The Mac is in the midst of a photo editor renaissance, with applications like Photos for macOS continuing to improve and third-party options likes Affinity Photo popping up. Adobe, too, recently launched Lightroom CC, an all new cloud-based version of Lightroom for the Mac. Today, Macphun, the developers behind several popular photography applications for macOS, are introducing Luminar 2018, their answer to the increasingly competitive software landscape.

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Adobe’s Lightroom CC has generated a bit of controversy in photography circles, as users find themselves faced with adopting new workflows and rethinking their organization strategies. The 2018 release of Luminar hopes to provide a viable alternative. I’ve been testing Luminar 2018 alongside Lightroom CC to see how both applications fare.

Interface

The first change of note when you launch Luminar 2018 is an improved user interface. The application feels truly at home on the Mac, much more than Lightroom. Controls are intuitive, and the entire interface has a pleasant dark theme, perfect for working with images. With the exception of batch processing, working in Luminar today is a photo-by-photo process. Each photo you edit is opened and managed separately – at least for now. Macphun has teased a free update coming in 2018 that includes an image browser and digital asset manager, allowing better integration with existing Lightroom libraries:

Photographers will be able to sort, rate, organize, and backup their photos at great speed. The new digital asset management platform in Luminar will work without subscription and will work with any storage (cloud or local).

The existing management workflow feels a little tedious and old-fashioned, so this will be a very welcome addition.

Workflow

After you’ve opened a photo, you’re presented with a healthy selection of presets that can be applied, as well as detailed information and an adjustments panels for fine-tuning your photo. Many users will be satisfied working with just presets alone. You can create great looking photos with a click, and large thumbnails show you what your photos will look like. I prefer to work with custom parameters, however, which unlock even more creative control.

Luminar 2018 brings new and powerful editing features. Pros will appreciate a new RAW engine for processing photos taken with high-end cameras. Also new this year is support for LUTs, or lookup tables, custom adjustment presets that many professionals create and rely on for saving and applying a specific look to multiple images.

Macphun has greatly expanded the number of adjustments available in Luminar, which they call filters. New for the 2018 release are Sun Rays (my personal favorite), LUT Mapping, Dodge & Burn, RAW Develop, Hue Shift, Matte Look, Brilliance/Warmth, Lens Correction, Transform, Image Flip & Rotate, as well as realtime noise reduction capabilities. All of these filters can be added manually or queued up with default workspaces, which group together commonly used tools for editing different types of photos. Coming from an Adobe background, I was still able to dial in the look I wanted faster in Lightroom, but existing users of Apple’s Photos app on macOS, and those familiar with photo editing workflows on iOS apps will probably find Luminar more intuitive. It feels like it was designed by Mac users, for Mac users.

Sharing

After you’ve edited your photos, Luminar makes it simple to distribute them, using the Mac’s native share sheets and a conveniently placed share button in the upper right-hand corner of the interface. Luminar can also export your photos to other editing apps for additional adjustment, including Macphun’s Aurora HDR, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Photos. New for 2018 is support for third-party Photoshop plugins as plugins for Luminar.

Availability & Pricing

Luminar’s biggest advantage over Lightroom CC is its price. A monthly subscription to Creative Cloud is a big commitment, but Macphun offers its applications for a one time fee. Luminar 2018 will be available for Mac and PC on November 16th for $69 for new users, or $49 for current users. Macphun is offering a discount beginning today until the application’s release, accepting pre-orders with a special introductory price of $59 for new users and $39 for existing users. Macphun also offers the Creative Kit collection of photography applications and Aurora HDR.


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