Skylum Luminar 4 for Mac review

Version: 4Developer: Skylum Inc.




SKYLUM (Macphun,early 2018 they’ll completely switched to SKYLUM) is a San Diego, USA based software company, and famous for its outstanding photo editing software products. Their latest software application Luminar 4, has been upgraded to a new product supporting numerous improvements and the addition of AI Skin Enhancer, AI Portrait Enhancer and their AI Sky Replacement feature. Luminar Neptune 2017 was launched 15th June 2017 and Luminar 2018 launched 16 November 2017, Luminar 3 came to life in 2018. This review will discover and disclose wether the Luminar 4 upgrade is a true improvement over Luminar 3. Luminar 4 is for professionals as well as enthousiasts. SKYLUM has a great reputation for their outstanding products and aim to listen to their clients and implement their wishes in new product versions.




The term artificial intelligence was formed in 1956, however AI has become immense popular today as nowadays we have increased data volumes, advanced algorithms, and improvements in computing power and storage.

AI works by combining large amounts of data with fast, iterative processing and intelligent algorithms, allowing the software to learn automatically from patterns or features in the data. To make AI work, we need to understand that AI is a mix of seperate tools which in addition can create Artificial Intelligence applications which may be implemented each in its specific field for, face recognition on phones, speech, machine programming,

  • Machine learning to automate analytical model building.
  • Deep Learning for neural networks, using learning techniques of data for speech and data recognition.
  • Computer vision needs pattern recognition and deep learning to learn-recognize what’s in a picture.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) is analysation skills of computers to understand and/or generate human language, and speech.
    Advanced algorithms are able and needed to identify and predict events.




Luminar 4’s interface has a great new intuitive layout and filters are placed in groups Essentials, Creative, Portrait, Pro and Deprecated in the right sidebar. All is absolutely nicely placed on the interface, but compared to Luminar 3 takes just a small learning curve setting used too. The filters-sliders are much better to work with. A full list of possible filters is present in the interface, there’s really nothing left out ! The filter collection should be enough for any user to create the best pictures. You also have the ability to create your own preset by saving your image editing settings with   right bottom selection !







Filters include the ability to enhance any picture by using the separate filters or by using the AI filters which combine some separate filters and join them into an AI filter with a algorithm detecting scenes from pictures and adjust them to an AI preset value. Luminar 4 has lots of them available, some more impressive then others. The all new portraits enhancer does a brilliant job to any portrait. Its algorithm detects, eyes, lips, eyebrows, teeth etcetera and gives the user full control over desired adjustments by means of allocated sliders. A true piece of technology if you want my opinion. Purist will claim, Luminar sets the true photographer in the dark and provide tools for any photographer to shine.
And they’re true, as this piece of software which still needs some tuning by its developers puts the purist next to the novice.




Introducing AI Skin Enhancer, AI Portrait Enhancer and AI Sky Replacement


Enhance your portraits faster than ever

AI Skin Enhancer and AI Portrait Enhancer improve portraits incredibly quickly and precisely while giving you full control.
Use the ‘fullscreen’ button right/below to get best visual.




AI Skin EnhancementFacial contouring
Blemish removalRedeye removal
Dark circles removalEye whites brightening
Eye enlargement & squint removalEyebrow thickening
Lip color improvementTeeth brightening
Batch editing




Replace the sky in your photos – instantly. Tired of using layers and masking? Now Skylum introduces Sky Replacement for dummies. I think it’s brilliant in its way, but is it without flaws?  The basic set of available skies is okay, and additional skies can easily be imported in the Sky selection section.
The AI engine detects sky in your pictures and automatically sets horizon and does all masking and layer steps in a second. Its brilliant to see how fast it works and changes your image completely. One more thing to mention is that not only the skies change but also the overall picture lightning setting, creating a realistic picture. When using the sunset images you will notice a total change of colouring of all objects, creating astonishing effects. Now the ‘hunt’ starts for more and great sky images in the correct dimension. I for one hope somebody will share their great sky images in order to upgrade the existing folder of included skies.
To me personal, this is the best new feature as it transforms a normal picture into a rather special picture.





