While Luminar 4 is one of the most intuitive photo-editors currently on the market but with an abundance of tools and sliders, how do you know where to start? How do you know which ones to use? Should you just trust the AI tools all the way?
In this article, I share my best Luminar 4 post-processing tips that will help make your images shine. We’re not going to look much at the layout and software itself (as this has been thoroughly covered in our Luminar 4 review and comprehensive Luminar 4 eBook) but instead, I’ll share my best advice on how you can use the various tools to step up your editing.
Let’s get started and dive into these Luminar 4 post-processing tips:
#1 Use layers and masks
Ok. I know that many of you chose Luminar 4 due to it’s intuitive design and easy-to-use tools, so why start this off with suggesting you do something advanced?! Hear me through…
Editing images using layers and masks is one of the biggest advantages of Luminar 4. You might have heard about these tools before and maybe you’re already familiar with them from Adobe Photoshop but if you’re not, here are a few reasons why you want to start using layers and masks:
- Layers lets you use the same tool multiple times on one image
- Layers makes it possible to adjust the opacity and blend mode on specific adjustments
- Masks lets you remove adjustments from unwanted areas
- Masks makes it possible to create targeted adjustments
There are of course many more reasons as to why you should learn to use layers and masks. I’ve gone more in-depth about this in my Luminar 4 eBook and strongly recommend you take a look if this is something you’d like to improve.
I really believe this is one of the biggest advantages of Luminar 4 as it gives you extra control that helps make your images look more professional.
#2 Don’t replace every sky
Luminar 4 is probably most known for its impressive AI tools such as the AI Sky Replacement Tool and AI Augmented Sky Tool but, to be honest with you, it’s a big mistake to use them for each and every.
Yes, the Sky Replacement Tool does an incredible job masking in the new sky and it’s a tool where you can let your creativity flow. However, I urge you to do some more manual work than just clicking ‘Replace Sky’ and move on.
Let’s say that I replace the sky in the following image:
The replaced sky fits well with the image but doesn’t it look a little odd that the moon reflected from the original image is still there? What about the rest of the reflection? In order to make it look more realistic, you’d also need to introduce the replaced sky into the reflection in this case.
I also urge you to use your own custom skies rather than the included ones if you choose to use this tool. It’s a little strange if every photo you edit has the same sky!
#3 Avoid using AI Augmented Sky when not needed
Continuing our train of AI thoughts, I also recommend that you use the AI Augmented Sky Tool with some caution.
While it can add ‘that little extra’ to your composite images, I’d go as far as saying that it won’t be needed for 90% of your landscape images.
Take the image below as an example. The birds look quite misplaced, don’t they?
Now, I’m certainly no composite expert and am fully aware that these tools can be very useful for those who are but for regular landscape photography, they should only be used when it’s really going to have a positive impact on your photo.
#4 Don’t forget about the basic adjustments
In the next steps I want to show you exactly how I’ve used a select few Luminar 4 tools to give some extra life to this rather ordinary sunset photo:
I know that playing with the various AI tools, adding sun rays or dramatic effects can be exciting and give some good results with minimum effort but don’t forget about the basic raw adjustments. This certainly doesn’t sound as glamorous but they are crucial for the image and sets the basis for further development.
The basic adjustments I’m talking about can be found in the Light Tools inside the Essentials Category. More specifically, I’m talking about the following sliders:
To enhance the warm sunset feel and give the image a little more contrast, I increased the Temperature and Tint, darkened the Exposure (as a result of the next adjustments), darkened the Highlights and increased the Shadows, Whites and Blacks.
By applying these few basic adjustments, we’ve introduced details in the shadows, increased the contrast and warmed the image slightly.
#5 Correct mistakes using AI Enhance & AI Structure
Now, I said that you should only use AI tools when they’re absolutely needed but the AI Enhance and AI Structure tools are the exceptions. Unlike the other tools, they don’t add or replace anything but use Artificial Intelligence to ‘correct’ the image.
I’ve always been a skeptic of these types of automatic tools (I still have nightmares about the good ol’ Photomatix days) but these two have proved me wrong: AI can have a place in photo editing.
Don’t get me wrong: pulling too much in these sliders are going to make the image look overly edited but applied at a lower amount, they can add a lot to it.
