Luminar AI or On1 Photo RAW?

Since Adobe made lightroom subscription only, I have trialled many other RAW development and photo editing software packages, including On1 Photo RAW and Luminar.

Luminar seems to be getting more coherent and more inline with what I expect from RAW development and photo processing software, with each incarnation.

On its inception, however, I was unimpressed with the endless “filters” and poor RAW development image quality. I was still teaching photography at this stage, and having trialled all viable Lightroom alternatives, DxO PhotoLab was my recommendation. PhotoLab is a competent Lightroom competitor and reasonably easy to use, but the interface is a little confusing, and other software offerings do more.

In the time since, PhotoLab has made little progress, whilst Luminar, especially since version 4, has improved massively!

Luminar AI

I am very impressed with all the AI tools (especially the sky replacement) which negate time-consuming and tedious masking. I am also very pleased with the simple, coherent interface – all the tools in one easy-to-navigate place, and called tools, not filters or effects. I don’t, however, use the the templates.

I am pleased that layers have gone. Layers are a reason I haven’t got along with other software over the years, but with Luminar 4, I tolerated and made use of them. I still, however, found it annoying that adjustments made on layers lower down the stack did not have any effect. I’m much happier with the new Local Masking.

The, perhaps misnamed, Add Texture in the local masking does offer some layer functionality, if required. I use this for watermarking, and might, at some point, use it for exposure blending.

There is a very comprehensive stack of tools which are now mostly arranged in order of use. Everything is very user-friendly and intuitive for newbies and experienced alike.

If you’re a photo editing novice, you can simply browse and apply one of the many AI-suggested templates and be done, deferring the learning curve but getting results from the outset. Later, you could start with a template and then delve into the Edit tab to see how it’s all been done – you can then add further adjustments. Quite an easy way to learn.

And if you have decades of RAW development and photo editing experience, there are lots of powerful tools to get the very best from your captured files. Luminar AI is capable of both powerful processing and subtle finishing adjustments.

At the time of writing, Luminar AI has still got a few things to address. I would like the ability to name local adjustments so you retrospectively know what has been done and where, at a glance. I would also recommend moving optical and aberration correction to the Composition tool, where other geometry functions already reside. The Add Texture layer functionality for watermarking requires more attention too. Presently, when you load your logo, it takes a while to tediously resize/ drag and position it.

Luminar AI is an excellent piece of software for my purposes. It is the RAW development and photo editing software I would recommend and teach to clients.

On1 Photo RAW

In the time between PhotoLab and Luminar, I used On1 Photo RAW. This is a very capable and comprehensive RAW development and photo processing software application, but I think it’s less cohesive and user-friendly than Luminar AI. To me, the idea of having development tools and separate effects seems somewhat deprecated. And when adding local adjustments, my 2018 core i5 with 8gb ram sometimes gets overwhelmed.

The masking tools are very powerful in terms of range targeting. And this is part of the personality of the software which gives you endless possibilities for editing in many different ways. However, for me, it would benefit from some radical simplification.

The real power comes from the Effects module who’s tools can be masked. From memory, the development module doesn’t offer anything that can’t be done via the Effects, aside of geometry and aberration correction. The same applies for local adjustments.

You can add as many of the Effects as you wish, so nearly everything can be done here. I see a missed opportunity to tidy things up and get rid of duplicated options in all the modules.

Maybe I’m just wishing it was more like Luminar here.

Adobe Lightroom

Back in version 6, I loved Lightroom!

Lightroom did everything I wanted at the time, and there was a demand for me to teach it. But as it was no longer going to be developed, I had to look elsewhere, both for myself, and to offer a non-subscription option to my clients.

I think Adobe could have had the best of both worlds by maintaining a stand-alone software option as well as subscription. But, in retrospect, I’m glad they didn’t!

I hate subscription software, and so did some of my clients. Yes, in the meantime I have spent the same amount of money on other software, but that was my choice. And software upgrades can be bought as presents; you can’t really do that with subscription software.

I’m glad Lightroom went subscription only, because it has facilitated other companies, such as Skylum and On1, to fill the gap and develop new software that offers far more!

If you have any comments regarding the content of this article, please let me know your thoughts below.

Also, there’s no proofreading team here – just me. So if you find any mistakes, please tell me via the comments system.

Published by Peter Finch

I have been an electrical draughtsman, a retailer and, for 12 years, a photography tutor. In 2019, I took a job as an electrical technician and closed my tuition business. Am I now photography tutor emeritus ...?

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