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Skylum Luminar 3 Review

Skylum Luminar 3 Review


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In late December 2018, Skylum released the newest offering of Luminar, Luminar 3 which includes the highly anticipated asset management library to facilitate users' ability to have immediate access to their images via libraries or user-created albums. 

My initial review of Luminar 3 was not too favorable that went as far as a Not Recommended due to poor performance due to load times of 15+ minutes, and a few other issues. With Luminar latest update 3.1.1, I can now recommend with confidence Luminar 3 for your editing and asset management needs.

I recommend you try the latest version of Luminar 4 for your Digital Asset Management Solution including a very Slick Image Editor with easy to apply and adjust looks for your images. Team Skylum's latest update has made Luminar 3 well worth the purchase price. Luminar 4 has made enough improvements to warrant your attention.  Keep it up Team Skylum!

Issues With Version 3 are stated below:

Building the initial Library: This is a 9 step guided process in which you basically decide where to store your library and add any image folders that you want Luminar to index. I chose to store my library locally on the PC. I then loaded about 900 images - all JPEGs with an average size of 15mb each. The build-out of the library took about 3 minutes another big performance improvement over the initial version.  I relaunched the software with the new library and load times were just shy of one minute.

Adding Image Folders to The Library: I pointed Luminar to a recent 2019 folder living on my NAS having around 500 Z7 & Z6 RAW images with file sizes between 30mb to 61mb each. Luminar began loading the images into the library and at 95% I thought Luminar had hung up but finally moved on and finished at around 3 minutes and this too was a big improvement over the initial release. Now with more confidence, I proceeded to add a 2017 folder having nearly 10,000 images which Luminar 3 chugged through in only 5 minutes. At this point, things are looking very promising.

Below I use the word Rendering in Luminar speak it is called "processing", meaning Luminar 3 is making updates to the image. In some situations, you can zoom and view the images while other situations you will have to wait until Luminar 3 finishes processing the image. Either way, version 3.1.1 has made significant improvements.

Rendering the Images: Following the initial load of 11,000 images and mixing large RAW with medium JPEGS It was time to see how long the rendering would take. Keep in mind Network speeds play an important part during all of Luminars loading and rendering. For this test, I will be using high-speed wireless set up @ 600mps connection speed than another test with a Highspeed 1gb ethernet connected pc as a second test.

Small Thumbnail Rendering: These are the small thumbnails on the left panel.

All rendering went very quickly one after the next like falling dominos.

Library Thumbnails: These are the Thumbnails in the center - you have four choices, Small, Medium, Large, and Largest. For this test I selected Large. For large raw 50mb files the rendering time was approximately 1-2 seconds. ** oddly I found not all images would render until I scrolled down the page, even after leaving Luminar running in the background for hours. 

Full Preview Rendering: These are the large preview images/the ones you edit - Rendering time for a 26.8mb RAW file was approximately 7 seconds.  Rendering time for a 58.6mb RAW file was approximately 14 seconds, and rendering an 18.9mb JPEG was about 1 second. Not bad over a wireless network from a NAS device.

Wait Times for Editing Images: This represents the time you spend waiting on Luminar 3 to prepare the image and is ready for editing, from the moment you click the image until Luminar edit sliders are active and not greyed out. ** Network speeds increase or decrease performance -  so your mileage may vary, I was getting very good mileage:)

For a 58.1mb RAW image file from the time of click to being able to edit was 6 seconds, to fully render the image took another 12 seconds.

For a 28mb RAW image file from the time of click to being able to edit was 5 seconds, to fully render took another 6 seconds.

For an 18.1mb JPEG image file from the time of click to being able to edit was less than 2 seconds, the image was fully rendered by 2 seconds.

Rendering Summary: For update 3.1.1 Skylum has made significant performance updates - everything seems very responsive now.

The Positives - It is apparent update 3.1.1 answers a lot of the frustration customers had with performance and it shows that Team Skylum made significant improvements in how the images are processed and made available for editing and or browsing.  This is a large improvement over the initial release.

The Negatives -  With the latest 3.1.1 update the sluggish response is mostly gone.

Overall Skylum made strides to improve the performance of Luminar 3 and at which point I recommend Luminar 3 as a viable editor and basic image asset manager Go try it out for yourself, for the price for the software you don't pay for every month I find it to be a good value.

Post Install and Launching Luminar 3: 

Network Storage Support: I consider external storage a must for any photographer/videographer these days, a solution that is redundant and reliable to protect your investment in time and effort.  If you properly map a NAS network location Luminar 3 will navigate to your network location and load the image folders while logged on.  On subsequent uses of Luminar 3, the software will open the NAS folder as well. This means Luminar 3 supports network drives which is a big plus.

Editor: As far as the editor portion of Luminar 3 goes it shines as it's a strong point with a none cluttered easily to navigate slider-based none destructive editor very similar to what you find in other top-shelf image editing packages but without all the clutter and vertical scrolling. Of course, if you want to add more filters to your workspace/editor you can do just that. The editor includes "looks" similar to what Lightroom calls presets, you can if you desire to use a look, it can be applied to your image and previewed with that look. Looks are arranged in different categories, Landscape, Dramatic, Protititure, Airiel, Street, and a few others plus you can download more from the Luminar Marketplace for a few $$ or pick up the freebies. You can also flag your favorite Looks and have easy access to them while in Luminar 3. 

The Luminar 3 editor has all the necessary tools for most any image editing needs and to me resembles Lightroom develop module sidebar of sliders with less clutter. Luminar 3 allows you to add filters that you modify and add more filters if you so desire to tweak your images to your heart's desire. The editor is also included access to groupings of pre-packaged workspaces such as Essentials, Professional, Quick & Awesome, and so forth. Each editor category gives access to different editing tools a way for you to select what tool is best suited for your needs and not be bothered with a bunch of sliders you don't plan on using. I do wish Luminar 3 will add full meta-tagging this is a must for any Digital Asset Management solution, and add image info data overlays for reference as you work on images if you choose to overlay info like shutter speed, Lens Used, ISO, etc.

