Luminar 3 Review

How good is this photo editor for non-professional photographers?

This is a 100% honest, 100% authentic Luminar 3 version 3.0.0 photo editing software review. I did receive a complimentary download of the product, but I was not compensated in any way for this post. Some links below, marked as (af), may be affiliate links. Sales made resulting from clicks on affiliate links provide a small percentage of each sale to me.

All images are originals taken by me, Daniel Ruyter, and edited exclusively in Luminar (af). Most photos were edited using DNG source files. Please don’t use my photos without permission.

Luminar 3 "With Libraries"

Luminar 3 with Libraries is the long-awaited “major” update to software that will finally allow Luminar to compete with Lightroom in all aspects of photo editing and organization.

Why is Luminar 3 such an important update (to users and to Skylum)?

Luminar 3 is considered a “major” update to the photo editing suite, not only by Skylum, the makers of Luminar 3 (af), but by users (including me) as well.

I hope you know I keep my reviews honest, so let’s be up-front for just a second. Skylum has taken some heat from the user community related to its Libraries functionality. This functionality has been promised for quite some time.

Luminar “Libraries” and the long-awaited DAM Functionality.

I think I remember hearing about Libraries for the first time when Luminar 2018 came out over a year ago, in November, 2017. To say that Luminar Libraries is a feature we’ve been waiting for a while would be bit of an understatement in the software development world.

Well, wait no more. On December 6, 2018, Skylum Software announced the availability of the next version of Luminar, their award-winning photo editor. Luminar 3 will start shipping to customers on December 18 and adds the ability to organize and edit multiple images simultaneously with the new Library panel. This addition transforms the photo editing software into a comprehensive, all-in-one imaging package and sets it up as an even more legitimate competitor to Adobe Lightroom (see my full comparison here).

    Coming soon:

    Luminar AI

    Be sure to use discount code DADTOGRAPHY for $10 off!

    What is Luminar 3?

    Luminar 3 (af) is the latest update that they’re calling version 3.0 (hence, Luminar 3). I’ve been using this popular photo editing software on my Mac since the initial release of Luminar in 2016.

    Luminar 3 will continue to be available to both Mac and Windows with additional enhancements to Luminar planned out in their Luminar development roadmap (af).

    Despite some delays, I do appreciate Skylum’s continued commitment and investment in its flagship editor, Luminar. I’ve never been shy about not being a fan of photo editing, but overall, I continue to be very satisfied with my experience using Luminar, including their version 3 release.

    From the Luminar 3 press release:

    The Luminar library is a highly customizable image catalog that makes browsing, rating, and organizing a joy. Users can easily see a beautiful image wall that works with existing folders on their hard drive, connected devices, and synced cloud storage. There’s no need to re-import images, simply selecting a folder adds it to Luminar where pictures can be viewed, color labelled, rated and edited.


    Photographs are also automatically organized by capture date — all features that make it quick and efficient to find and sort images. Changes are made in real time in the original folder, keeping files and the hard drive organized as effortlessly as possible.


    Luminar 3 also allows photographers to sync their editing adjustments. Any change made to a single image can easily be applied to a selection of files, which is useful for photos taken in similar settings or when a uniform style is desired.

    This Luminar 3 review focuses on the Mac version of the product.

    We’re a Mac-only household, so this review will focus on the initial pre-release 3.0 of Luminar 3.

    This review will focus on Luminar 3 as an application and not necessarily drill down on the differences between versions (for now). There are new enhancements included in this release of Luminar and those are mentioned below.

    Luminar 3 is a major upgrade for the Luminar application. In addition to the new features (uh, libraries!) in this release, it also contains the following 75 features:


