luminar 3 reviews

Luminar 3 Review: A Good Alternative to Lightroom

About a year ago Luminar 2018 came out shaking the filter market to process photos. It brought us a revolutionary way of using filters with masks, layers, brushes, presets. Everything to have your photos ready in a short time and without leaving the program. Are you looking for an alternative to Lightroom? Read this Luminar 3 Review of this award-winning photo editing software.

luminar filters

One of the promises that they made was that in the following months, an update would come up that incorporated a Library module to organize and catalog our photos. Something that would serve as an alternative to Lightroom and that would make Luminar a complete program with which you do not need other software.

So, is it available in Luminar 3? The answer is yes, the library is available only for the new version. Let’s see else Luminar 3 brings in our Luminar 3 Review.

Luminar Review | The Initial Impression

luminar review interface

When you open the program for the first time, it will ask you to indicate where your photographs are.  The library is created, and in a very efficient way you will no longer need to import and synchronize the new photos from the program since all the changes you make in your disc will be reflected automatically in Luminar 3.

Imagine what it means to be able to move, delete and rename your photographs the way you want them to be. Also, all these changes are synchronized immediately without messing up your image library.

Other programs (like Lightroom, for example) need you to tell them if you make any changes. Otherwise, they do not know what was changed.

This has a cost, the resources of hard disk space that are necessary to maintain visualization of the photographs can be significant. For some people who take many pictures, it is something that will be noticed.

The size of the catalog is very similar to that offered by Lightroom, and this is something that can be important if we store it in a cloud service. Adding new pictures is quick, and there are many ways to show and group the material, such as year, month and day in a clean. Overall, it is comfortable to understand workspace.

There are still some things that I am used to and that are necessary for my digital workflow. For example, you can write and read keywords and descriptions in each photo. However, you can assign scores yourself for this and color labels which allows you to speed up your diving a bit by looking for a photograph inside the library.

For those photographs that were assigned stars or color labels in other programs, these labels are not recognized in the new version of Luminar. Besides, a search engine is needed to find photographs that meet specific criteria.

I am sure that these pending tasks should be a priority in the development team to be resolved in a short time.

Luminar Review | Things Inherited From Luminar 2018 In Luminar 3

Except for the Library module, the rest of the application remains the same as the previous version. Is that bad? In my point of view, not really. As it is said in the computer world, when something works for you and gives you what you need, it is better to leave it as it is. Remember what happened to Windows 8? People are mad at it and finally Windows 10 comes up with similarity like Windows 7.

The approach of new software is also the same: get great photos in a short time. With a total of 51 filters and packages of looks (previously called presets), you can give free rein to your creativity. I find filters such as deep tone, sun rays, matte appearance or the classic Orton effect and golden hour.

Those who do not want to waste time in front of the computer will be able to edit photos with a few clicks with filters. It makes improvements through artificial intelligence, such as the Accent AI and the Sky Enhancer. Basically, it allows you making adjustments without having to make complex selections.

People will be able to use the application in the style of Instagram filters. Those who want more advanced processing can make use of masks, layers, and others to apply the filters to particular areas of the image and achieve a non-destructive development.

Luminar 3 is compatible with most image formats on the market, including PDF, and you can work directly with RAW. The Luminar engine uses a 16-bit color space and works with the Melissa RGB color profile (the same as Lightroom), a more extensive space than Adobe RGB but less than ProPhoto RGB.

luminar 3 review

As usual, you can jump from one software to another without problems, and install it as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and Photos. You can also use in Luminar the plugins that you have invested in Photoshop.

They maintain a single payment model. You buy your license, and it’s yours forever. Therefore, you do not have to pay for a monthly subscription to the Adobe style. Also, with single permission, you can use it on up to 5 different computers. It’s still available for Mac and Windows. As always, I recommend you downloading the 14-day trial version to try out if it works best for you.

If you want to see with a little more detail how Luminar works you can see some reviews of the 2018 version because it is still valid for almost every part.

Luminar 3 Library | How Do You Manage My Photos?

After installing Luminar, the first thing you will ask us is to indicate a folder where we have the photos. You can say one that you already have or create a new one where you can start working. 

luminar 3 with libraries

The important thing is that you stay with this: unlike Lightroom, which imports the photos to your catalog creating a copy, Luminar maintains the folder structure that you have and works directly on them being in constant synchronization. This way, if you add photos in your folder, when you open Luminar they will be there too. The same happen if you delete them from one place to another.

The folders that you synchronize with Luminar can be located wherever you want: on your computer, on an external disk, in a folder synced with the cloud. It has total flexibility. Do you realize the potential of this software?

