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Luminar is a powerful, full-featured photo editor, with a massive array of features and editing tools. A great deal of its workflow is built around the fairly simple concept of applying filters. It’s much like the way you might edit a photo in Instagram or other similar programs – but you get much more power and control with Luminar.. You can use Luminar to add one or more filters to a picture in order to change properties like color, brightness, saturation, or even add fog effects or convert it to black and white.
However, this is where the similarities between Luminar and simple phone-based editing tools stops. Luminar’s filters are far more than just surface-level adjustments. They can be combined, layered, and customized in infinite combinations for photo editing far beyond what you might be used to in other programs. Add to that the use of filter masks to selectively choose where the edits to a filter are applied, and you have the recipe for a program that can become a very important part of your photography workflow.
Luminar is built on a foundation of powerful editing algorithms that let you tweak every aspect of your photos. But unlike some other image editors on the market, it is extraordinarily simple to use the tools available to you. Rather than hundreds of confusing options, tiny buttons, and labyrinthine menus, many of the editing options in Luminar are available within a few clicks as Filters. Or you can access them by opening an image and clicking the “Add Filters” button on the upper-right portion of the user interface.
Clicking “Add Filters” opens a menu that allows you to select from dozens of filters such as Clarity, Color Balance, Soft Focus, Tone, Vignette, and many others. If you’re unsure as to what all these filters actually do, just hover your cursor over one. A brief description will pop up along with a small sample image illustrating the type of editing that filter will do.
The easiest way to apply one of these is to simply click it and adjust any of the parameters available for that filter. For example, if you click on Brilliance/Warmth, you can adjust two different aspects of the filter; Vividness and Warmth.
You can combine as many filters as you want. You can even use layers, just as in Photoshop, to apply one or many filters. Then you can edit all of them at once with options like layer masking, which shows and hides everything on a single layer, and layer opacity.
It may sound complicated, but in actual use, the process is very simple: Load an image, add a filter, adjust the filter, and you’re done. The procedure only starts to get complicated if you want it to, at which point Luminar has a deep enough feature set to accommodate even the most highly demanding photographers.
Filters are all well and good, but the ace in Luminar’s sleeve is in the way it lets you apply them selectively with filter masks. If you have ever used a filter on Instagram you know that all your edits are applied across the entire image. That can be good but can also be quite frustrating if you only want to edit specific portions of the photo.
That’s where the simplicity and brilliance of Luminar’s approach really shine because you can control exactly where your edits are applied when you use a filter. To illustrate how this process works, I started with this photo (below) of a squirrel that was clearly in need of some editing.
I shot it in RAW in order to give myself the most amount of flexibility when editing the image, but Luminar works fine with JPG files too. Just know that you won’t have quite the same degree of control when editing JPG compared to RAW files.
Before I started doing selective editing with filter masks, the first thing I did was to use two filters on the entire image. I used the Brightness/Contrast filter to make the picture brighter and then used Highlights/Shadows to lower the highlights a bit.
So far so good, but I wanted to really make the squirrel stand out from the fountain in the background. Next, I added a Color Temperature filter but here I used the Brush icon in the top corner of the filter control box to apply it only to the squirrel.
This lets you literally paint in the filter adjustment in the same way you might use the Adjustment Brush tool in Lightroom to selectively edit an image. As you’re painting, you can use the toolbar at the top left of your screen to control the size, softness, and opacity of your brush as well as other settings that will feel right at home to most photographers.
By far, the most useful option here is Show Mask which you can select by clicking the eye icon in the top left, or by pressing the / key on your keyboard. This lets you see exactly where you are applying your adjustments in real-time while you paint. It is highly useful for making sure your edits are only applied where you want them to show up.
You can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom into the image while brushing your filter adjustments. This allows you to fine-tune your editing to be exactly where you want it applied.
After editing the color temperature of the squirrel I used the Vignette filter. But instead of applying it to the whole picture I brushed it in just on the bottom corners (something users of Apple’s now-defunct image editing program Aperture might remember doing years ago).