Great sofar, but still not without some flaws. It is fantastic that software itself can do the different adjustments normally done by hand. Masking and adding layers, are all done in one click. The Sky Replacement tool itself is needed to correct the final picture. When just choosing the sky replacement, you’re left with some fringes, artefacts around object. They don’t show in the basic full frame, but doing zoom to 200% some flaws appear. These examples are not done by a full-frame camera but are done by an iPhone X which images are to be expected less pixels then your professional camera.


However, the Sky tool has enough slider-adjustments capable to help you out in re-arranging horizon, blending and exposure. The tool we need to get rid of the fringes around object is Close Gaps, which slider may solve your imperfect image. Check the ‘Before-After’, below of Close Gaps adjustment.





Boosting details with traditional Clarity and Structure tools often make parts of a photo look horrible. Luminar 4 automatically identifies objects (including people and faces, clouds, water, buildings and more) and improves them in an intelligent, content-aware way.





The AI Structure tool automatically detects people in a photo and doesn’t overprocess them. As a result – faces and skin look natural, while the objects around them look deeper and richer. Picture below is set to extreme AI STRUCTURE negativ, but is does show you where the Artificial Intelligence is focussing !





Luminar 4’s Interface has a very good and intuitive layout, as all filters show a pre-view of the actual filters capability and use. All is absolutely nicely placed in the interface and your most used filters can be set as preferred by clicking the little star at the bottom.
A full list of possible filters is present in the interface, there’s really nothing left out ! This filter collection should be enough for any user to create the best final master-picture.

Luminar 4, is equipped with a collection of preset effects organised into categories, and you can download more from the Skylum website. Each preset is a combination of filters and adjustments to create a particular ‘look and feel’. You can browse the presets via a horizontal panel at the bottom of the screen and take a look at the filters and adjustments used in the tools panel on the right and modify them if you need to – or save your own adjusted custom preset.




Lookup Table Adjustments, known as LUT’S. Creative color, perfect black and white conversions and even digital films stocks are just a click away. Lightroom users can convert their custom Lightroom presets into LUT’s with a free tool. There are a number of tools around, you may try this

First of all what is a LUT and what are its typical uses?

LUT means “Look Up Table.” It’s helpful to think of it like a math problem: R= S+L
“R” being your result or what you want to attain.
“S” being your source or what you start with.
“L” being your LUT or the difference needed to make up between your source and your desired outcome.

In all cases of LUT use, the LUT is the means to make up the difference between source and result.((All cases assume the colorist (or you) is grading through a correctly calibrated monitor for evaluation and finishing. LUTs in no way replace proper calibration or color correction. They only assist in the process.)) It’s never the result by itself. How does this play out? I’ll layout a couple probably over-simplified examples:

Color Correction


A very common example is printing your final film to…real, actual film. Print film came in a variety of flavors and styles. Each style had different nuances in color. The film lab would have all that nuance information or be able to send you a print test to work with. That would be your final result. The colorist grades a picture on his calibrated monitor but if he were to send that to print, it could come out looking far different due to the nuances of the physical film.

So in our math analogy, his graded film is “S” and his film print is “R.” He then uses the information from the film lab or on his own, creates and applies the LUT or the “L” to get him from his graded film to the print and to have it look as intended after it’s on the physical film. After applying the LUT, his graded film may look awful on his monitor, but will come out correct on the film print.  ( source




