Skylum Updates Luminar 2018 Raw Processor/Image Editor with Artificial Intelligence-Driven AI Sky Enhancer

While it seems that most Australian professional photographers of my acquaintance depend on Adobe Bridge’s Camera Raw module in conjunction with Photoshop as their first choice for raw processing and imaged editing, followed by Adobe Lightroom in order of popularity, there are alternative products and alternative software companies.

One of the most creative is Skylum, formerly named Macphun, maker of Aurora HDR and Luminar, the first a high dynamic range image merging and editing application and the second a raw image processing and image editing application the features of which are ever-growing and unlike any other image editor in their scope and innovation. 

Luminar 2018 recently gained an artificial-intelligence driven feature, the AI Sky Enhancer, and the long-awaited major update, Luminar with Libraries, due sometime in December 2018, will add sync and batch editing, image organizing, rating, labelling and tagging to improve Luminar’s photo management and editing editing workflow.  

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Skylum Luminar AI Sky Enhancer filter applied to a Fujifilm X-Pro2 raw file of a local landscape after initial processing with Iridient X-Transformer. Photograph © copyright Karin Gottschalk 2018. All rights reserved.

Ever since Apple signalled the coming end of its support for Aperture, one of the best media management, picture sorting and editing, raw processing and image editing applications ever, relied upon by photographers as well as picture editors, magazine publishers, advertising agencies, deign firms and more, photographers have been searching for a direct replacement and the available solutions have been found wanting to various degrees.

Since then I have tried a number of media management applications and modules built into raw processing and image editing software and none of them have filled the bill in exactly the way I need them to.

Skylum has verb working on a media management solution aka library for Luminar for some time and it looks like it will finally make its appearance soon.

I cannot want to try it out and with luck it will be the media manager cum image library I have been after for all these years.

Skylum Luminar 2018 AI Sky Enhancer Before and After

How Does AI Sky Enhancer Work?

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Sky detection & object recognition: With the help of our deep neural network, Luminar analyzes the image and detects the sky. This neural network had been trained using hundreds of thousands of images with different amounts and different types of sky, whether it’s a tiny patch of blue peeking through a skylight, a cloudy sky flaunting sunset colors, or a dark, ominous sky signaling a storm.
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Semantic Segmentation: Once image analysis is complete, Luminar performs what we call semantic segmentation, separating the image into different layers, based on the semantic and contextual meaning of the objects it detects. This analysis allows the most precise and intelligent sky enhancement with minimal noise, halos, and negative impact on other areas of the image. The AI detects objects in the foreground, defines edges, and analyzes the textures and tones of the sky itself. The deep neural network that powers AI Sky Enhancer had been trained using thousands of real life examples we’ve either taken ourselves or obtained from other professional photographers.
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Smart masking: Following sky detection and segmentation, Luminar applies an automatic mask to the sky that’s invisible to you as the user. When you move the slider to the right, you only notice how the sky becomes more and more beautiful. Just like a professional photographer, AI Sky Enhancer treats different images differently. It applies a custom set of adjustments to a sky, depending on its look. This means that a blue sky will get a treatment far different from a grey sky, and a sunset sky will be enhanced differently from a mid-morning one.

LUTs in Skylum Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2019

I have been developing an approach to portrait photography based on five to seven bracket images batch processed in Iridient X-Transformer then merged in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 with maximum image editing done in Aurora’s 16-bit colour space including applying film emulation and looks LUTs.

This has only been possible in the way I have long envisaged it since the release of Aurora HDR 2019 and its amazing realistic automatic tone-mapping, a huge evolutionary leap beyond previous versions of Aurora HDR and other HDR software I have used over the years.

The addition of the LUTs feature in both items of Skylum software is welcome as I have assembled an enormous collection of camera profile, film emulation and looks LUTs over the years and enjoy applying the film emulation LUTs in particular to portraits.

The challenge when editing with LUTs is to choose exactly the right one, or two or more of them in combination, to communicate the information and emotions I visualized for the finished image when I made the exposure.

