version processed using my phone and Snapseed.
Luminar wins! It's different than the IG one but I like it nonetheless.
Before – processed in Lightroom. Daniel doing a selfie on a camel in Morocco. Join him in Morocco in May 2018!
Luminar version. You can count the eyelashes on the camel!
The BEFORE photo – Processed in Lightroom
… and the after shot. Processed with Macphun Luminar

Overall thoughts about Luminar

I have tried quite a few plugins and other image processing alternatives, looking for something that I could recommend to you. None of them have stacked up, which is why you haven't heard me talk about them. Until now that is with Luminar.

Overall I am really impressed with that you can do with this software. It's flexible, it works non-destructively so you never have to worry about ruining your original images, it's fairly intuitive and easy to use (I think so anyway), and best of all – no subscription model and it's under $100! With a trial version available for download what have you got to lose?

Any cons or drawbacks?

  • I did find the stand-alone version took a bit long to open raw files, but not ridiculously long.
  • There isn't currently a browser module for the stand-alone version but I understand that's a future feature that will be added later.
  • I haven't perfected the texture overlay tool yet – but I think I need to find the right image and texture and play with it a bit more.

Bottom line here is that it's still a fairly new product and there will always be bugs (expect a few in the Windows beta version – there was with Lightroom too so don't hold that against Macphun).  But the Macphun team are very responsive and listen to requests. I'm excited to see where they take Luminar and am glad I'm getting on the ground floor.

Your turn

So what are you waiting for? Go get a trial version and give it a test drive yourself.

Please share your Luminar processed images in the comments below. If you have any questions about it I'll try and answer them if I can – I'm new to using it to remember, but I'll do my best or point you in the right direction for help.


You are here: Photography Tips » Macphun Luminar: Video Walk Through and Review

lightroom alternative photo editing software

Black Friday Coupon Code for Luminar

Use the code DIGITALPHOTOMENTOR to receive $10 off your purchase, until Wed Nov 29.

  • Kevin La Rue

    Thanks for sharing your review of Luminar, Darlene, and a fantastic set of images to really show what the software is capable of – they were really amazing to browse! When your fans get a hold of the software, I think they’ll also love the new Accent filter (powered by AI), the one-click presets and the ability to use layers/brushes.

    Again… nice job on the review and I’m glad you’re on the “ground-floor” too – we have tons of new features in the works for the future! 😉 Best, Kevin (from Macphun)

    • Thanks Kevin! I literally spent hours playing with it and finding the perfect images to showcase it. Glad you liked them.

      See I told you guys they’re responsive!! Great company, much friendlier than Adobe! 😉

  • Jim Cooper

    Can you use Luminar as a Photoshop Elements plugin?

  • ernldo

    Is there a Photoshop plug in, or only for Lightroom?

    • Yes for PS as well. Check under the features list – are you Mac or PC?

      • ernldo

        PC, and thank you!

        • Just grab the beta version here then!

          • Kevin La Rue

            Hi ernldo and Darlene – the current public beta of Luminar for Windows is not able to run as a plug-in yet. The final shipping version due later this year will be able to do so. For now, you’ll have to “test” it by running as a standalone app! Kevin (from Macphun)

  • tomherren

    Will the new Windows version work as a plugin for LR 5.7 and PS CS5?

    • Yes I believe so – for any version of LR or PS

      • Kevin La Rue

        Kevin here from Macphun. The Luminar for Windows “public beta” released last week does not yet have the ability to run as a plug-in. When the product ships later this year, it will for sure be able to do so. 😉

  • Nancy Norton

    I only looked at the first video. I didn’t see or hear you mention anything about Luminar’s ability to retouch, clone or merge multiple photos. Before downloading the trial version can you tell me if these are available on Luminar.

    • Yes there is a cloning feature. I tested it on a few dust spots but nothing more complex than that. You need to do it at the end of make a stamp layer as it merges them all after you’re done cloning. I don’t believe you can merge photos – but there is a sky replace feature which I didn’t try – not my style. But you can add a layer with another image and change blend modes and mask – so I imagine you can. I’d say download the trial, it costs nothing to do so, and try it yourself to see if it does what you need.

      • Nancy Norton

        Thanks Darlene. I did download the trial and have just purchased the stand alone version – I have a lot to learn and practice! Thank you for sharing this with your readers.

  • glennsphotos

    Just tried it with Elements 14 and works fine. Have been using Luminar since it came out and love it. i use it mostly as a plugin with lightroom.

  • Gary Holden

    Hi Darlene,
    Is there an automask feature like LR?

  • Rita Heinrichs

    Thank-you Darlene for the review on Macphun Luminar. After watching the video several times, I decided this might just be the photo processor for me; now I know what presets are! I downloaded the Windows beta version and have been delighted and amazed by the difference that even a small adjustment can make on a photo. I’m wondering if Luminar for Windows is available for purchase-so far I have only found offers for the Mac version. I think the purchased version will have more options than the trial version. Thank-you

    • HI Rita – they are just in beta phase now the full release is slated for later fall sometime, not sure when. But as a tester you will get notice when it’s available to purchase. And I’m glad you liked it – I think it will be a good solution for many people.

  • Great review, thanks Darlene. I have purchased Luminar and, with my limited experience, it seems great; especially the AI filter 🙂 . However, a few months back I started using Nik software for B&W conversion (I think it is Silver Efex Pro but can’t remember off the top of my head). Anyway for B&W conversion the Nik conversion seemed great; and, I have not managed to get the same results from Luminar.

    Do you have any comments on Tonality Pro (B&W conversion software from the makers of Luminar)? I ask because apparently NIk software will no longer be supported by Google. So, I foresee compatibility problems with LR CC upgrades and want to know whether there is a significant difference between the B&W conversion in Luminar and Tonality Pro. Obviously I need to ‘master’ Luminar but I’m wondering about Tonality. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Cheers dave

    • Yes I have Tonality as well and there are more options. If you buy the entire Macphun suite you can use them with Luminar as plugins. Or just get the one(s) you want to add.

      • Thanks Darlene (I’m already using Luminar as a plugin for LR CC rather than wanting a standalone version)

        If we ignore the cost (and I know for many people this is the number one concern), then would you suggest that the extra features in Tonality Pro are significantly better than Luminar for B&W conversion? In this context, if they require many hours of learning then for me, at least, they wouldn’t be be better. Sorry, I know this is a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question.

        • Hi Dave, sorry I haven’t played with both enough to compare those features. Perhaps something to look at next! So I can’t really say, sorry. There is a free trial on Tonality – why not download it and have a look yourself?

          • Hi Darlene, no problem; thanks for taking the time to reply. In a rush of blood to the head, I purchased Tonality (without giving it a trial first). Well, not quite; but, I have a propensity to buy things that look good superficially but are not always so good when I get to use them. Fortunately, however, Tonality is GREAT! I can’t quite articulate what it is yet, but certainly for B&W I’d highly, recommend Tonality. Hope the weather is good where you are 🙂

Next Post:

Previous Post:

Featured Photography Special

4 Weeks to Better Photography

An online
photography class for beginners

Join the Photo Community

10 Photography Challenges

Participate in monthly photography challenges. Join our very interactive community, participate in challenges each month that help you stretch and grow. Learn new skills and make your photos "pop".

More Articles Here

All my past photography articles here.

We publish regularly, so if you'd like to posts sent directly to your inbox, just put your name and email into the big orange box at the top of this page.

Adobe Training

Learn how to use Lightroom
Learn how to use Photoshop