I am going to start this out by mentioning that I while I could be, I am not a professional photographer, I am far too busy shooting videos for weddings in Portland and shooting commercial productions to take on any photography work.  But I do enjoy dabbling in photography from time to time, and as it turns out, if you spend enough time working on images, you learn a thing or two about processing them. This is my review, from a over qualified hobbyists perspective. on the photo editing application Luminar 4.  its largely an opinion piece, but should reflect on the experience of using the tool quite admirably

General impressions. 

My first impressions of Luminar 4 was, more or less…. why does it take so damn long? and is my computer freezing up?  then after I begrudgingly excepted the slowness (with the intent, and conviction I could fix that bug later) I started asking questions. what can this program do? how powerful is it? does that sky replacement feature really work? how are those tools for touching up portraits? etc, etc.  

Digging in

digging into the sky replacement tool, I am initially impressed, this thing just works, its like riding a snail into battle, but once that snail gets their, its a formidable beast! a fearsome worrier! and the best part is, I don’t need to swing my blade because the snail does all the fighting!  I spend hours messing around, playing with different skies, trying different things. I build dozens of different images with great excitement! and then I press export, waiting for that export is a long and painful process, but soon I will be rewarded with the final image! 

A couple hours later, my 12 photos are done exporting (yeah, this is not looking like a program for large numbers of photos, even though its built like light room, its certainly far too slow to act like it in any real world scenario)  low and behold….. my photos… look like crap! well, most of them do anyhow, some of them came out pretty darn good! and the ones that worked, look amazing! punching in an entirely new sky was cool! but for the ones that failed, and most of them did, its clear where the masking took place, and its got rough blocky edges that are jarring and unpleasant to look at.  alright, so I can probably fix this I say to myself, if I can get this slowness bug fixed, because its clear the only reason I failed to dial the settings in right was because I couldn’t preview anything without waiting for literally dozens of minutes before I saw what was happening. 

Luminar 4 re renders the entire image stack, if you zoom in to get a closer look at a single part of the image.  I have to speed up the program, and then I can see if this sky replacement tool has any potential.  I stretch my nimble googling fingers and I start out on a quest to find out how to speed up Luminar 4, it is clear, it is a wide spread complaint, I run into a lot of conversations about Luminar 3, and how slow it is, and while talk of luminar 4 is fewer and further between, probably due to its recent release, it does not seem like the problem ever got fixed, and it seems like the problem is that doing AI based image calculations is just, slow. 

I honestly don’t have a problem with slow, in fact, I expect it for really advanced image operations.  I used to spend a ton of time doing special FX for movies, I used to let my computer sit and render out a single frame for over 40 minutes, letting it chug away for weeks to produce a single sequence, but the thing is, when your doing special FX work, the programs are built with the understanding that its a slow process, and they give you control over all the settings. The special FX programs let you choose when to render a frame, and what parts of the image stack your going to render, and at what resolutions, if your going to render a single part of the image, you select that part, and you press render, get a cup of tea, and come back to see the result. with luminar 4, the program is a slow render based tool, that re renders the entire image stack, if you need it to or not, every single time you touch a dial, or a knob, and before you can touch another dial, or you have to wait for the program to render the entire image again. If you zoom in, it renders the entire image again, before you can even see if you landed on the part of the image you were hoping to get a good look at, so you have to move your view, and do it again. their is no loading bars, there is no indication of how long its going to take, and there is no control of when it renders. 

at the end of the day, I had planned to test a number of other parts of the application, its portrait tools, etc, but I found that it was so painfully slow to work with, it just was not worth it. Even if they were awesome, there is no way I would be editing any images with this program. I can’t even change white balance or do other basic edits without the program freezing up on me. it would be hard to argue that this is a good tool for studio photography, and it would be even harder to argue this tool would be good for wedding photography or any other in the field kind of work.


Luminar 4 is a cool tool, it has so much potential, and with just a change of how they think about it, it could be my favorite photo editing app ever. the tools are incredible, but you need to treat it like it is what it is, a computationally intense application that needs time to render, it is not a real time application, but sadly the creators of the app are firm believers that it is a real time application, and it should be, and they are very, very wrong about this.