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Luminar Neo Review (Full Version Tested!)

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Luminar Neo has finally arrived. After all the press releases, demo versions, and rumors, the full program is available. It was a long and rocky road, but now it’s all systems go with Luminar Neo.

In this Luminar Neo review, we’ll answer the hottest questions about the product. Is Luminar Neo worth the wait? Do the features live up to the promise of the early access version? And how does it compare to Luminar AI?

We don’t want to give too much away. But if you were brave enough to preorder Luminar Neo, you didn’t waste your money. And if you’re still on the fence, we don’t think you’ll be undecided for much longer. (Scroll to the bottom of the article for our $10 discount code!)

Luminar Neo Banner image with girl in sunglasses

[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]

What is Luminar Neo?

Luminar Neo is the latest editing software suite from Skylum. It was announced back in September 2021, and the hype has been building since. Skylum has been keen to promote the new and improved features of Luminar Neo. But the demo versions haven’t given us the complete picture.

Luminar Neo is an AI-powered photo editing software. Skylum has said that Neo isn’t replacing their previous release—Luminar AI. But Neo sets out to fix some of the issues users faced with Luminar AI.

We were impressed with the AI tools in Luminar AI. But like many others, we encountered performance issues. Luminar Neo uses the same AI tools, but the new high-speed core engine improves speed and performance.

Luminar Neo isn’t just more of the same. We’re happy to see Skylum has taken Neo in a different direction, adding layer and mask AI tools to the program. This broadens Neo’s appeal, taking it in an Adobe Photoshop direction.

Relight Banner of coastal landscape from luminar neo

Who is Luminar Neo For?

The powerful AI tools and the new layer features give Luminar Neo a broad appeal. Photographers from lower-level enthusiasts to seasoned professionals will love Luminar Neo.

The AI templates and modes are perfect for social media content creators. Luminar Neo makes it easy to transform dull and drab photos into algorithm-busting images.

Luminar Neo’s AI tools are sophisticated enough for high-end photo editing. The relight AI and portrait tools are excellent for fashion and editorial photography. Luminar Neo will help professional photographers prepare their photos for publication.

One of the main attractions is the AI clean-up tool. Luminar Neo can remove dust spots and power lines from your photos. And as the tool is AI, this takes just a few clicks of your mouse. By eliminating these tedious tasks, Neo can save photographers time and money.

Reading this, you might think you’re better off sticking with Luminar AI. But Neo ventures into the world of creative image manipulation. Skylum is trying to steal a slice of this Photoshop-dominated pie. And the mask and layer tools open Neo to a new audience.

Like Luminar AI, Neo is for serious photographers and photo editors. The AI-powered tools streamline the editing process without sacrificing quality. And the new editing tools bring other digital artists into the Skylum fold.

Layers banner image with two landscapes from luminar neo

What Are The Key Features of Luminar Neo?

Since Luminar Neo was announced, Skylum has made some eyebrow-raising promises. They wanted the public to know about the new and improved features they’d find in Luminar Neo.

This Luminar Neo review will now look at those features. And I’m happy to say, Skylum wasn’t far off the mark with their claims. We’ll take a look at where they’ve delivered on their promises for the Luminar Neo features.

Before we deep-dive into Luminar Neo’s features, we need to remember that the first release will be missing several key tools. The Mask AI and the Portrait Background Removal AI are notable exclusions.

This doesn’t mean you’ll miss out if you buy Luminar Neo now. You can buy the software today for 59 USD, and Skylum will update the software once the tools are ready. The update will come later in the year, completely free.

The Core Engine

Rather than tinker with the Luminar AI engine, the Skylum team developed a brand new one for Neo. The new Luminar Neo engine is “modular.” This means that each editing area has a separate processor for better optimization.

Luminar AI was easily overloaded. If you applied too many effects, the performance would suffer. The system would become glitchy and wouldn’t display the adjustments.

Luminar Neo’s new core engine makes a big difference. Changes are applied quickly. And so far, we’ve experienced none of the performance issues found in Luminar AI.

RAW File Editing

RAW file capabilities aren’t headlining news. Any professional photography software should have them. But it’s worth mentioning for photographers that are new to Skylum products. You can rest easy knowing that Neo can handle RAW files.

Catalogue screen of Luminar Neo interface

Powerline Removal AI

The AI-powered Erase tool has been one of the headline features throughout the pre-release campaign. Skylum was keen to let us know that Luminar Neo would be able to remove dust spots and power lines with the click of a button.

We were impressed with the standard of the power line removal tool in the Early Access package. It was quick, and the results were pleasing. And we’re happy to see that the positive results have continued into the full software.

We started with something simple. Our first image only has a few visible power lines. They’re thick and clearly defined against the sky and the roof of the barn.

Farm scene with man driving a tractor

I clicked the Remove Powerlines option, and the black lines were gone. It was as simple as one click of the mouse.

