This affordable photo editor is a great choice for beginners, with three great AI tools that even pros will love.
For anyone who edits photos for a living, whether as a professional retoucher or as part of a larger design role, the question of what is the best photo editor is an easy one. It's Photoshop, stupid. And no, Adobe didn't pay us to say this. It is a fact that Photoshop is the most feature rich photo editing software and remains the industry standard.
Photoshop, however, is very expensive. And so for anyone who edits photos more often than not all the time at work, or who just wants to edit photos for fun, there are a number of great Photoshop alternatives.
If you want the closest thing to the Photoshop experience, but for less money, we recommend Affinity Photo (opens in a new tab). However, for anyone with no experience in photo editing, both tools have an interface that looks (and is, frankly, very intimidating). Therefore, there are many mid-range tools that are not only cheaper than Photoshop, but also easier to use. And the Luminar Neo (opens in new tab) fits right into this category. We tested it to see how useful it is in practice.
Please note that Luminar Neo is available for Mac (macOS 10.14.6 or higher) and Windows (Windows 10 version 1909 or higher). You will need at least 8GB of RAM and 10GB of free disk space on your computer. We tested this software on a Dell Latitude 9410 laptop running Windows 11.
Luminar Neo: pricing
The Luminar Neo is available for a one-off price of $79/£59. This gives you a lifetime license to use the software. There is no free trial as such, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Luminar Neo: interface
One of the things that impresses us most about Luminar Neo is its user interface. It's clean, simple and very neat compared to Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One or Affinity Photo.
Therefore, we didn't need to worry about reading the following tutorials or help documents. it was all pretty intuitive and felt more like playing with a mobile app (in a good way) than the more opaque desktop software we used. in the past.
There was one exception to this. we didn't realize that a number of menu items could only be accessed by clicking on the icon in the top left corner. This is a pretty unusual way to organize a menu, and we realized that it only exists on Google.
What we were trying to do back then was import images wirelessly from our smartphone. Once we got over that initial weakness, it was pretty easy and quick to do. Basically, you download a free companion app (Luminar Share) to your phone, scan a QR code from your desktop, and then follow the steps.
Luminar Neo: key features
Luminar Neo has three modes: Catalog to view your images, Presets to apply presets to them, and Edit to use built-in tools. The latter are organized into four sections (Essentials, Creative, Portrait and Professional).
They include all the basic image editing tools you'd expect to find in paid software for non-professionals. You can crop your footage, use layers, and play with exposure, saturation, smart contrast, highlights, shadows, black and white, curves, color balance, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, and more. .
However, what makes Luminar Neo special is its specially designed AI tools. The best of these is Delete Power Lines, which appears under the Delete tab. Does exactly what it says, with one click.
We tried this on dozens of photos and it came out trumps every time. We also noticed that you don't want to remove all the power lines, you can select the ones you want to remove; and that worked well too.
The only time it ran into trouble was when the power lines in the background got poked by the barbed wire in the foreground. In that case, it also removed some of the barbed wire, making the resulting image a little messy, but we'll ignore that.
Another notable AI tool is Sky Replacement. Again, this does exactly what it promises, with one click. You have a ton of different skies to choose from, and you can buy more if you need something specific.
We tried them all and the replacement was instant and pretty much flawless every time. As you can see from this example, it's a quick and easy way to brighten up a dull, lifeless image.
Rounding out the top 3 automated tools in Luminar Neo is the AI development tool. This automatically isolates the subject of the photo and crops it to create a pleasing composition.
In our test, this did a good job in practice, and for starters, it could tell the difference between a good and a great image.
More experienced photographers should of course know how to crop their shots. However, it saves you vital seconds, and if you're cropping hundreds of images at once, that time savings can add up. Also, when you have an image that you don't know how to crop, it takes the decision out of your hands and helps you move forward.
In our opinion, all three of these AI tools performed brilliantly, and depending on your needs, one or more of them may justify the Luminar Neo's price on their own.
Luminar Neo: what's missing
So far, we've focused on the great things Luminar Neo has to offer. But it's just as important to know what it doesn't include.
First, it is very light in terms of organizational tools. You cannot, for example, add keywords or subtitles. And while you can sort your images based on capture time, edit time, file name, file size, and file type, you can't sort them by location. You also can't do much with the companion app other than use it to upload pictures. In short, if you're dealing with a lot of photos and need to access them quickly and easily, especially in a professional capacity, you'll probably need something like Lightroom.
Second, the way the presets are processed is quite restrictive. In particular, you cannot check or edit the settings. either apply them or don't apply them. And you must apply the preset before applying any other edits, otherwise it will remove them.
Third, not all of the software's AI tools impressed us as much as the three we detailed above.
Structure AI, which lets you adjust image detail and sharpness, worked quite well, as did Relight AI, which finds the subject in the photo and adjusts the light in both the foreground and background. However, we weren't convinced that either was a particularly useful way to make edits compared to more traditional tools. In the end, dust spot removal only worked for us 50 percent of the time.
Luminar Neo: should you buy it?
Luminar Neo is a unique tool that has a lot to offer. It has a beautiful and easy-to-use interface. It has three first-rate artificial intelligence tools. And its price is very low.
Lacking organizational features, it is not very useful for professionals as a complete workflow solution. However, as an addition to, say, an existing Photoshop and Lightroom suite, some may find it useful for making quick, hassle-free edits. The program ran quickly and efficiently on our Windows 11 laptop, and for anyone used to Photoshop freezes and crashes, that alone might make it worth checking out.
However, Luminar Neo's main audience is non-professionals, especially those just getting started with photo editing. It's extremely easy to use, and the way it uses presets and AI editing tools is second nature to anyone used to editing photos on a mobile app like Instagram.