This is a 100% honest, 100% authentic review comparison of Skylum’s Luminar photo editing software vs Adobe Lightroom. 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

All images are my originals. Please don’t use my photos without permission.

This post has been updated with the release of Luminar 3.

Can I just be honest with you right now? I’m a fan of photography, but not so much of editing photos. Most photo editors are powerful, but too complicated to be useful for the average “amateur” photographer.

Since I started spending more of my time taking and editing photos a few years ago, I’ve been on a mission to find the best photo editor for amateurs and enthusiasts like me. Luminar and Lightroom are both very good options, but which is better? This post seeks to answer exactly that question.

It’s not easy to compare photo editors, especially powerful all-purpose editors like Skylum Luminar and Adobe Lightroom. Which is the best photo editor for you? Use our comparison to help decide! Learn more in this Luminar vs Lightroom photo editing comparison for amateur photographers.

Luminar 3 Libraries UI - Mac

How do Luminar (v3) and Lightroom Compare?

I started doing digital photography as a hobby and eventually professionally back in the mid-2000’s. When I first started, my go-to photo editing software was Adobe Lightroom because it was the best software in the market.

It’s hard to argue with the decision to go with Adobe products, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best.

Especially when you consider the Adobe Cloud versions are no longer “owned” software licenses, but instead are online monthly subscriptions that you have to pay for each month.

This post is an attempt to compare a two photo editing programs – Macphun’s Luminar 3 vs Adobe Lightroom. Each of these have their benefits and drawbacks, but which software is the better overall photo editing program? Let’s compare!

Now Available:

Luminar AI

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

Luminar with Libraries is here!

The long-awaited feature of Luminar Libraries is here – and it is a free upgrade to all Luminar 2018 users!

Libraries is the Digital Asset Management (DAM) feature that allows users to more easily manage collections, or libraries of photos.

Luminar is a great photo editor. What previous versions lacked to compete directly with the likes of Lightroom was a way to manage all those thousands (or more) of photos that accumulate over the months and years.

Libraries allows editors to browse, rate and group photos, as well as synchronize edits to multiple images. Check out the video to see this feature in action!

How does the price compare between Luminar 3 and Lightroom?

When doing a software comparison like this, you almost have to start with price. Price is not the only factor, but it’s definitely a big one to consider when deciding between two leading photo editors.

The biggest difference between Luminar and Lightroom is their pricing model. Luminar’s price is a software purchase. You purchase Luminar and you own it. Forever. You don’t have to pay anything ever again to keep using Luminar. You’ll also receive updates to Luminar as well. The newest version of Luminar is $69 retail (but only $59 if you use our discount code DADTOGRAPHY).

On the other hand, Adobe Lightroom has two purchase options – one where you “own” the software and one where you’re essentially leasing the software with a monthly fee.

First, the purchase option of Lightroom. Adobe doesn’t make it easy to figure out how to outright purchase Lightroom. They want to get as many monthly subscribers as possible. You can purchase your own single license copy of Lightroom for $149.

Next, the Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) option. This is Adobe’s preferred purchase method for customers. Why? Because they make more money. They make more money because you pay for Lightroom (along with other Adobe products) for each month you use it. As of this posting, Adobe Creative Cloud “Photography Plan” is $119.88 per year. Use it for two years? That’ll be $239.76. You get the idea. Adobe doesn’t make a one-time purchase profit. They make money every single month.

The biggest difference between Lumiar and Lightroom is the pricing model. Luminar’s price is a software purchase. You pay no monthly fees.

Price Advantage: Luminar 3

Luminar vs. Lightroom – How do the user interfaces compare?

Let’s face it, any comparison of two applications’ user interfaces is bound to be highly subjective. Which application you prefer will come down to personal preference and will likely be specific to how you personally use the app.

That said, I am what I would consider to be a casual photo editor. I don’t edit photos for a living. I use my photo editing app a few times a month. I don’t use it every day, for hours upon hours per week.

Aurora HDR vs Lightroom - Adobe Lightroom v5.5 User Interface

What I personally prefer in a photo editing software user interface is one that is simple, intuitive and easy to find stuff. I regularly forget where my favorite features are, and because I don’t use the app frequently, I almost have to re-learn how to do certain things each time.

With that said, my preference for user interface goes to Luminar 2018. I find the menus, controls and key features are easier to find, better organized and are easy to understand, even if you’re not a regular photo editor. I also like that Luminar seems to have a more visual / preview approach as well. I don’t have to guess – I can see what key settings changes will do to my photo.

Below are two comparison screen shots – the one on the left depicts Luminar 2018 and the one on the right is Adobe Lightroom.

User Interface Advantage: Luminar 3

Luminar vs. Lightroom – How do the features compare?