Farm scene with man on tractor after using the power line removal tool in luminar neo

Impressive. But that was just the first test, with a few clear power lines in the image. Our second picture was a bit more complicated.

We have a crossroads scene with many overhead power lines. To make things more complicated, the cables cross the lines of the building and windows. There’s a lot of information the AI tool has to process.

Crossroads in Lyon with many people

This was a more formidable challenge, but I have to say, Luminar Neo met the challenge head-on. And the results are strong. The power lines are gone, and there are no signs of warping or distortion.

Some of the fainter and more distant lines remained when we zoomed in. But you have to go looking for them. And the brush takes care of them quickly.

Crossroads in Lyon with many people after using the power line removal tool from luminar neo

We were pleased with the Power line removal AI in the Early Access demo. It had a lot of promise. And we’re happy to say Luminar Neo has kept this promise in the full release.

The erase AI tool is fast and accurate. It identified what it needed to. And it removed the lines with minimal damage to the image. There are very few signs of distortion, and your image remains clean. It’s as if they were never there.

This AI feature is quick. The process takes no more than a couple of seconds, and the results are excellent. It’s outstanding for a one-click operation. This tool will spare photographers the grief of doing this manually.

Sky Replacement AI

The sky replacement AI was another standout feature in the pre-release package of Neo. It was fast, and the results were great. And it showed its intelligence changing when applying the effect.

Photo of colored buildings in front of water

This image wasn’t too tricky. The roofs of the buildings clearly define the skyline. And when the AI replaced the sky, the line remained strong, with no overlap or smudging.

But what impressed us was the water. The AI changed the sky as expected. But it also changed the reflection of the sky in the water. That shows real intelligence, and it saves time having to make that change manually.

Colorful waterside building after using the sky replacement tool in luminar neo

The Sky Replacement AI is a feature in Luminar AI. We thought it was good in that Skylum product. But as promised, the same feature in Neo performs even better. The change takes a second, and there’s no sign of struggle from the operating system.

Portrait Bokeh AI

Bokeh is a great effect on portraits. But sometimes, you can’t get it right in-camera. It used to be a laborious task to add it in post-production. The Luminar Neo portrait Bokeh AI tool wants to save you the trouble.

We’ve taken a standard portrait. There’s minimal bokeh effect in the original image, and there’s plenty of detail in the background.

Portrait of man in checkered shirt in front of a white brick wall
© Harps Joseph

As we’ve come to expect, the portrait bokeh AI tool has a simple control panel. You have the brush option if you want to add the bokeh manually. But we’ve used the automated AI.

We’re happy with the result. The detail in the background is now blurred and unfocused. But our subject has remained sharp and crisp. Even the outer lines of the subject have stayed sharp and clearly defined.

Portrait of man in checked shirt in front of a wall after applying the portrait bokeh in luminar neo

Face AI

The portrait bokeh AI isn’t the only way to improve your portraits with Luminar Neo. Like Luminar AI, you also have face AI tools. You can lighten the face, enlarge the eyes, or slim the cheeks. And you can do it all with simple slider controls.

We’re using a standard close portrait of a woman as our sample image. We can use the face AI toolset to make some adjustments.

Close portrait of woman with red curly hair and blue eyes
© Andrew Lozovyi

We’ve enlarged the eyes and reddened the lips using the face AI. We’ve made the face slimmer using the slider controls, so the eyes are even more accentuated.

Portrait of woman with red hair and blue eyes edited in luminar neo

If you don’t like the color of your model’s eyes, you can change it. The face AI tool allows you to change the eye color with the click of the mouse. Select the color you want, and that’s it.

The results are very good. The colors are subtle, and it retains the detail of the iris, making the color change look natural.

Two portrait comparison of a woman with red hair one with brown eyes and the other with green

Relight AI

The relight AI is an excellent tool for changing the atmosphere of your photo. When you’re shooting outside, you can’t always get the lighting you want. You often have very little control over the lighting situation. The relight AI gives you control.

We have a picture of a man filming in the jungle. The light is fairly consistent throughout the image. There isn’t a big difference between the foreground and the background.

Man holding video camera at waist height in jungle
© William Rouse

We’ve used the relight AI tool to create a bit more atmosphere. The further jungle is darker, while the man has more illumination.

The tool works well. The changes are applied quickly, and the quality of the image isn’t damaged. The only problem is the lack of area control. There are only near and far brightness controls. Something more manual would be nice.

The Relight AI also works best when your image has a human subject. Without a definite subject, the tool has little impact and leaves the image looking flat.

Man with camera in jungle after using relight AI in luminar neo

Layers

The options with the layer tools are limited at the moment. Without the mask AI and the portrait background removal AI, the layers don’t have much use other than adding minor effects.

There isn’t much to show off with the layers until we have the portrait removal AI and the masking options. We can’t replace backgrounds. And we can’t create composite images or digital collages. We’ll have to wait for the update.