For this example, I applied them with the following settings:
- AI Accent (AI Enhance): +9
- AI Sky Enhancer (AI Enhance): +20
- AI Structure Amount: +19
As you can see, these adjustments have made the sky and image ‘pop’ a little more. The nice part about these tools is that they don’t add any unwanted noise or grain to the image.
#6 Add a vignette to direct the light
Vignettes are commonly used to shift the focus of an image towards the more interesting parts by darkening the surroundings.
This is a particularly useful tool when the borders of an image are bright and grab unwanted attention. While this isn’t the case for this image, I find that darkening the outer areas help emphasize the setting sun.
I recommend using the Vignette tool with some caution too. Don’t go to extreme as that will quickly make the vignette too obvious and distracting.
It’s also a good idea to use the Choose Subject button to set the midpoint of the vignette, it shouldn’t always be in the middle! For example, if you’ve got a person standing to the left of the image and they’re the main subject, that should be the middle point.
#7 Enhance the mood by adding a glow effect
The Orton Effect is a technique loved by landscape photographers and has been around since the 1980s (created by Michael Orton). This technique can easily be replicated in Luminar 4. In fact, it can be found two places.
The Orton Effect tool is found in the Portrait Tools Category. By placing it here, Skylum has made it clear that this particular effect is mostly meant for portraits.
For other genres of photography, you can use the Glow Tool found in the Creative Tools Category. This tool introduces a nice soft glow to the image that can help give that much desired ‘dreamy’ atmosphere.
Don’t go all-out and apply this technique at a high amount, though (yes, I know this keeps getting repeated). That’s going to look more distracting than appealing and will make the image look amateurish.
Instead, apply this at a low amount. If you’re feeling brave and have some knowledge about Luminar 4, this is a technique that’s best added through a mask.
#8 Midtone contrast is your friend!
For years I’ve been using Luminosity Masks in Photoshop to introduce Midtones Contrast but in Luminar 4 it’s done with a simple slider found inside the Advanced Contrast tool in the Professional Category.
The problem with adding contrast to the entire image is that you essentially brighten the brightest parts and darken the darkest. This quickly results in clipping of the shadows and highlights.
By introducing contrast to the midtones only (i.e. any pixel that’s neither bright nor dark) you avoid this problem and get a much more desirable result.
This is one of my most important Luminar 4 post-processing tips that will make your image pop. Go try it for yourself!
#9 Adjust the focus by using the Adjustable Gradient Tool
The final tip I’m going to share in this article is one that’s not necessary for this particular image but it’s something that’s going to do wonders in the majority of your images: use the Adjustable Gradient Tool to shift the focus in your image.
Very often, I find the foreground or sky to be too distracting in images. There’s no reason why a foreground should be as bright and sharp as the main subject of the image. Remember, our eyes naturally gravitate towards the brightest parts, which is where you want the main subject to be.
The Adjustable Gradient Tool is an easy solution that even complete Luminar beginners can take advantage of (there are more advanced methods that are superior but I’ll save that for another time).
You can switch between the Top and Bottom gradient and choose the gradient’s orientation in order to better fit your image. It’s possible to add adjustments to both the top and bottom at the same time.
For this example, I only applied adjustments to the Bottom as I wanted to remove some details in the rocks visible in the lower part of the image. All I did was increase the Exposure, Highlights and Vibrance.
This tool is also used to darken/recover a bright sky. For those scenarios, simply choose Top and increase the Exposure or Shadows.
The truth is that you don’t need to spend hours upon hours editing your images to make them look more impressive. Applying a few simple adjustments can often be enough to give that extra pop.
In the steps shared above, we’ve managed to take an ordinary sunset image and make it slightly more appealing:
I hope that you found these Luminar 4 post-processing tips useful and that you can apply these techniques and tools into your workflow. I would love to see the images you’ve edited so make sure to leave on in a comment below!
Make sure to have a look at my popular eBook ‘A Photographer’s Guide to Luminar 4′ if you’d like to learn how you can take full advantage of all the organizing and processing tools and create professional-looking images with this popular photo editor. There you’ll learn everything you need to know about organizing and editing, as well as receive several step-by-step workflows you can use for yourself.