Skylum Luminar 3 was an excellent tool for infrared photography. Here are the reasons why Luminar 4 is no longer recommended.
In this article, I would like to share my experience using Luminar for infrared photography. If you are a returning visitor, you may have read about my desire to replace Adobe Lightroom with a different product.
Until now, I have not decided on a general replacement for Lightroom. But I have found Skylum Luminar to be a very capable and flexible tool for my infrared photography. It is not perfect, but Luminar addresses both of the two main issues you experience when you work with infrared pictures.
Currently, I am testing three alternatives to Lightroom: Phase One Capture One Pro, ON1 Photo RAW, and Skylum Luminar. As of June 2019, Luminar is the only one that offers a fully integrated workflow for infrared pictures. Keep reading for the details.
1.No White Balance restrictions
In Lightroom, it is usually not possible to adjust the White Balance of Infrared pictures to get rid of the red/purple color cast. The same is true for Photo RAW, which is even more restrictive than Lightroom: the lowest possible value for white balance in Photo RAW is 2400°K (in Lightroom it is 2000°K). Capture One allows more flexibility when setting the white balance, the low limit is at 800°K.
With Luminar, such restrictions do not exist. If you set the White Balance correctly in-camera, Luminar will produce accurate results. I have prepared three example pictures to demonstrate this. For each example, you will see the in-camera result compared with what Luminar, Capture One, Photo RAW and Lightroom produce.
For the in-camera result, I am using the JPEG itself or the JPEG preview embedded in the RAW file. I have used ExifTool to extract the JPEG previews from the RAW files. The Luminar, Capture One, Photo RAW and Lightroom pictures are
1a.Example 1: 610nm (Super Color) Infrared filter, JPEG file
This picture was taken as a JPEG with a custom white balance (CWB) reading from green foliage. While this is not the recommended CWB approach for this filter, we will use the example anyway.
As expected, we do not see any significant differences between the pictures, because the original file is a JPEG. For JPEGs, obviously none of the software packages does a re-calculation of the White Balance. The only differences we can see are in contrast, with Luminar and Capture One being closest to the original.
1b.Example 2: 610nm (Super Color) Infrared filter, RAW file
In this example, the picture was taken as a RAW file with a CWB reading from a grey card, which is the recommended approach for this filter.
Luminar renders the picture nearly like the in-camera version, just a little bit cooler.
Capture One renders the picture visibly cooler than the original, but this can be corrected using the white balance slider.
Photo RAW is completely off, because of its limited white balance range. The white balance slider is at its 2.400 K limit, you cannot correct the color cast in Photo RAW.
Lightroom shows a red cast, again because of its limited white balance range. The white balance slider is at its 2.000 K limit, you will have to create a camera profile to set the correct white balance.
1c.Example 3: 850nm (B&W) Infrared filter, RAW file
In the final example, the picture was taken as a
Luminar renders the picture very close to the in-camera version, only a touch cooler.
Capture One renders the picture again visibly cooler than the original, but you can correct this using the white balance slider.
Photo RAW shows a slight pink cast in this case. Again, the WB slider is at its 2.400 K limit, but you can, of course, move the Saturation slider to -100 to get a neutral black and white picture.
Lightroom shows a strong purple cast here. Again, the WB slider is at its 2.000 K limit, but you could move the Saturation slider down.
Do you find this review helpful? To show your appreciation, why not buy me a coffee? ☕ No subscription. No further obligations. Just a quick and simple sign of gratitude. 🙏
2.Built-in Channel M
The second advantage of Luminar is the built-in channel mixer. To achieve the Infrared Blue-Sky effect in Lightroom, you must use third-party software. The same is true for Capture One and Photo RAW. In Luminar, you conveniently use the built-in channel mixer to achieve the same result in seconds.
Here is the result of the channel mixer applied to the first example image above, using the built-in before/after comparison tool:
2a.How to apply the Channel Mixer
Here is a quick summary of the settings you apply in the channel mixer to achieve the Infrared Blue-Sky effect:
- For the red channel, set Red to 0 and Blue to 100
- Leave the green channel alone
- For the blue channel, set Red to 100 and Blue to 0
At this point, the picture is far from perfect, but a good starting point for further enhancements. FYI, the header picture at the top of this article is what I got out of Luminar in less than 5 minutes of editing. Not my best infrared picture for sure, but also not bad for a quick edit job.
3.Useful Luminar filters
While playing with the built-in filters, I found a couple of them especially useful for infrared photography:
- Accent AI Filter 2.0: It impresses me what a single slider can do to your color Infrared pictures. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
- Remove Color Cast: Try this filter after you swap channels for the Infrared blue-sky effect, using Method ‘Auto #1’.