In the end of every review, the verdict is what counts. No application being faultless, Luminar 4 is a huge step forwards from version 3 which was a very good application by itself. Luminar 4 does in this beta need some memory to work smooth. Your Mac’s must have 16mb memory minimum to work with Luminar 4. Skylum has set new standards implementing Artificial Intelligence enhancing your pictures. All new AI’s Portrait, Structure, Skin and Sky are a pleasure to work with. The final results depend on the selected image, as enhancements have different impact on any image. The software however does it tricks for professionals as novice photographers. The readability of the sidebar tools is so much better than Luminar 3. Stunning effects are all present and have a small learning curve, which is a true bonus for users. History is able to undo adjustments step by step and take you back to the point you were happy. I just love all implemented AI’s as they absolutely take Luminar to the next level for any user. Forget about all competitors ( accept Photoshop which is much more expensive and less intuitive ), as this completely new sets the standard for integrated AI’s and ease of use for anybody.
Is Luminar 4 worth upgrading? We think this is the best edition ever developed for the public. In terms of technology we state the following: Luminar 4 is a small step for developers but a huge step for photographers.

Use couponcode MACSOFTREVIEW to get 10% off !

EUR 89

Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review

Version 1.0.0 (5674)Developer Skylum Inc.



Skylum was founded as Macphun in 2008 by two gaming developers and amateur photographers. Initially the company developed applications for iOS. One of its first applications was Vintage Video Maker, which was later named Vintagio. In 2009, Apple named Vintagio among Best iPhone apps of the year.[4][5] In 2010, Alex Tsepko joined the team. In total, the company released over 60 applications in the first three years. However, it saw the greatest number of downloads in the photography applications. Skylum thus decided to develop the same photography applications for MacOS.[6]

In early 2010, Skylum launched its first MacOS application, FX Photo Studio Pro, which was earlier available for iOS only.[7] Several other applications were also developed for MacOS including Snapheal.[8]

In order to tap the North Americas, the company moved its headquarters to San Diego, United States in 2013.[6] A great number of employees came from the Nik Collection, which was earlier acquired by Google.[9] Later that year, the company launched Intensify, a fully featured photo editing software, that was named among 2013 Best Mac App Store apps. In 2014, Skylum launched Tonality, a black-and-white photo editor software, that won Apple’s Editors’ Choice of the year.[10] The same year, Skylum hired a team in Europe to develop localized versions of its software and start European expansion.[6]

In 2015, Skylum released a new image noise reduction application called Noiseless.[11] Same year Skylum partnered with Trey Ratcliff to develop an HDR program. Through the collaboration Aurora HDR, a High Dynamic Range editing and processing tool, was released in November.[12] A year later, Skylum developed Luminar, an all-in-one photo editing software as an alternative to Adobe’s Lightroom. Both the software became the most known applications by the company. [13]

In 2017, the company released Aurora HDR and Luminar for Windows – software that previously was available for MacOS only.[14] At the same time, it was also announced that Macphun will change its name to Skylum.[15]



Installation of Aurora HDR 2019 is straightforward and no need for a reboot. The start and actions with Aurora 2019 feel snappier then the 2018 version. Aurora HDR 2019 is the world’s ultimate HDR photo editing software, featuring the new AI Tone Mapping powered by the new Quantum HDR Engine. Its a complete and comprehensive tool kit for amateurs and pro-photographers. Its updated interface and new features complement a new release of Skylum HDR software. Perfect for single shots or multiple-exposure brackets, Aurora HDR 2019 is able to create beautiful HDR pictures from single shots, as well as the for HR photographed 3 pictures with different exposures. In fact Aurora HDR 2019 can turn any photographer into an artist.
Aurora HDR 2019 is a powerful update that has several new, and, frankly, compelling features.



HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. Pictures are taken in series or one and are processed and combined to one by adjusting the contrast ratios. An HDR image is commonly made by taking three photos of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds. The result is a bright, medium, and dark photo, based on the amount of light that got through the lens. A software process then combines all the photos to bring details to the shadows and highlights both. The result of this magic are stunning pictures with vivid colouring and lighting.







Tone mapping converts (compresses) the wide dynamic range image into one that is more narrow and can be displayed on a computer monitor. In the past, tone mapping was done manually —   requiring the user to make these changes. Aurora HDR 2019’s new artificial intelligence changes this by using the new Quantum HDR Engine. This new HDR engine analyzes the dynamic range of the image to produce the best starting point to begin HDR processing.



