Luminor 4 & What an Architectural Photographer Really Thinks About.
Now I am no expert but I have been using Luminar 4 for a while now and attempted do major sky replacements with two major projects. While I find that it is very useful for very simple edits, its not the answer for sophisticated work.
Luminar 4 sells for $89USD for the standard license and you can install the software as a plug-in or a standalone application with this price. Now you can get the PRO license and other bundled packages, I do believe that most of you will be buying the standard license. I heard of photographers complaining to Luminar that they can only use it with two computers, but quite frankly, I do think it is enough. After all we do want these wonderful software companies to survive and continue to make great programs.
First of all, I think it was a great idea. Being able to do a complicated sky replacement with a click of a mouse was always a dream for Architectural photographers. I work a lot in Tokyo and Osaka a lot and let me tell you this was supposed to be the answer to all my problems. So was it?
Yes and No.
First, Luminar 4 is not only for sky replacements. it also offers great tools to enhance portraits and can add great color tonality to your your photos. Just this Christmas, I decided to try using the portrait enhancement features for my own personal family photo session but the experience was not so great. It ended up not detected majority of the faces and ended up, I had to bring certain photos back into photoshop for the additional adjustments. So basically it struggled to detect certain faces. I would not want to use that in front of a client. Not gonna get too much into the portrait part as I want to focus on Luminar 4 as a tool for architectural and interiors photography.
As for sky replacements, well firstly it only works only with jpeg images. You can use the pre-installed sky images Luminar provides for free but if you do quite a bit of architectural work you will find that library quite limited. What I would liked to see in a future upgrade is to have Luminar to support RAW/DNG files(mind you they do sell sky images on their website you can add to that library).
The second thing is although I would say about 70% of the time Luminar 4 does get the job done quite nicely, I think more than half the times when you apply the plug-in to a more complex sky replacement, it struggles. For those images you will have to end up tweaking back in photoshop or even end up not using the plug-in at all. Most of the time these are issues with the horizon not lining up correctly which can cause sky overlapping issues on the part the image you want to keep. Having gotten used to using Luminosity Masks for sky replacements (thanks to the Almighty Mike Kelley and his WAMA series), I find that although this is not a pricey software, as a professional it's more or less something you can definitely do without. While to be frank, sometimes I need to redo my luminosity masks two three times on a very complicated shot, I do feel it gives me much more control than Luminar 4.
So Come Again, Would I Buy It?
No, if it's not on sale. But yes, if it was. Why is that. Well there are photos that I take that doesn't necessarily make the cut neither to my client, my portfolio, or my website. These photos do get edited for several reasons (often for social media), and Luminar 4 is a great way of having these processed in a very quick way. Because most of the these images are viewed on handheld devices, it can get away with a minor flaw or two that is not that noticeable.
While majority of pros or avid amateurs will find the plug-in easy to use (basically if you have Adobe Lightroom figures out, it's pretty much the same layout). It will probably take half an hour at most to figure out the features and maybe two three photos to completely realise what certain tools are good for and not.
So yeah, that's it. Would I deliver an image using Luminar 4? Well maybe, but not if I feel it's let time consuming getting it done with luminosity masks. Luminar claims that it is working on improvements and that users can expect software updates that will improve their workflow. However, I just feel while the technology has improved greatly since the days of CS2 and CS3, it's not quite up there yet. At the moment I feel the app/plug-in is like using Meitu (Chinese photo app). It's a fun to amaze your friends or even show a reference to your client but for you pros that are doing sky replacements flawlessly, it's not much help with those images with the complex tree branches and power lines. So for now at least, it's back to luminosity masks and brushes for me anyways.
You can find Luminar 4 and other Skylum software at https://skylum.com/luminar