Right now selecting that one or more perfect LUT from a big collection of them is a time-consuming process of trial and error, loading and looking, rejecting then choosing again.

Some video editing applications and colour grading applications and plug-ins have LUT library previewing capabilities that speed up the processing of choosing the best LUT for the job and I want to see the same functionality added to Skylum Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2019.

In illustration, the above three portraits have been graded with three different film emulation LUTs, one from a medium-sized collection and the other two from a far bigger set of LUTs.

Choosing the looks I wanted took far too long and I skipped over thousands of other possible candidates.

Small previews of how each LUT would render the image would have sped up the process considerably.

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Skylum Releases Tonality Mega B&W Pack, Huge Free Monochrome Presets Collection for Its Luminar Image Editing Powerhouse

Skylum has released Tonality Mega B&W Pack, a massive free collection recreations of the looks from Tonality, the company’s legacy black-and-white aka monochrome plug-in cum standalone application named Tonality CK.

Tonality CK is part of the Creative Kit 2016 collection from the days when Skylum traded under the name of Macphun.

The Tonality Mega B&W Pack has been created for Luminar, Skylum’s image editing and raw conversion powerhouse application cum plug-in, available in versions for macOS and Windows. 

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Skylum’s film simulation subset of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack presets pack for Luminar.

I have been hoping for some time that the many excellent film simulations, photochemical toning looks, HDR renderings and more would find their way from Tonality CK into Luminar so the arrival of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack for Luminar is welcome indeed.

The Tonality Mega B&W Pack can be traced back to the Nik Collection’s Silver Efex through Creative Kit 2016’s Tonality CK component via the Nik Software company, several of whose former employees joined Macphun.

Google bought Nik and thus the Nik Collection, apparently for the sake of the company’s Snapseed mobile and desktop image editing application.

Google discontinued the desktop version, sadly, then sold Nik Collection to DxO where it is being developed as a set of Photoshop plug-ins and soon, hopefully, as a plug-in for DxO PhotoLab.

The free Tonality preset collection for Skylum’s Luminar image editing software

Skylum’s Luminar is undergoing development in leaps and bounds with an artificial intelligence-driven Sky Enhancer filter being released shortly, followed not long afterwards by the long-awaited Luminar Libraries module aka media management application that will be released free.

Recent and coming Luminar upgrades are being built with AI technologies developed by Skylum side project Photolemur, an application useful in its own right especially when batch processing large sets of images from events.

I am very excited by the potential of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack for processing raw images I visualized as monochrome when shooting.

Although several image editing applications and plug-ins contain film simulations, can import film simulation styles  and presets or are based entirely upon them, having them contained within Luminar in the form of the Tonality preset pack is handy for keeping it within the same application rather than jumping from one to another and back again.

Tonality Mega B&W Pack contains ten preset categories and over 170 monochrome looks and styles:

  • Tonality Street
  • Tonality Vintage
  • Tonality Toning
  • Tonality Dramatic
  • Tonality Film Emulation
  • Tonality Outdoor
  • Tonality Portrait
  • Tonality Architecture
  • Tonality Basic
  • Tonality HDR

I hope that the Skylum team will look into releasing emulations of great colour films of the past as well as a range of silver-based and non-silver printing processes.

Meanwhile I am excited by the prospect of trying out the Tonality Mega B&W Pack, especially in combining emulations of some of my favourite classic monochrome films with emulations of some of my favourite monochrome split-toning processes.

I visualize, photograph and process my work in monochrome when the colour in the subject and the scene does not serve to convey useful information and emotion, but often choose to process my monochrome images in ways that communicate emotions and informational subtleties swamped by colour.

Example, Tonality Mega B&W Pack in Skylum Luminar 2018

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A quick and dirty sample documentary photograph shot tonight then quickly processed in Skylum Luminar 2018 with Tonality Mega B&W Pack using Ilford Pan F 50 ISO film emulation and gold/selenium split toning.