    • Accent Filter (powered by Artificial Intelligence)
    • Adaptive User Interface
    • Adjustable Gradient Filter
    • Adobe Photoshop Elements Plugin
    • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Plugin
    • Adobe Photoshop Plugin
    • Advanced Contrast
    • Apple Photos extension
    • Batch processing
    • Bi-Color Toning
    • Black & White module
    • Brightness adjustment
    • Channel mixer
    • Clarity filter
    • Clone & Stamp Shortcuts
    • Color Balance
    • Color Contrast
    • Color Temperature
    • Contrast
    • Crop
    • Curves
    • Dedicated presets for DJI drone photos
    • Dehaze
    • Details Enhancer
    • Eraser (Object removal)
    • Feather & density for masking brush
    • Fog filter
    • Foliage Enhancer
    • Gradient masking
    • Grain
    • High Key
    • Highlights and Shadows
    • Histogram
    • History panel
    • HSL filter
    • Image Radiance
    • Layers
    • Blend modes for layers
    • Real-time image processing
    • Luminosity masking
    • Masking brush
    • Masking with filters
    • Merge layers & stamped layers
    • Micro structure
    • Noise reduction tool
    • Non-destructive editing
    • Orton Effect
    • Photo filter
    • Polarizing filter
    • 60 professional presets
    • Radial masking
    • RAW support
    • Remove Color Cast
    • Rotate & Flip
    • Native format saving
    • Sharing to social networks
    • Sharpening tool
    • Sharpening & resize on export
    • Show Highlights/Shadows clippings
    • Smart Tone adjustment
    • Soft Focus
    • Soft Glow
    • Split Color Warmth
    • Split Toning
    • Straightening
    • Structure
    • Textures
    • Tone
    • Top & Bottom Lighting
    • Transform tool
    • Vibrance adjustment
    • Vignette
    • Whites & Blacks adjustment
    • Workspaces
    • Zoom in & Zoom out
    Luminar 3 Review - Oasis of the Seas Edited

    Luminar 3 Is Available for both Windows & Mac Users

    Luminar 3 Mac Technical Requirements

    • MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini
    • Processor Intel 64-bit Core 2 Duo or better
    • Mac from early 2010 or newer
    • Memory 8 Gb RAM or more
    • macOS High Sierra 10.13.1, Sierra 10.12.6, El Capitan 10.11.5, Yosemite 10.10.5
    • Hard disk 2 GB free space, SSD for best performance
    • Display 1280×768 size or better

    Luminar 3 Windows Technical Requirements

    • Windows-based hardware PC with mouse or similar input device
    • Open GL 3.3 or later compatible Graphics Cards
    • Processor Intel Core i5 or better
    • Memory 8 Gb RAM or more
    • Operating System Windows 7 (only 64-bit OS), Windows 8.1 (only 64-bit OS), Windows 10 (only 64-bit OS)
    • Hard disk 2 Gb free space, SSD for best performance
    • Display 1280×768 size or better

    Be honest – is Luminar 3 easy to use?

    Overall, I would say YES! The new Luminar 3 libraries functionality is well-designed and pretty intuitive to use. The tiled photo view is beautiful, and while fairly common in other editors, it’s great to finally see this view in Luminar.

    Navigating the controls of the libraries feature is pretty easy to get used to. Switching from gallery view to editor view is a bit less obvious.

    It’s easy to switch to editor view from the initial gallery view – simply click the “Edit” button in the top-right. While you’d think clicking the “Library” button would get you back into the full gallery view, all that it does (right now, at least) is load the side panel gallery navigation.

    I had to click a “left-up” arrow icon on the left side of the toolbar in order to get back to the gallery view.

    I’m already used to using Luminar, and the photo editing portion hasn’t changed much since Luminar 2018 was released. I’ve used and reviewed past versions of Luminar and this version is, by far, easier to use.

    Existing Users of Luminar 2018 Can Upgrade to V3 for Free!

    What needs to be improved in Luminar 3?

    There isn’t a whole lot that I’ve found drastically wrong so far with Luminar 3, but that is to be expected. They’ve had a few versions now to refine the features of the editor.

    All Photo Editing Software is a Work In Progress.

    Early pre-release feedback on the libraries functionality wasn’t all that great from what I read, but I personally really like the feature, minus some navigation confusion between editor view and gallery view that I mentioned above.

    Frankly, a feature as large and important as a gallery view / photo management solution is going to be extremely difficult to get exactly right the first time.

    Competitors have had years ahead of Skylum to improve their functionality, and it could easily be argued they still have room for improvement.

    About this Mac - My MacBook Pro Specs

    Speed is an issue in Luminar 3.0

    I find Luminar to be a bit slow, but it must be noted my use so far has been on an older MacBook Pro (see the “About this Mac” screenshot). I’m “forced” to use this older Mac because my photos are all stored on an external hard drive that only has a USB-3.x connection and my new MacBook Pro only has USB-C.

    I suspect it would be substantially faster on new hardware, but I’m well within the minimum specs provided by Skylum for Luminar (see above for required hardware and OS).

    The initial load of my photo library took almost 30 minutes, but it’s 1.74TB in size, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad. I just “set it and forget it” and came back later when it was done.

    I’m also noticing that running more than one app at a time with Luminar 3 isn’t likely going to happen. Maybe that’s a good thing and it will help me stay focused on my photo editing!

    Video: Live Editing My Corporate headshot in Luminar

    Luminar 3 Edits – Before & After Photos

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