Organization to Work Efficiently

As soon as you add the folders you want, Luminar will show you all the photos that you have in them, and you can sort them by multiple parameters: date of capture, date of edition, by the color label, type or size of the file. You can also filter the results, something beneficial when we have classified using the star rating or color labels for example. In this way, it will be effortless to stay with only those that we need to work with.

At the same time, Luminar creates an automatic classification of all your photos by year, month and day in which they were taken. Therefore, it is easier for you to locate the one you are looking for. Also, you will have direct access to those you have recently added or those you have recently edited.

If you already used the program, you will realize that the interface is still as minimalist as in previous versions, and the design is adaptive (adjust the size of the photos to the window automatically). So you can focus on what matters: the images!

Photos Classification

Like other software, Luminar 3 allows you to add marks to classify your photos:

  • Favorites: clicking on the heart icon you can mark your favorite pictures and then filter and show only the ones you like the most.
  • Rejected: those that you discard at first glance can be marked as rejected directly.
  • Score: you can rate from 1 to 5 each of your photos, something that will serve you to go discarding to stay with the best, with which you will work later.
  • Flags of colors: another way to classify your photos visually. The uses that can be given are thousands and depend a lot on each one.

You know, once the work is done, the advantage is that you can use the filtering system to see only the photos that interest you:

Albums vs Folders

We have already said that Luminar manages our photos by synchronizing folders. So, what is albums? Albums are virtual folders that are used to group photos.

For example, all my photos from 2017 are stored in a single folder. This folder is the one that would incorporate Luminar so that it is synchronized and can work with the images. I can make Luminar group of all those photos of 2017 filled by my photos on the trip to Japan on one side and summer holiday on the other side. So, I have to create an album. When you develop collections, you do not generate any changes in the folder structure of your hard drive.

Luminar Review | Edit Your Photos Faster

I have left the best (at least for me) to the end. Everything we have seen up to this point serves to put some order among the thousands of photos we make. However, I use these tools temporarily when I am going to edit the images. Then I move them where I have the finished, and I take them out of the editing program.

The real advantage that incorporates a library in Luminar for my workflow is that which affects the processing of photos.

Imagine that you do a photo session at sunset and when you get home you start editing them. Until now, I edited the photos with Lightroom, and when I had them finished I passed one to Luminar and applied the filters I wanted. 

For the next picture, I had to repeat the whole process. The problem was,  if I did not use the same filters and the same values in each of them, each photo could end up with a different result. To avoid this, I could save all the settings made in the first photo in a custom look, and then apply that look to the next picture. It was a bit rudimentary, but it was useful.

Now everything is much more comfortable. It is not necessary to work photo by photo. However, you can copy all the settings you have made in a picture and paste it to all you want. Just as you would in Lightroom, do not copy only basic settings but all the filters you have used. Doing the processing of a photo you can be done half-finished from the rest of the pictures inside the session. That’s efficiency!

Those who want an immediate striking result will need to apply a few artificial intelligence filters, and in a matter of minutes, they will have all their photos ready.

Also, what about all the changes we make in the photos? Where are they stored? All these changes do not affect our original files, but Luminar saves the used filters and the values that we have given in a database, just like Lightroom does. Of course, we can back up this database, keeping our changes safe.

Luminar Review | Personal Assessment

We are facing an essential change in Luminar, a move that they were obliged to give if they wanted to compete with Lightroom as an “all in one” program.

There are still missing things to polish. When it comes to cataloging the photos. I need to add labels (tags) and GPS coordinates that are stored in the original file. In the edition would be great to be able to mount panoramas or HDR in the application itself (for the latter we should go to Aurora HDR). 

There is also pending to improve the preview speed when applying filters (especially when you have several). Skylum are aware, and in their press release, we have made it clear that this is just the beginning. So I’m looking forward to seeing what has to come in the future.

Focusing on the “now,” I think that this new Luminar 3 will allow me to significantly speed up the processing of photos by being able to copy adjustments of a picture to all of the session.

Where to Download Luminar 3 for free

Right now, you can get Luminar 3 on their official website with 14 days Free Trial. Though it is optional, if you are serious about image editing, I suggest you purchase their one-time license as well since it is relatively cheap. Also, you will more likely save a lot since you don’t need to use other software ever again like Lightroom.

If you would like to learn about photo editing software check our article about Best photo editing software in 2019.

Luminar 3









  • One-off fee (no subscription)
  • Cataloging makes things much easier
  • Friendly, intuitive interface
  • Artificial intelligence quick fixes enhance most photos


  • No specific, selectable lens profiles
  • No video support