Both Luminar and Lightroom have been in the marketplace for a while now. Lightroom has always been the traditional industry leader, but Luminar has definitely caught up in recent months. As mentioned above, how the features are presented to the user (the user interface) is very important. But which application has better features – Lightroom or Luminar? Truth be told, there are very few things that set one or the other of these applications apart from each other.
  • They both have a ton of filter settings.
  • They both support RAW camera files.
  • They both allow you to get very detailed with your photo settings.
They both really have a lot of features packed into their app. A slight advantage would go to Lightroom for advanced photo editing or photo “art” where you intend to pull images into Adobe Photoshop, but it’s only slight because Luminar can also operate as an Adobe Photoshop plugin (af) as well!

Full Feature Comparison – Luminar vs. Lightroom

Lightroom Classic CC:

Price: $120 / year

  1. Export to Facebook, Twitter
  2. Export to JPEG, TIFF, PSD
  3. Batch processing (edit multiple photos at once)
  4. Curves
  5. Export to 500px, SmugMug
  6. Export to native file format
  7. Export with sharpening
  8. Export with watermark
  9. History
  10. Object removal
  11. Panorama stitching
  12. Red Eye & Pet Eye Correction Tools
  13. Split Toning
  14. Tethered Shooting
  15. Third-Party Plug-ins
  16. Adjustable Gradient
  17. Black & White photo editing
  18. Chromatic Aberration Removal
  19. Clarity filter
  20. Clone & Stamp
  21. Color Adjustments (WB, HSL, Vibrance, Saturation)
  22. Cropping & Straightening
  23. Dedicated Raw Develop module
  24. Dehaze filter
  25. Digital Asset Management module
  26. Export to Adobe Photoshop
  27. Export with resize
  28. Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks
  29. Gradient masking
  30. Grain
  31. Histogram
  32. Import raw, JPEG, PSD, TIFF, DNG, PNG
  33. Lens Corrections
  34. Luminosity masking
  35. Masking
  36. Noise reduction
  37. Non-destructive editing
  38. Presets
  39. Radial masking
  40. Rotate & Flip
  41. Sharpening
  42. Transform
  43. Vignette

Lightroom CC Cloud

Price: $120 / year

  1. Export to Facebook
  2. Export to JPEG
  3. Adjustable Gradient
  4. Black & White photo editing
  5. Chromatic Aberration Removal
  6. Clarity filter
  7. Clone & Stamp
  8. Color Adjustments (WB, HSL, Vibrance, Saturation)
  9. Cropping & Straightening
  10. Dedicated Raw Develop module
  11. Dehaze filter
  12. Digital Asset Management module
  13. Export to Adobe Photoshop
  14. Export with resize
  15. Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks
  16. Gradient masking
  17. Grain
  18. Histogram
  19. Import raw, JPEG, PSD, TIFF, DNG, PNG
  20. Lens Corrections
  21. Luminosity masking
  22. Masking
  23. Noise reduction
  24. Non-destructive editing
  25. Presets
  26. Radial masking
  27. Rotate & Flip
  28. Sharpening
  29. Transform
  30. Vignette

Luminar for Mac

Price: $59 (with discount code DADTOGRAPHY)
  1. Accent Filter (powered by Artificial Intelligence)
  2. Adjustment Layers
  3. Apply mask to a certain filter only
  4. Brilliance / Warmth filter
  5. Channel mixer filter
  6. Color Contrast filter
  7. Dedicated presets for DJI drone photos
  8. Details Enhancer filter
  9. Dodge & Burn
  10. Extension for Apple Photos
  11. Fog filter
  12. Foliage Enhancer
  13. High Key filter
  14. Image Layers
  15. Image Radiance filter
  16. Look Up Tables Support
  17. Matte filter
  18. Micro structure
  19. Orton Effect
  20. Polarizing filter
  21. Presets previews
  22. Remove Color Cast
  23. Soft Focus
  24. Soft Glow
  25. Split Color Warmth
  26. Structure
  27. Sun Light Rays filter
  28. Textures
  29. Top & Bottom Lighting
  30. Workspaces
  31. Export to Facebook, Twitter
  32. Export to JPEG, TIFF, PSD
  33. Batch processing (edit multiple photos at once)
  34. Curves
  35. Export to 500px, SmugMug
  36. Export to native file format
  37. Export with sharpening
  38. Export with watermark
  39. History
  40. Object removal
  41. Panorama stitching
  42. Red Eye & Pet Eye Correction Tools
  43. Split Toning
  44. Tethered Shooting
  45. Third-Party Plug-ins
  46. Adjustable Gradient
  47. Black & White photo editing
  48. Chromatic Aberration Removal
  49. Clarity filter
  50. Clone & Stamp
  51. Color Adjustments (WB, HSL, Vibrance, Saturation)
  52. Cropping & Straightening
  53. Dedicated Raw Develop module
  54. Dehaze filter
  55. Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  56. Export to Adobe Photoshop
  57. Export with resize
  58. Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks
  59. Gradient masking
  60. Grain
  61. Histogram
  62. Import raw, JPEG, PSD, TIFF, DNG, PNG
  63. Lens Corrections
  64. Luminosity masking
  65. Masking
  66. Noise reduction
  67. Non-destructive editing
  68. Presets
  69. Radial masking
  70. Rotate & Flip
  71. Sharpening
  72. Transform
  73. Vignette