The ability to brush on filter adjustments is a huge game-changer for anyone who is used to the limited brushing options in Lightroom or overwhelmed by the prospect of doing this type of granular editing in Photoshop. And I say this as someone who uses both Lightroom and Photoshop!
Sometimes I just need a quick and simple editing workflow and the more I use Luminar the more it has replaced much of the work I do in those and other programs. To add a bit of icing to the editing cake, Luminar ships with full plugin support for many popular image editing programs including Photoshop and Lightroom. So you can still use those for your traditional workflow while simply hopping over to Luminar if you want to make use of that program as well.
While my favorite aspect of filter making is the ability to brush adjustments precisely where I want them. But there are two other options that can be quite useful depending on the type of editing you want to do. In addition to a brush, you also have the option of applying Luminar filters with a Radial Mask, Gradient Mask, or Luminosity Mask.
This applies the filter in a circular pattern which can be rotated, expanded, and contracted. It allows you to apply a filter in an even and controlled fashion. It works almost exactly like the Radial Filter in Lightroom. But instead of only letting you adjust the basic exposure, color, sharpness, and noise you can use it to apply any of Luminar’s dozens of filters.
Think of it like the Lightroom Radial Filter but much more powerful and customizable.
Similar to the Radial Mask, the Gradient Mask lets you apply a filter smoothly across an entire image while gradually changing the degree to which it is applied. Once again it works just like its Lightroom counterpart but for filters. Once you have either of the Radial or Gradient masks applied you can choose several additional options such as Disable, Invert, Density, and Feather.
This is an option that is somewhat unique to Luminar. Even though you can re-create this type of mask in Photoshop and other programs I have never seen it implemented so easily and smoothly as it is here.
When you enable a filter and click on the brush icon you have the option of creating a mask that applies the filter only to the brightest portions of the image. This is incredibly useful if you want to make changes and edits quickly without zooming in and painstakingly brushing in your adjustments at a granular level.
This feature is especially useful for landscape photographers who frequently have images with a lot of contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the image. They often need to edit the sky separately from the rest of the image.
As an example of how this works, I have used the following image of a sunrise that I took in Nebraska one chilly winter morning.
I wanted to make adjustments to the sky while also brightening the dark portions, but not have my edits interfere with each other.
The first step was to add a Brilliance/Warmth filter and then generate a Luminosity Mask. That would make sure any changes would be made just to the sky and not the foreground. I confirmed this by showing the Mask Overlay which gave me a clear idea of where the mask was being applied.
I edited the values of the Brightness/Warmth slider to get the sky looking just right, then added a Highlight/Shadow filter to brighten up the foreground. After that, I finished with a Color Temperature filter which I applied only to the ground by using an inverted Luminosity Mask. That ensured it would apply only to the shadows and not the highlights.
The final image gave me a result that would have been much trickier to create in Lightroom, and require a lot of complicated selection editing and layer adjustments in Photoshop.
Note: the new version of Lightroom (Classic) that Adobe just released now has the ability to add a Luminosity mask to local adjustments as well.
The real advantage for me when using Luminar’s Filter Masking is that it’s a way for me to do creative, complex edits to my images in a simple and efficient manner. Some people have asked me if it’s better than Photoshop and Lightroom, and my answer is a rather vague. “it depends”.
I think there is room for all three programs in a photographer’s workflow depending on that person’s individual needs. But there certainly is a lot to be said for how Luminar gives you access to such powerful and highly customizable image filters while making the adjustment process so easy to use.
If you just want to click a few filters and save your image, as you would in Instagram, then you can be on your way in seconds. However, if you want more fine-grain control over which parts of your photos that those filters are editing, then using Filter Masks in Luminar might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Have you tried Luminar’s filter masking feature? I’m curious to know about your experience and any tips or tricks you might have uncovered. If you have not yet given these tools a chance you might be surprised at the results you can achieve.
Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.
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