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Luminar 4, released in 2018, was the first post-processing software by Skylum that was widely accepted by the crowd. It was capable of producing professional-looking results even in the hand of a beginner.
Portrait tools and Sky Replacement in particular introduced the biggest changes. What would otherwise be a tedious job in Photoshop, Luminar 4 was capable of doing by dragging a few sliders.
Then, in late 2020, Skylum announced Luminar AI. It was released on December 15 of the same year. What first appeared to be a Luminar 4 upgrade, turned out to be a brand-new, AI-powered photo editing app.
Luminar AI introduced a new concept to the photo-editing community – Templates, the fully automated presets.
Being an avid user of Luminar 4 and a beta tester of Luminar AI, I hereby present facts and my thoughts about Luminar AI vs Luminar 4.
The main difference between Luminar AI and Luminar 4 are Templates. Luminar AI, on the one hand, is based around these “smart” presets that automatically suggest the best edits for your photos. Luminar 4, on the other hand, still uses Looks, which are traditional presets.
What was called Library in Luminar 4 is called Catalog in Luminar AI. And there’s no significant difference in their usability.
However, Catalog from Luminar AI seems to be working a lot faster than Library. Especially image loading.
Both apps work great as plugins for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and certain Apple software. Luminar AI is available for macOS Photos, while Luminar 4 works with Apple Aperture.
Regardless of which software you use, both Luminar versions are awesome plugin additions.
Firstly, they significantly improve your workflow. Instead of saving and reopening images several times, you can open Luminar within each app. This opens Luminar panel that allows you to quickly perform a couple of edits and then return to your work.
Secondly, using your primary editing app together with Luminar (either version) will help your creativity. By having two apps available, you open new options for creativity.
By upgrading from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI, you’ll receive several new and upgraded tools.
First, I’ll list all the new tools, and then the updated ones.
I will only provide a short description of the new tools because I’ve already described them in-depth in my Luminar AI review.
CompositionAI is a brand-new tool that automatically crops your photo. First, it uses AI to analyze the contents of a photo. Then, it crops the photo based on its algorithm that usually follows the rule of thirds.
Although it’s an interesting tool, I’d love to see it also have an option to automatically choose the aspect ratio. Especially beginners often struggle to decide whether they want a square or 4×5 or 16×9 photo.
AtmosphereAI resembles Fog tools from Luminar 4, but considering how much it was changed, it is only fair to mark it as new.
Using these tools, you can add fog, layered fog, mist, and haze to your images. Furthermore, you get control over amount, lightness, and depth.
Additionally, thanks to an AI this tool can recognize the depth of objects in photos. Thus, it’s capable of applying fog behind foreground elements, such as trees.
BodyAI is a brand-new tool that changes the shape of bodies. I, for one, dislike changing body shapes. However, I believe that this tool will be a welcome addition to selfies and portraits.
In Luminar 4, we saw the Eye Enhancer tool that added some sparks to eyes. IrisAI takes this to a whole another level.
Not only can you improve iris visibility and shine, but also its appearance. Although not all that useful, you can change iris colour or even swap it for owl or cat eyes.
BokehAI (coming soon)
As the name suggests, BokehAI will be capable of producing beautiful bokeh.
Of all the new tools of Luminar AI, I am the most excited about BokehAI. With Bokeh being a desirable quality of every portrait, this tool will be a game-changer for amateur portrait photographers.
In the section of Updated tools, you’ll find every tool that has an improved functionality but a different name.
SkyAI (previously AI Sky Replacement)
Previously known as AI Sky Replacement, this tool was and still is capable of swapping the sky in your photos. While this would take a lot of time masking and applying filters in Photoshop, this tool does it in a second.
You just pick an image of a sky, and Luminar will automatically mask it in for you. Admittedly, you still need to move a few sliders to adjust the settings, but that’s not too difficult.
FaceAI (previously AI Portrait Enhancer)
This tool received only a slight update. Now, Face light better recognizes faces and more accurately applies the filter.
StructureAI (previously AI Structure)
Besides a new name, AI Structure received a quality update. Using the Boost slider now produces significantly less noise and can be safely used.
AccentAI (previously AI Accent)
Comparing side-by-side, I noticed only a slight difference between the old AI Accent and new AccentAI. When I set them both on 100%, AccentAI produced a slightly brighter image.
Mood (previously LUTs)
Mood tool was previously known as LUTs. Although it remains the same, I just wanted to point out the name change and emphasize that it wasn’t removed.
Supercontrast (previously Advanced Contrast)
Advanced Contrast is now Supercontrast, but I haven’t noticed any significant changes.
Layers were a nice addition to Luminar 4. Although they didn’t work very well and were quite clumsy to use, I miss them in Luminar AI.
I’m unsure why they were removed, but I don’t think it was the best decision. I think Skylum should have updated their Layers tools to become smoother to use.
Fog tool was removed at the expense of AtmosphereAI. Looking back Fog tool was quite clumsy to use because it didn’t do much, other than “dehazed” the entire photo.
One of the greatest improvements upgrading from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI is speed.
Developers put a lot of effort into making Luminar AI fast, and therefore smooth to use. And they succeeded!
I’ve run Luminar 4 on a decently strong PC, but it always worked slow. Images took a long time to load, and applying edits took up to a couple of seconds. Due to all that, I started to slowly gravitate back to Lightroom, which was always snappy.
Now, Luminar AI works a lot better. Photos load almost instantaneously, edits are applied instantly, and it even opens faster.
Hence, I did a side-by-side comparison of both, using the same environment.
It takes Luminar 4 7.3 seconds to boot up on average, while it takes Luminar AI 5.6 seconds. This is an overall 23% faster performance. I believe that this difference is even larger on weaker computers.
Additionally, even switching between Catalog, Editing, and Templates is snappy. In Luminar 4, it doesn’t take long, but it’s not smooth either.
Let’s talk about the price difference now.
Luminar 4 costs $67 ($52 with discounts), while Luminar AI costs $79 ($64 with discounts). You can get a total of $15 discounts – $10 by using a promo code (PHOTOFOCUS) and an additional $5 if you have previously purchased a Skylum product.
With the release of Luminar AI, the price of Luminar 4 dropped by a few dollars.
How to claim $10 discount on Luminar AI and Luminar 4
Overall, Luminar AI is a better photo editing app than Luminar 4.
Is Luminar AI faster than Luminar 4?
The development of Luminar AI was focused on optimization and speed. On average, Luminar AI works up to 25% faster than Luminar 4.
Is it worth upgrading from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI?
It depends on your photo editing needs. Luminar AI makes it easier for beginners to edit photos. Especially with the help of Templates, everyone can create good-looking results.
Does Luminar AI cost more than Luminar AI?
Luminar AI costs $79 and Luminar 4 cost $67, that’s $12 more.
Conclusion: Luminar AI vs Luminar 4
To sum up, considering that Luminar AI costs only $12 more than Luminar 4, Luminar AI is a better option for you if you’re a new customer. However, if you already own Luminar 4, upgrading to Luminar AI is only worth for you if you want even more artificial intelligence and automation.
Admittedly, I’ve never quite understood why Skylum insisted that Luminar AI is a separate, brand-new app rather than the next version of Luminar 4.
To clarify, Luminar AI isn’t all that different from Luminar 4. They share the majority of tools, the basic layout, library/catalog, and even exporting layout. By all standards, Luminar AI looks like just the successor to Luminar 4.