Luminar for Windows

Price: $59

(with discount code DADTOGRAPHY)

  1. Accent Filter (powered by Artificial Intelligence)
  2. Adjustment Layers
  3. Apply mask to a certain filter only
  4. Brilliance / Warmth filter
  5. Channel mixer filter
  6. Color Contrast filter
  7. Dedicated presets for DJI drone photos
  8. Details Enhancer filter
  9. Dodge & Burn
  10. Fog filter
  11. Foliage Enhancer
  12. High Key filter
  13. Image Layers
  14. Image Radiance filter
  15. Look Up Tables Support
  16. Matte filter
  17. Micro structure
  18. Orton Effect
  19. Polarizing filter
  20. Presets previews
  21. Remove Color Cast
  22. Soft Focus
  23. Soft Glow
  24. Split Color Warmth
  25. Structure
  26. Sun Light Rays filter
  27. Textures
  28. Top & Bottom Lighting
  29. Export to Facebook, Twitter
  30. Export to JPEG, TIFF, PSD
  31. Curves
  32. Export to 500px, SmugMug
  33. Export to native file format
  34. History
  35. Object removal
  36. Panorama stitching
  37. Split Toning
  38. Third-Party Plug-ins
  39. Adjustable Gradient
  40. Black & White photo editing
  41. Chromatic Aberration Removal
  42. Clarity filter
  43. Color Adjustments (WB, HSL, Vibrance, Saturation)
  44. Cropping & Straightening
  45. Dedicated Raw Develop module
  46. Dehaze filter
  47. Digital Asset Management – coming 2018
  48. Export to Adobe Photoshop
  49. Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks
  50. Gradient masking
  51. Grain
  52. Histogram
  53. Import raw, JPEG, PSD, TIFF, DNG, PNG
  54. Lens Corrections
  55. Masking
  56. Noise reduction
  57. Non-destructive editing
  58. Presets
  59. Radial masking
  60. Sharpening
  61. Vignette

Feature Advantage: Luminar 3

Who has the better digital asset management (DAM)? Luminar vs. Lightroom

As mentioned, the release of Luminar 3 means that Luminar and Lightroom are on a more even playing field when it comes to digital asset management (photo library). Both programs now provide users with the ability to manage and catalog your photos.

A digital asset manager, or DAM, has only been available now for a few months in Luminar 3. Early pre-release versions of the feature weren’t the best, but they really released a solid DAM when it eventually went live. What was once a hands-down win for Adobe (because Luminar essentially forfeited) just isn’t the case anymore.

Adobe Lightroom has a DAM that’s been on the market for a while now. If you’ve used it and become accustomed to it, you may find it difficult to switch to any other application. Like all photo managers, it lets you keep track of and catalog your photos in all kinds of ways – by subject, by prominent photo color, by location, by mood. You can arrange them pretty much any way you want.

The advantage in this area still has to go to Lightroom, because it has a serious head-start on Luminar, but the “Libraries” feature of Luminar 3 is pretty darn great, and if you weigh all the other advantages, and consider the cost, it will be hard to ignore Luminar in the photo editing market.

Asset Management Advantage: Lightroom

Who has better support? Luminar vs. Lightroom

Adobe is known for its community approach to software and support and there are still a TON of users out there using Lightroom. They also have a lot of documentation, but that can be difficult and daunting to navigate at times, especially when you’re looking for something really specific. Luminar, on the other hand, does a great job with its educational materials, with a strong focus on simple, methodical learning through tutorials that are easy to understand and great for “amateur” users. There are a ton of free training resources available, or you can also purchase additional training videos that also include sample files as well!

Support Advantage: Draw

Which photo editor is right for me?

Luminar is right for you if…

  • You don’t like monthly subscription fees.
  • You have a Mac or a Windows computer.
  • You’re okay with using an app your friends have never heard of before.
  • You don’t have an unlimited photo editing budget.
  • You don’t like taking too long to edit each photo.
  • You’re not a photo editing expert.
  • You know what you like when you see it, but you don’t know exactly how to get there.
  • You don’t care as much about keeping your photo edits cataloged and organized.

Lightroom is right for you if…

  • You like monthly subscription fees or you like paying more for a stand-alone license.
  • You have a Mac or a Windows computer.
  • You prefer to use “name brand” apps.
  • Money doesn’t really matter to you.
  • You like really digging into your photo edit settings doing lots of tweaking.
  • You’re a photo editing expert.
  • You care a lot about keeping your photo edits cataloged and organized.
  • You like stuff that’s “in the cloud”.

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