How To Use Luminar From Macphun

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How To Use Luminar From Macphun

The Luminar Interface is shown.
The intuitive Luminar interface will appeal to all skill levels.

The recent release of Luminar has made me an even bigger fan of Macphun. As you may have guessed, I really like Aurora HDR Pro. Up until Aurora Pro became available, creating HDR images was rather complex and involved a rather high knowledge of either Photoshop or Lightroom to produce acceptable results. For the casual user, mastering the technique was perceived as a daunting process.

Luminar takes a similar approach to Digital Imaging as it does with Aurora HDR Pro by creating a Mac-only imaging application that will appeal to skill levels ranging from novice to expert.  For the novice Luminar provides an extensive range of fully adjustable Presets tailored to a a wide variety of needs. For the hard core user, Luminar provides well over 35 high end filters that  provide granular image correction controls for practically any imaging situation.

An obvious question is: “Is Luminar yet another mythical Photoshop Killer?” The answer is no. MacPhun is pretty clear on that issue. If Photoshop is your tool of choice, then use it. If there is a feature in Luminar that will help you then Luminar is accessible as a plug in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Apple Photos.

So who will Luminar benefit?

  • New photographers and mobile shooters who don’t often use their Mac for editing will appreciate a simple approach using one-click presets and universal tools like cropping,noise reduction and image healing.
  • Casual photographers may start with those same presets, but will soon “graduate” to using Luminar’s purpose-built workspaces that offer uniquely tailored tools which achieve great results quickly.
  • The pros will find workspaces and the full gamut of editing tools such as brushes, layers, blending modes, texture overlays, an editing history menu and much more will open a variety of advanced photo editing possibilities.

The Luminar interface, shown above, is rather intuitive. Along the top are a series of buttons. From left to right they are:

  • Open
  • Share/Export
  • Zoom
  • Preview
  • Before and After split screen view
  • Undo
  • Redo
  • Histogram
  • Layers
  • Show/Hide Preset Panel
  • Show/Hide the Side panel.


On the right side of the interface are a series of common tools. From top to bottom, they are:

  • Grabber Hand
  • Brushes
  • Gradient mask
  • Radial Gradient Mask
  • Transform Tool
  • Clone Stamp
  • Eraser
  • Denoise
  • Crop

When you choose a tool, a Tool Options bar appears above the image and, depending on the tool chosen, the panels disappear providing you with a uncluttered workspace.

To the left of the Tools is the Side Panel. From top to bottom they are:

At the top of the Filters panel is a pop down list of workspaces. When you choose one, the filters will change. At the bottom of the Filters pane is an Add Filters button. Click it and the Add Filters pane opens. Here you can access all of the filters that come packaged with the application and, when you select a filter, you are shown what it does. You can also select a category and the filters in that category will be shown. To add a Filter to the Filters panel , simply click it. To remove a filter, click the filter name in the panel and click the Close button.

Along the bottom of the interface are the Presets. They are broken into the following categories:

  • Basics
  • Street
  • Outdoor
  • Portrait
  • Travel
  • Dramatic

To access them you click the round Preset button and make your selection. To apply a Preset, you simply click the thumbnail. From there you can use the slider in the thumbnail to “tone down” the Preset or make your adjustments in the Filters panel.

This is what makes Luminar so interesting. Any Preset applied will result in the filters and settings used to create the Preset appearing in the Filters panel. If you are new to imaging this is an invaluable learning tool as you get to see how that effect is created. For the pros, not only can you adjust the setting for the various filters but you can also add filters and apply them to the image as well. If you are satisfied with the result, click the Save As Preset button in the Filters panel and it will be added to the presets lineup.

There is a lot you can do with Luminar and, in the atep-by-step I will be just just scratching the surface of Luminar.  To learn more that you can do with Luminar you might want to check out Luminar's rather extensive tutorial line up.

So much  for the interface, let’s take Luminar out for a Test Drive.

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How To Apply A Luminar Preset

Image shows a before and after view of a preset applied to an image.
A solid collection of presets will apply to all skill levels and can even be used in Apple's Photos app.

The above image was shot a couple of weeks ago along the Eramosa River in Guelph, Ontario. It was shot using my iPhone6S Plus and opened in Luminar. There were two issues with the image I felt needed to be addressed. The first was the sky was a bit washed out and the second issue was the rather brilliant pop of colour from the fallen leaves on the far bank of the river.

When an image opens in Luminar, the first place to start is the Basic Presets. In the case of the above image the Sky Enhancer preset was used. The blue sky did indeed get enhanced but there will be occasions where one needs to pull back the effect by a bit. If you roll over the preset thumbnail you can reduce the effect by using the slider.  To raise the intensity of the blue sky, I changed the value of the Polarizing filter in the Filters panel to about 39. This deepend the blue in the sky and brought out a bit more colour in the leaves.

