Luminar 3 for Mac REVIEW | Mac Sources

Luminar 3 for Mac


A capable full-featured photo editing application.

When I was a teenager, I was always taking photos. Back then (the late 1990s), taking photos still meant loading a camera with film and then taking it to a drug store to be developed. It was an expensive hobby because you paid for the film and then paid for it to be developed. But, I loved it. I’m lucky enough to have lived through seeing the evolution of photography from film-to-digital. When it came to organizing printed photographs, you would usually lay them all out and place them in the order you wanted them in before sticking them inside a photo album. With digital photos, there are many, many digital photo album options like Photos (Mac), Google Photos, etc., but there aren’t a lot of full-featured photo editors that are paired with an organizer the way Luminar is.


Luminar 3 is designed to make your photos the center of your attention. This app allows users to group photos by year, month, and day. Luminar 3 is an ‘all-in-one’ photo app that can provide users a way to organization AND edit their photos without having to deal with multiple pieces of software. It is full-featured for both Mac and PC operating systems. There are over 300 tools and features included within the software package. It includes support for RAW files, layers, custom brush tools, masking, and dozens of filters. There are even ‘intelligent’ filters like Accent AI 2.0 that makes it easy to get a great looking photo in seconds.

Luminar 3 developer Skylum designed this application to be scalable and have an adaptive user interface. It’s ideal for all types of photographers including the following photographer types as described by Skylum.

  • New photographers and mobile shooters will appreciate a simple approach using one-click Luminar Looks and universal tools like cropping, noise reduction, and image healing.
  • Casual photographers may start with those same Luminar Looks, but will soon “graduate” to using Luminar’s purpose-built workspaces that offer uniquely tailored tools that achieve great results quickly.
  • For passionate enthusiasts and professionals, workspaces and the full gamut of editing tools such as brushes, layers, blending modes, texture overlays, an editing history menu and much more herald a new generation of advanced photo editing possibilities.


For years, Adobe’s Creative Suite was my go-to source for photo editing and design. When they moved to a subscription-based model for their software, I immediately started looking for alternative options and Luminar fills a certain space left by the elimination of using those programs. Since Luminar 3 adds the Libraries feature to its architecture, the app becomes a hybrid between Photoshop and Lightroom.

When I originally opened the software, I was expecting to find a Lightroom clone — something with a few editing tools, but was mostly for organization. I was impressed to find robust editing tools including working with layers and masks. The editing controls are quick with hardly any lag. Some of the AI tools — while functional — are a little gimmicky and I could actually do without them. There was a little bit of a learning curve when it came to editing photos in Luminar simply because it wasn’t a ‘straight’ edit situation. Since you switch between workspaces it’s easy to lose edits if you aren’t paying attention. In fact, it’s best to set up a workspace for one layer, make edits, and then create new layers before moving to the next set of edits.

While you can easily customize your own workspace, Luminar 3 comes with lots of predetermined workspaces to choose from. Learning all about the workspaces and how to work with them can increase the efficiency of a user’s workflow dramatically. After edits are completed, you can leave them in the library or export them. This is one small issue I had with Luminar. It only has the essential export options. Lightroom definitely wins the exporting game over Luminar.

Perhaps one of the largest features that Luminar 3 offers users is Libraries. This is the catalog feature that is similar to Lightroom. I do have to admit though that I don’t really like the look and feel of the Libraries within Luminar. It’s not a question of functionality because you can import files and organize them into albums, but there is no option comparable to Lightroom’s smart collections. The Libraries feature is a good start, but needs some improvements to really make a dent in Lightroom’s niche market.


I really love having Luminar 3 as a part of my photo editing toolkit, but I’m not sure it’s a 100% replacement for Lightroom…at least not yet. It’s a really nice application and it has a lot of features. Plus, you can’t overlook the fact that once you pay for it, you own it. If you are looking to get away from Adobe’s products, Luminar 3 might be a good place to start.

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Originally published at on November 12, 2019.



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