Luminar Neo Review

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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On September 9, 2021, Skylum revealed Luminar Neo, a new image editor. It’s not a replacement nor successor to Luminar AI. Instead, it’s another member of the Luminar family. As it turns out, it’s the same thing Adobe does with its numerous versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. As a result, all the apps are pretty similar, but each comes with unique tools.

To compare Skylum to Adobe, Luminar AI is like Lightroom, and Luminar Neo is like Photoshop.

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What Is Luminar Neo?

Skylum’s Luminar Neo is a novel photo editing app revealed on September 9. It promises a significant performance improvement thanks to a new AI engine. Its repertoire of tools leverages creative photo editing, but you can also perform all the basic edits.

All things considered, Luminar Neo isn’t a replacement for Luminar AI. Instead, it’s a standalone app in the same family as Luminar AI, providing a unique toolset. It’s mainly aimed at creative and artistic edits, as well as removing objects from images.

Features & Tools

Luminar Neo’s features allow you to get more creative with your edits. Its main purposes are image manipulation through layers (like Photoshop),and removing certain objects.

  1. Relight AI
  2. Mask AI
  3. Portrait Background Removal AI
  4. Layers
  5. Spots & blemishes removal
  6. Mobile app
  7. New blending modes
  8. Edits history

1. Relight AI

Relight AI (officially RelightAI) provides smart control of overexposure in your images. Artificial intelligence generates a 3D depth map by recognising objects and depth. It then selectively fixes the exposure while preserving the contrast. In the simplest terms, Relight AI creates an HDR image without overdoing it.

Luminar Neo Relight AI
Luminar Neo Relight AI tool.

The Relight slider in Luminar Neo is similar to the Enhance AI slider in Luminar AI. But it’s not just one slider. In fact, it helps you control

But you need to be careful with this tool. While HDR photos look nice, going too far results in a loss of depth. And the resulting image looks over-edited.

2. Mask AI

The brand new Mask AI (officially MaskAI) uses artificial intelligence to recognise objects and the depth of an image. Based on its analysis, it allows you to choose various objects or areas in your photo.

Luminar Neo Mask AI tool
An example of Mask AI recognising 5 different objects and areas.

The best feature of this tool is that you do not have to care about manually selecting objects. You can choose any part of the image by selecting it in the list.

In case Mask AI makes a mistake, you can use brushes. You can also brush in or out certain areas, thus having full control over the masking process.

3. Portrait Background Removal AI

You can replace the background in portrait photos just by clicking a button. In fact, Portrait Background Removal AI, automatically removes backgrounds in portrait photos by recognising people. And then you can add a custom background using layers. (More on these later).

I can already see how Luminar Neo and Luminar AI are going to work well here. For example, you will replace backgrounds with Neo and blur them with Portrait Bokeh AI in Luminar AI.

Luminar Neo background removal examples
Background removal examples (top left is original).

Based on these images, Luminar Neo is exceptionally accurate with background removal. In fact, I’ve reviewed more than 10 best online tools for background removal, and this is the best so far.

4. Layers

If you’re more of a creative type, this will be the best feature for you. Layers allow you to add multiple images.

Upgrading from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI took away the layers. But Luminar Neo is bringing them back, allowing for more creative edits.

Here are a few examples:

Luminar Neo layers edit 1
Adding flowers and some background is simple in Luminar Neo.
Starting from a simple portrait, the artist could add a cloud, some background circles, and even creatively blend in the cloud.
Luminar Neo layers edit 3
The original image is an image of a window. Pay attention to the details, such as the top right cloud creeping through the window, meaning that the artist could selectively mask it.

5. Remove blemishes and spots.

The new Luminar Neo automatically recognises distracting elements and removes them.

As a landscape photographer, I despise power lines. They ruin so many epic photos. And to remove the lines manually, I resort to Photoshop. Trust me, it’s a tedious task even for pros.

If this tool is going to work as advertised, this feature alone will be worth the price of the entire app. Mainly because no other app does this well.

Luminar Neo power lines removal
Luminar Neo seamlessly removes power lines.
Luminar Neo removal of unwanted lines
Example 2 of removing power lines.

It can also remove dust specks and smudges.

Luminar Neo remove dust spots
Luminar Neo removes dust spots.

6. Mobile app for image management

A new mobile app developed by Skylum simplifies adding photos phone shots to a Luminar Catalog. And once you edit them, you can transfer them back to your phone.

The app is going to be available for Android and Apple devices. But we don’t know anything else yet.

7. New blending modes

The new blending modes are supposedly going to be AI-guided. What that means is open for debate. I suppose it will be similar to Templates in Luminar AI, where AI decides which Template (preset) is best for your image. Of course, you retain complete control.