At this point you have a couple of choices when it comes to saving the image. If you choose File>Save the image will be saved to the Luminar format and will retain all of the layers and filters applied. If you want to save the file to another format, select File>Export.

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How To Correct An Image In Luminar From Macphun

Image shows the before and after views of an image corrected using the Luminar tools and panels.
The image editing tools and filters provided by Luminar are rather robust.

There was a whole lot wrong with this image of farm buildings in a farm field. There were spots on the image. The sky wasn’t as vivid as it could be and the colours, in general, were a bit washed out. The decision was to apply a Basic Filter and then use the tools and filters to fix the remaining issues.

A good place to start the process is with the Sharp & Crisp preset in the Basic collection . Once the preset was applied it is time to do a little spot removal.

Fixing artifacts is the job of the the Clone and Stamp tool. When a tool is selected, the Tool options appear. In the case of this tool the options let you choose a brush type. Option-click once on the area to replace the artifact and then move the brush over the artifact. You can adjust the diameter of the brush by pressing the [ and ] keys to increase or decrease the brush size and then click and drag the mouse to replace the artifact. . I When you are finished click  the Green Apply button in the Tool Options to accept the change.

With the spots gone, I decided to work on the blue in the sky and the hay in the foreground. A good starting point for this is  Top & Bottom Lighting in the Filters collection.. Once the filter is added you can then use the top and bottom sliders to fix specific sections of an an image.

If you need to crop an image, select the Crop tool and use the handles to set the crop area. When satisfied, click Apply to accept the crop.

Another great filter is the Vignette filter. The final step was to apply the Vignette filter, to pull the eye to an area of your choosing. To do this, use the Amount, Size and Feather sliders to get a vignette that isn’t too pronounced.

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How To Work With RAW Files In Luminar

A DNG Camera Raw image is shown in the before and after views/
The ability to work directly with Camera Raw images is a very useful feature of Luminar.

For those of you that shoot images in the Camera Raw format, Luminar gives you the ability to work directly on those files without having to make a stop in Photoshop or Lightroom before heading over to Luminar.

The above DNG image was shot a few months back using my Nikon D200. To open a camera Raw image drag the file on to the Luninar icon in your dock. When it opens,  the file name, dimensions, shooting details and lens info appears in the upper left corner.

Rather than use a Preset you might want to consider Mixing and Matching a number of filters such as:

  • Tone
  • Saturation/Vibrance
  • Image Radiance
  • Clarity

Here’s a little “Teacher Trick” around adding Filters: If you click a Filter to add it to the panel, you may have noticed it also closes the filters collection. If you are adding the four filters, like I have, you are going to be reopening the collection four times. Try this instead. When you select a filter, click the +-sign beside the Filter. This will add the Filter but won’t close the collection.

 The Before and After results are shown in the above image.

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How To Create A Composite Image In Luminar From Macphun

An image with clouds has been added and the gradient Mask tool is shown.
Creating composite images using Layers and Masks in Luminar makes compositing a a rather uncomplicated process.

Compositing involves masking and this is a rather simple technique to accomplish in Luminar.

I started with an image containing a barn and a solid blue sky. I felt the rather flat sky could use some clouds and after going through my Photos collection found an image with a rather interesting sky with clouds.

The first step in the process is to add the clouds image to the original. To accomplish this task, open  the Layers panel, click the + sign to open a new layer and select Add Image Layer from the resulting pop down. navigate to the image to be added to the layer, select it and click Open. The image was now on a new Layer.

If the new image needs a bit of work apply a preset or filter combination to the image in the new layer.

Here’s a little Teacher Trick: The Clouds layer is above the original image and trying to get the clouds or any other image in just the right place might be a bit tricky.  Instead, open the Layers panel’s  Context menu by clicking the Gear icon and selecting Mask > Clear Mask. This will “hide” the new layer leaving to you to concentrate on the area where the clouds will go on the original.

To create the mask, select the Gradient Mask Tool and drag downwards. In the case of the above image it was the the sky area of the original image. The clouds appeared. From there,you can adjust the height and the location of the mask to ensure there isa smooth transition between the images. When finished,  click the Apply button to accept the mask.

The clouds looked a little flat and I decided to “play with them to add a bit more interest to them. To accomplish this, I selected the Transform tool and pushed the bottom of the clouds image towards the top to add a bit of distortion to the clouds. I then scaled the Clouds image to make them larger and added a bit of rotation in the Transform Tool options to  add a bit more distortion.

When finished, as usual, click the Apply button and save the image.