This filter allows you to control the details of the image, giving you the choice of making the image clearer and sharper or make it softer. This tool is useful for improving the overall quality of the image as well as to increase the quality of the images that will be used in high resolution, such as for printing. Increasing the sharpness can also compensate for lower quality optics used to make the captured image. Innovative technologies allow the HDR Details Boost adjustment to improve image sharpness without increasing digital noise or creating unnatural ghosting or halos in the image. This is a very powerful tool to improve the quality of images.



Aurora HDR 2019’s HDR Enhance Filter allows adjusting an image’s detail and clarity. Using this tool you can get a classic HDR effect with great detail or get a smoother picture with less detail. This is the main tool to increase micro-contrast of an image and visualize more details.

The tool has three sections: HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure, and HDR Microstructure.

    The HDR Clarity slider is a single slider that adjusts a variety of controls including lighting effects and detail. It offers a special ability to configure balanced image brightness without getting completely white or completely black areas. This has the effect of making the image less realistic and more classically the look a lot of people associate with HDR.
  • Increases image detail by revealing the structure and texture of the surfaces in the image. This enhances the image and hidden details appear. This slider adjusts the overall display of details. Moving the slider to the right will accentuate details and make the image more unrealistic.
  • This section amplifies micro-detail within the image. These are small details that form the surface of any object in the image. They can further enhance details of the image and provide a more vivid artistic HDR effect, however, it can also make the image very noisy.
  • Amount. Increases micro-details and contrast.
  • Softness. Affects the general “softness” and realism of the photo. Moving the slider to the left will cause the image to become very finely detailed and unrealistic.




I wondered if there would be any difference in creating a HDR image from one of Trey Ratcliff’s images with Aurora 2018 and the updated 2019 version. To be fair the difference is not huge of course, still I feel the 2019 version does a better job with the sky elements. Check the left top sky and see that 2018 version shows more noise and artefacts then the 2019 update. All settings to ‘reset’ level in transformation of the image. The blue rooftop sections look much more defined on the 2019 version.
So we can state: Aurora HDR 2019 absolutely performs better then Aurora HDR 2018.






What is tone mapping?
Skylum AURORA HDR 2018 already had Tone-mapping feature but version 2019 has a complete revolutionary Quantum HDR tone mapping engine. I guess this is one of the most used features within this application. Nice to fiddle around, but what does it really do?
It’s the process of converting the tonal values of an image from a high range to a lower one. For instance, an HDR file merged from multiple images with a dynamic range of 100,000:1 will be converted into an image with tonal values ranging from around 1 to 255.
Why do we want to reduce that tonal range so much? Well the reason is simple. Most standard display devices (and printers) can only reproduce a low range of dynamic values (between 100 or 200:1 or lower). The goal of tone mapping is to reproduce the appearance of images having a higher dynamic range to fit/display properly on standard display devices, thus keeping the image looking realistic.
The algorithms that tone mapping use to scale the dynamic range down attempt to preserve the appearance of the original image captured by breaking the information up into two categories: global and local.



Skylum raised the bar again with their Aurora HDR 2019 version, which doesn’t leave much room for improvement yet. There are some other applications available right now, which offer similar techniques and adjustment settings, but I feel Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 is the easiest to master for any user. Speed improved as well as a improved techniques like the new Quantum HDR Engine. The Lens Correction and Transform Tool are the obvious implemented features. HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure, and HDR Microstructure complete a perfect application.
I am a big fan of Skylum software, and I tried them all ! I love their clean interface and easy use. The offered presets are limited but when you add the mentioned Free packs or buy the available Presets from Macphun you can’t go wrong anymore.
This software can make any photographer into a true Michelangelo. How’s that for software changing your world !

So, I recommend Aurora HDR 2019 to anyone looking for the best HDR-editing application.

  • Current users of Aurora HDR 2018 may upgrade for $49 ($39 with our affiliate coupon code= MACSOFTREVIEW) NOT for pre-sale !!

$ 89.00