We’ll use the layer tool to add some of the effects available in the first release. They’ll give you a hint of what you can expect from Luminar Neo later on.

Two side by side portraits of a woman in red dress after applying luminar neo sparkle layer
© Roman Akhmerov

Two side by side portraits of woman in red dress with luminar neo flares and light leak layers applied

The Presets

The presets found in Luminar Neo are similar to the templates in Luminar AI. The presets are less of a headline act in Neo. But they work in much the same way. And they’re excellent for adding flavor to your photos.

When you upload your photo in the edit section of Luminar Neo, you have the preset options in the top right corner. The AI engine will evaluate the image and select appropriate presets. There are plenty of options, so you’ll find something to suit your style.

You apply the presets with one click, just like Luminar AI. But now, you can adjust the intensity with the slide control bar.

We’re using a basic landscape image to start our dive into the Luminar Neo presets. The photo has nice colors and different textures to help us see the difference the presets make.

Landscape of farm scene with vegetable patch

The first preset we’ve gone for is Clear & Sharp, found in the Scenery Collection. It’s sharpened the colors, making the photo more vibrant. The original was taken with 400 ISO film, and the preset has reduced the grain effect.

Vegetable patch scene with preset applied from the luminar neo scenery collection

The Snowfall filter from the Easy Landscape presets had the opposite effect. By creating a winter scene, the preset has devalued the colors. They’re less intense, and the atmosphere is cold with paler tones.

Vegetable patch scene with luminar neo Snowfall filter

The presets will give Luminar Neo a big appeal in the world of social media stars and influencers. So we’ll check out how the presets work with portraits.

We’re using a basic portrait, which is fairly close-cropped. It’s the perfect canvas on which we can apply the presets. The first one is the Burned Film effect from the Experimental collection.

side by side portraits of man in hat with the luminar neo film effect preset

Here are a few more examples of how you can spice up your photos. We have two more presets from the Experimental collection. They’re all one-click fixes for bland and uninspiring photos. These will definitely spice up your social media content.

Two portraits of man in hat with celebrate and glow luminar neo effects applied

What are the Alternatives to Luminar Neo?

Luminar AI

Luminar Neo vs. Luminar AI is a hot topic right now. Many people think that Luminar Neo was made to replace Luminar AI. But that’s not what Skylum wants you to believe.

There is a large amount of overlap between the two products. They are both programs powered by artificial intelligence. Their features are similar and, in some cases, the same. We’ll have to wait for the update with the mask and portrait background removal AI set it apart.

Skylum wanted everyone to know that Luminar Neo would solve the performance issues found in Luminar AI (that we also addressed in our Luminar AI review before). And we’re happy to say that the new engine works well. We’ve experienced fewer glitches, and the effects are applied in a fraction of a second.

In an ideal world, Skylum wants you to buy Luminar AI and Neo. It’s not a bad idea if you have the budget for it. But if you have to pick one Skylum software, we’d recommend Luminar Neo.

Luminar AI promotional Banner Image

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom sit at the very top of the tree. They’re the industry leaders for photo editing and manipulation. Whether you’re doing photo touch-ups or digital collages, their tools are the most sophisticated.

Luminar Neo is heading in this direction with its layering tools. But at this point, Luminar Neo doesn’t put up much of a fight against Photoshop. Until the updates bring the mask AI and the portrait background removal AI, we won’t know how much competition there is.

Neo only requires a one-off payment. It’s cheaper than Adobe’s subscription-based service. But you’ll have to purchase other Skylum products separately. That means you’ll have to buy again if they release Luminar Neo 2. But Skylum does offer software packages.

Adobe Photoshop Banner image

Luminar Neo: The Verdict

Luminar Neo has finally arrived. We are very pleased to have our hands on the full version of the Skylum software. And we’re not just pleased because it’s arrived after a long wait. At the end of this Luminar Neo Review, we’re impressed with the results.

Luminar AI impressed everyone with the artificial intelligence tools. But the speed and performance left many photographers frustrated with the image editor. Luminar Neo set out to solve that problem with a new core engine. And we can’t complain.

Luminar Neo runs smoothly, and everything is applied quickly. You can remove power lines with just a few clicks. And portraits can be enhanced and adjusted with excellent AI tools.

Luminar Neo has taken the best features of Luminar AI and improved them. The AI tools look fantastic. And Luminar Neo will save photographers time and money with its AI quick fixes. There are still a few Luminar Neo features missing. But once they’re added, Luminar Neo will be a formidable editing software.

Everyone from influencers to professional photographers will find their life improved once they start using Luminar Neo. You can experience it for yourself with the Luminar Neo free trial. But we think it’s well worth the price.

Click here to buy Luminar Neo for 59 USD for a year or get lifetime access for only 79 USD. You can also save an extra $10 with the coupon code: ExpertPhotography.

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