- Split Color Warmth: Again, if you are not happy with the result of the channel swap for the Infrared blue-sky effect, try these two sliders. They adjust the warm and the cool part of your picture independent from each other.
I also like the Workspace concept, where you can group filters according to your preferences. I have created two workspaces with different filter sets. One for color infrared photography, and one for black and white infrared photography.
4.What Skylum needs to improve in Luminar
While Luminar looks promising, there are some areas where Skylum needs to improve the software:
During my tests, Luminar crashed a couple of times, especially when using the crop tool. Also, sometimes moving the HSL sliders did not change anything in the picture or right-click menus did now show up on the screen. I am sure that as Luminar matures, these issues will be taken care of. But right now, they are annoying.
4b.No real print functionality
Really, I get it. In these days, everybody views pictures online. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to print our pictures. While Luminar does offer ‘print’ functionality, it does not even offer basic control over the printing process or the layout. And I am not talking about advanced features like color profiles or soft proofing. In its current form, it is actually useless for even the most basic printing requirements.
Skylum markets Luminar as “Full featured photo editor and organizer” (Skylum, May 2019, https://skylum.com/luminar). In my opinion, a full-featured photo organizer should offer more output options than just exporting pictures.
4c.Missing key features
Other missing features currently include the ability to add or edit EXIF/IPTC
onclusion on using Luminar for infrared photography
In summary, Skylum Luminar is a useful tool for post-processing your digital infrared pictures. It solves the two biggest workflow issues for infrared photographers, and the built-in filters are useful as well.
Yet, at this point, I do not consider Luminar as a Lightroom replacement, because there are so many missing features. But IR photography is artistic by nature, and the use of filters and other enhancements is widely accepted. This and the rather low price makes Luminar an attractive offer for
Have you already considered Luminar for infrared photography? What do you use for your infrared pictures? Are you happy with your solution? Let us know in the comments section below!
Can you support this site?
Do you find this article helpful? To show your appreciation, why not buy me a coffee? ☕ No subscription. No further obligations. Just a quick and simple sign of gratitude. 🙏
Read about the important difference your contribution makes. 😊
There are 7 comments on “Why You Should No Longer Consider Luminar for Infrared Photography”:
Click here to add your comment
It appears Skylum has removed the channel mixer in Luminar 4.
Dave, thank you for letting me know. I was already hesitating to upgrade to version 4 for another reason: Luminar 3 did include a license for 5 computers, but Luminar 4 only for 2 computers. So basically, they have more than doubled the price.
After reading your comment I downloaded the trial version of Luminar 4, and you are correct. The other thing I noticed is that it seems to be no longer possible to create custom workspaces. I had a custom workspace prepared specifically for Infrared photography, which I can no longer do in Luminar 4. The article will be updated accordingly.
It is really beyond me why Skylum decided to remove features which gave their product a competitive advantage. It looks like they were so focused on not missing the “AI” train that they completely forgot what made their produce useful. Well, at least I can now take it off the list of potential Lightroom replacements.
I just recently started with IR and saw your article when looking for alternative processing options to Lightroom. Using the custom DNG profile in LR seems less than optimum. I was pleased when I saw the images load into Luminar with the correct white balance. I had just updated to Luminar 4 and could not find the channel mixe and then found it on a list of deprecated, one of the few features that does not have an alternative filter suggestion.
It is great that you updated your article so quickly!
Dave, thanks again for pointing out this issue in the first place! I would have never thought that Luminar removes features with a new version. It is sad, in my opinion it just shows the low maturity of the product. Anyway, please try the custom LR profile – I have worked with them for years and they have always given me satisfactory results.
Thanks for this article, very informative. I too have been using Luminar3 for IR processing, but am frustrated by the inability of the engine to recognise some of my XE1 raw files. It’s a problem that seems to come and go with software updates, but Skylum may succeed in solving the issue. I’m not a fan of their DAM, I’d much rather have the ability to switch it on/ off when loading the program.
I’ve recently started looking at Capture 1, the Fuji Express version, to see if it can replicate channel swapping.
Hi Geoff, thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I do agree, Luminar does not (yet) feel like a mature product, and at this I would probably not use it for anything but infrared photography. But for this specific photography niche it does provide a lot of value, in my opinion. Like you, I am also looking at Capture One as a Lightroom replacement – it would be great if you could share your experience with C1 at some point!
Not too sure on Capture 1 at the moment, it doesn’t have any easy option to swap channels – though there seems to be a method using the colour manager (If one can understand it!). Although I thought I had the Express version, I suspect I’ve been using the full version on trial – which will end in the next day or so, it’ll be interesting to see what’s left!
I’m only looking for options on IR processing, I can live with most of what comes out of my main camera.