The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI (and Thoughts on Luminar Neo)

The print copies of my new book The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI are arriving! … Just in time for the pre-announcement of Luminar Neo.

Yesterday, a heavy package arrived containing the author copies of my newest book The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI! The ebook version has been available for a few months, but since this is a gorgeously-printed paper book, I was holding off on making a splashy announcement until the print version was nearly available—which is now! The physical books are only just reaching stores and warehouses (thank you, global shipping crisis); Amazon currently shows delivery starting September 14. If you’ve already pre-ordered your copy via Amazon or Rocky Nook, you should be receiving it soon.

Ironically, today Skylum pre-announced Luminar Neo, a new photo editing app coming later this year.

So, let me first talk about Luminar AI and my book, and then I’ll turn to what the Luminar Neo news means.

The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI

My first book on Luminar covered Luminar 4, which was the maturation of Skylum’s all-in-one photo editing tool that covered all the basics and introduced significantly cool AI features like sky replacement and portrait enhancements. I like to describe Luminar 4 as deceptively deep, because although it has features for quickly improving photos, you could use layers and masks to really dig into the capabilities and perform sophisticated edits.

Skylum followed that up with Luminar AI, which pushed more into the realm of AI-assisted photo editing. It boasted a new imaging engine, a workflow designed to improve photos quickly, and more great AI features such as expanded portrait tools and more ways to augment skies. When I dug into the first beta versions of Luminar AI, I was excited to see that a lot of the deceptively deep features were still there, just not emphasized in the marketing. So, my publisher Rocky Nook and I decided to update my Luminar 4 book for Luminar AI.

The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI covers the new features and also explains how to get the most out of the professional editing tools that are a click or two away. It also includes two Walkthrough chapters where I guide you through every step of editing a landscape image and two portraits—and you can download the photos and follow along in Luminar on your computer. Luminar AI works as a stand alone app or as a plug-in for Lightroom Classic, Apple Photos, Photoshop, and other apps.


On a personal note, this has been one of my favorite books to write. I had fun creating this book, and love not only what I wrote but also the fantastic print quality and color reproduction in the physical book’s 212 pages. Rocky Nook makes beautiful books, and I’m honored to work with them.

Given the time between when the book was printed and now distributed, a small number of existing features didn’t make it into the book, most notably Portrait Bokeh AI, which has a lot of great controls for automatically identifying the subject of a photo and blurring the background. When I have some more time, I hope to create a blog post or video that covers how it works.

Luminar Neo and Luminar AI

One thing Luminar AI does not share with Luminar 4 is support for layers. Skylum’s rationale was that layers are too often confusing to new users, and Luminar AI was really meant to reduce complexity. Luminar AI does include Local Masking, which can be used in a layers-y way (as I describe in the book).

Today, Skylum introduced Luminar Neo, and chief among its new features is…layers! It also adds new AI features like the ability to relight the subject of any image, remove backgrounds, and automatically eradicate dust and spots and power lines. It also promises much better performance.

According to the company, Luminar Neo and Luminar AI will continue to be sold separately, with Luminar AI expected to fill the role of quick edits and Luminar Neo to be the more full-featured photo editor. Luminar AI is now “feature complete,” but will receive updates for compatibility and support for images from new camera models for some unspecified length of time. (Luminar 4 is retired.) Luminar Neo will be available “this winter,” but a shipping date has not yet been announced.

One surprising detail is that libraries in Luminar AI will not transfer to Luminar Neo, just as libraries from Luminar 4 did not transfer to Luminar AI. And edits made in Luminar AI will also not transfer to Luminar Neo, and vice-versa. That’s annoying and disappointing, frankly, and tells me that Skylum has given up on their earlier aspirations of creating a competitive DAM (digital asset manager). [Update: After a lot of feedback, Skylum now says that Luminar Neo will be able to open edited images from Luminar 4 and Luminar AI, but don’t expect it any time soon. From the Luminar Neo FAQ: “Because of the updated architecture, it will take some time for our engineers to make the migration process possible. We’ve added it to the roadmap and it will be available in future updates of Luminar Neo.”]

In pre-announce briefings, Skylum hasn’t shown any screenshots or working versions of Neo, so currently we don’t have much solid information to go on that isn’t marketing. You can pre-order Luminar Neo for a reduced rate for a set amount of time (through September 19) and for a limit of 30,000 “early-bird” customers. The early-bird pricing breaks down like this:

New purchase:

  • $54 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
  • $59 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo
  • $83 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI
  • $98 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI

If you own Luminar or Aurora:

  • $34 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
  • $49 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo
  • $63 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI
  • $88 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on Luminar Neo, but at this early stage it’s hard to tell just what it will be beyond Skylum’s marketing. I’m looking forward to learning more.

What This Means for The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI

The good news is that Luminar AI is not being retired, and aside from the updates made in Luminar AI Update 4 that were added after the book was finished, everything in the book will remain current until Skylum ends Luminar AI. Although Skylum is now pushing Luminar AI as the “fast and light” version of its new photo editing family (to lift the messaging of Neo as the more powerful tool), there’s a lot of editing power there, as I cover in the book—otherwise we wouldn’t have published it in the first place.

If the Luminar AI release schedule is an indication, I don’t expect to see Luminar Neo until at least December, with some features arriving even later (some of the advertised features in Luminar AI arrived months after launch). In the meantime, Luminar AI remains a great editor with unheralded power beyond just the snazzy AI features (which are very snazzy), and The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar AI is the best book to help you learn how to use it and improve your photos.

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