Here’s what blending modes look like in Luminar AI right now:

Blending modes in Luminar AI
Blending modes in Luminar AI.

But you can only use them for textures.

8. Editing history

You can return to any step of the editing process and tweak it to affect the final image.

How exactly it’s going to work, I do not know. But I expect it to be similar to Lightroom’s editing history.

Screenshot of edit history in Lightroom
Editing history in Lightroom.

FYI. I must emphasise that I have not yet got my hands on the Luminar Neo. Everything I wrote is based on the information Skylum provided and not my experience. I removed their buzz-words so that you can get the gist of it.


Luminar Neo price depends on whether you’re a current owner of other Skylum products. The loyalty discount is available for Luminar AI, Luminar 3 & 4, and Aurora HDR owners.

This is the best possible price for Luminar Neo:

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Current Luminar and Aurora owners get a $20 discount.

Luminar and Aurora Owners

  • $44 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
  • $59 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo
  • $73 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI
  • $98 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI

Get Luminar Neo as an existing user »

New owners

  • $65 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo
  • $76 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo
  • $94 for 1-seat license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI
  • $115 for 2-seats license for Luminar Neo + Luminar AI

Get Luminar Neo as a new user »

Each purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Luminar Neo vs Luminar AI

Luminar Neo provides the tools you need for creative photo editing. It’s quite similar to Photoshop, but it’s easier to use. For example, you can add additional images as layers and blend them to achieve special effects.

Also, removing unwanted objects is much easier with Luminar Neo than Luminar AI.

On the other hand, Luminar AI specialises in basic adjustments, such as fixing exposure, white balance, saturation, and textures. But you can still use it for creative photo editing, such as adding textures, Orton effect, or even faking the golden hour.

Luminar Neo Free Trial

Luminar Neo does not have a dedicated free trial. Instead, you can use Skylum 30-day money-back guarantee as a free trial.

It works like this:

  1. You purchase Luminar Neo.
  2. You use it for 30 days. If you purchase it before the release date, the 30 days start to count down on the day you receive your copy.
  3. If you don’t like it, request a refund before the 30 days expire. You get it 100% of time.

Luminar Neo: FAQs

When will Luminar Neo be released?

The exact date of the Luminar Neo release remains unknown, but we know it will be released in winter 2021. The first hands-on review will come in October 2021.

Is Luminar Neo better than Luminar AI?

Luminar Neo is optimised for creative edits, such as removing backgrounds and blending images, while Luminar AI works as a general photo editor, allowing basic and advanced adjustments.

How much does Luminar Neo cost?

You can get Luminar Neo for as low as $34 until September 19 if you’re a current user of Luminar or Aurora. New customers will pay $54 for Luminar Neo. The price will increase after the early bird discount ends on September 19 or after the first 30,000 purchases.

How to get a Luminar Neo discount?

Owners of previous Skylum products (Luminar AI, Luminar 3 & 4, Aurora HDR) are eligible for a loyalty discount, which is about $20.

Will Luminar Neo replace Luminar AI?

Luminar Neo will NOT replace Luminar AI because it’s not supposed to. Luminar Neo will work great together with Luminar AI. For example, you will use Luminar AI for regular photo editing and Luminar Neo for creative photo editing and photo manipulation.

How can I get Luminar Neo?

Head over to the Skylum website, choose Luminar Neo from the top menu and click on preorder. After paying a modest preorder price, you will receive confirmation of your purchase. As soon as Luminar Neo gets released, you’ll receive its copy.

Can Luminar Neo do HDR?

Luminar Neo won’t have HDR functionality. Instead, Aurora HDR (Skylum’s dedicated HDR software) will work as the Luminar Neo plugin.

Can Luminar Neo merge panoramas?

At first, Luminar Neo won’t be able to merge panoramas. The Skylum team might consider adding that functionality later, if the users demand it.

Can Luminar Neo focus stack?

Currently, Luminar Neo does not support focus stacking. The feature might be added later in the development proces.


I’m always excited to test new software, but this one caught me by surprise since Luminar AI was announced and released less than a year ago. And just recently, it received a much-awaited Update 4 that introduced Portrait Bokeh AI.

Many photographers, including me, were expecting Luminar AI to get the much-needed speed improvement updates. However, the Skylum team has been working to develop a new but strikingly similar photo editing app.

To their credit, Skylum is not promising brand-new software. Instead, Luminar Neo will be similar to Luminar AI, with some features added and some missing.

I think the two apps will complement one another, but you won’t need both to edit the photos. Each is going to have its use cases. I reckon Luminar AI will be better for traditional photo edits, while Luminar Neo will excel at creative editing.

We’ll see.

Do you want more information on the new Luminar?

You can reach out to me at to discuss Luminar Neo even further.


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