Overall the Editor in Luminar 3 fantastic, is straightforward and easy to use with enough editing features to make your workflow productive without the need to learn in-depth software editing techniques and this is where Luminar 3 succeeds. But obviously, like any image editing package you have a few things to learn along the way to improve your skills using Luminar 3. To hone your editing skills Skylum offers webinars and video tutorials. I recommend you watch a couple to explore the potential of Luminar 3.

Workspace: Luminar 3 fully supports customizable workspaces that support the photographer editing needs and style, such as a workspace dedicated to Black and White image processing or other workspaces that support Portituture, Landscapes to name a few. Luminar 3 has many built-in workspaces and allows you to add more via download from the Marketplace. This feature is a nice way to maximize the image processing workflow based on specific needs. Switching between workspaces is one mouse click away.

Top Pros:

Simple Straight  Forward Editor
Non Destructive Editor
Access to several Free Looks and workspaces with options to buy others
Great Editor for the price
Customizable Workspaces

Top Cons:

Limited customization of user interface 
No-Meta tagging, only basic ratings, like, and color-coding
Locks use while exporting images
Some menu options are not greyed out when the option is not relevant to the current view/state.

Room for improvement for Luminar 3: 

The user interface is hard-wired and not fully configurable by the user. Luminar 3 offers limited configurations. I would like to see the ability to adjust the sidebar both in size and placement. Being a Lightroom user I am used to seeing the thumbnails at the bottom with Luminar 3 they are on the side.  It would be nice if the user could swap the Looks position with the thumbnails.

Luminar 3 lacks proper meta-tagging - you only have ratings, color coding, and likes. So there is no way to tag an image with unique data and thus your ability to search for images is very limited. With Lightroom, you have robust meta-tagging a very useful "Find" feature allowing you to find images shot with a particular focal length, camera, or lens + the meta tags. I am sure Luminar 3 will address search/meta-tagging at the product matures.

Luminar 3 does not seem to be multi-threaded - such as when exporting an image you have to wait until the image is exported before you can perform any other actions. With Lightroom, you can continue to work while Lightroom exports in the background.

Menu options are not always relevant to the current state and are active but should be greyed out, as an example, the Menu View->fit to screen is active for the library thumbs view which if clicked does nothing. Another example is the menu options to hide or show panels when the panels are not even an option or allowed and if clicked will either hide or show then panel once you navigate to the state they are allowed - which makes it confusing.


Collapse Expand Comments (6)
David Forster

Um... I'd say that was a little harsh. I had my own frustrations, not the least of which was waiting a year for an upgrade that I was promised in "early 2018". And learning on the morning of launch date that I had to upload a screenshot from iTunes to prove that I had purchased Luminar 2018. And wait 2 more days. And after those 2 days wait some more because the weren't able to keep that promise too.

But a "turd"? I love the photo editing interface and I love the quality of the editing tools. I generally just ignore the pre-sets.The half-baked DAM is still a dramatic improvement and there is supposedly another free update coming to bake in the other half. We'll see.

I never really recovered from Apple's decision to drop Aperture. I've tried Lightroom (which I loathe), Bridge with photoshop, Capture 1, OnOne and others. Capture 1 came the closest but the library management in Luminar is already better that Capture 1's (or at least better than it was when I was using it). Luminar is by far my editor of choice now, and when proper DAM arrives my happiness level might just go back to the pre-Aperture's-demise days.

Skylum is still a relatively small, growing company, trying desperately to bite off more than they can chew. They are filling in a space that needed to be filled, and I believe they are trying to be innovative. Even succeeding. I want to get behind that. And I'm always more willing to forgive errors of commission than errors of omission.


Oh, once I had my license, I had no difficulty installing the app. But i started with a small library. Thanks for the warning about big ones...


I agree the initial review was a bit harsh. Thus I updated the review and only mention the basic positives and performance issues. It is only fair I give Skylum a fair shake but considering I spent 2 days trying to figure out why the initial software would not load the harsh words were an outlet of that frustration. Sorry.

Michi Uno

I don't know whether it is to do with large libraries or not, (mine is some 30k pictures). But for me the regular operation of the software is very laggy, i.e. I click " add filter" and wait 4 seconds for the filters to show up. Then I select one and wait 8 seconds for that filter to show in the editor section. I try to scroll down the filters (to get to the one I just added). The scroll wheel does not work there and the scroll bar is so narrow, I keep missing it. And then once I hit it, it takes another 4 seconds to actually scroll down. So, for me at least, working with the software is an exercise of patience. Almost every action takes several seconds to give feedback. You click and drag - and have to wait 4 seconds to find out whether the drag was successful. Really annoying.

On the good side of things: the results you get really are outstanding.


Luminar 3 made many performance enhancements with the latest 3.02 update but still lacks the refinements to classify as a mature product. I agree with your assessment of Luminar 3 as a work in progress with potential. Luminar 3 has potential but needs work if Sklylum wishes to compete with LightRoom or Capture One - of which are more mature products.


Luminar 3 in present state is a big failure .The two updates to date made little improvement,such a shame Luminar 18 was showing such promise .


re luminar 3 its got so much promise but falls a little short, I happy to work with the restricted menus, I like the presets, and more than happy with the range of self apply filers .... but I still have luminar 2018 loaded on my laptop and this is the one I will go to first, its faster same filter array just not got the initial browse, which I would rather not have until the glitches have been resolved.

come on skylum make me proud.....luminar 3+ please


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