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Skylum: Enhance Your Workflow with the Latest Luminar Updates [Luminar 2018 1.3.0 has been released]

https://skylum.com/blog/enhance-your-workflow-with-the-latest-luminar-updates

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Single image view of Luminar 2018’s digital asset management (DAM) system, currently under development and due for release later in 2018. Luminar 1.3.0 already contains some great new additions and improvements including using DxO FilmPack as a plug-in, improved sharpening, scrolling through LUTs in the LUT Mapping Filter and more.

“Brand new for the Apple crowd is Plugin Support. You’re now be able to use these third-party plugins through the Plugins menu: Imagenomic Noiseware 5, Imagenomic Portraiture 3, Imagenomic Realgrain 2, and DxO FilmPack 5.

You also now have access to these Luminar improvements:

Raw Develop filter.

The Lens and Transform effects are now improved, for example when using the Compare option, effects aren’t shown on the left (Before) side, nor are the effects blended with the original when using the Filters Amount slider.

Sharpening.

It’s now easier to use the Sharpening filter with more responsive and accurate results. You can also get real-time feedback as you adjust the Sharpening controls and see all your changes in high res.

Batch Processing.

Exporting to several file formats is now possible, including new options for both PDF and JPEG-2000.

Filter Controls.

Save time by clicking on the checkbox or control name to enable or disable all filter checkboxes. You can also use scrubbable number sliders by mousing over the filter values, then moving the slider by clicking and dragging left or right.

JPEG Controls.

You can now precisely control your JPEG and JPEG-2000 compression. The Quality slider shows you the precise numeric value, and you can change it by clicking on a number or entering the exact value you want.

Image History.

When using the RAW Develop and Develop filters, check your image history to see White Balance presets, which are displayed with the preset name. You can also now use the “Save History” option when you save files using the “Windows Compatible” option.

LUT Mapping.

You can now easily scroll through your LUTs in the LUT Mapping filter.  Just hover your mouse over a LUT and it updates in real-time.

Language Support.

These eight languages now have improved localizations: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Simplified Chinese.”

Links

Joel Wolfson: Raw Processors Compared, There’s A Lot More To It Than Quality, Efficiency, Accuracy and Enjoyment with the Latest Fuji Raw Processors* plus Comparison Chart

http://joelwolfson.com/raw-processors-compared/

“… I’m covering a couple different categories of raw processors: Two optimized for single image processing and two that are more comprehensive hub type solutions with image management capabilities. They are Luminar 2018 (v1.1.1) and Topaz Studio (v1.8.2) for the former category and ON1 Photo Raw 2018 (v2018.1) and Lightroom Classic CC (v7.2) for the latter….

Link:

Jim Nix: Luminar 2018 Tutorial, Part 1: Getting Started – Complete Set of 12 Free Tutorials for Skylum Luminar

“New to Luminar? Just purchased Luminar 2018 and interested in learning how to master it? This is the tutorial series for you! In this multi-part series, I will walk through how to use Luminar 2018 and take advantage of the incredible power and flexibility of this tool to create stunning photographs. I will cover everything from the basics to advanced techniques and everything in between….”

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Macphun Announces Aurora HDR 2018 for Pre-Order Right Now for Release September 28, on Mac and Windows

Macphun has announced it is now accepting pre-orders for the latest version of its high dynamic range image editing software Aurora HDR. Aurora HDR 2018 is scheduled for release on September 28 and will be launched with a big, impressive set of new features, improved current features, new and improved tools and filters, and a more sophisticated user interface as well as a 200% speed boost. 

Aurora HDR 2017 will be available for Mac and Windows, and both versions can be pre-ordered right now at a 60% discount along with bonuses.

As with Macphun’s other products, Aurora HDR 2018 can be used in its standalone version or as a plug-in or external editor for a range of popular image editing applications, supports raw files as well other common file formats and exports to PSD (Mac-only), TIFF, PNG, GIF, JPEG and JPEG 2000 as well as to other Macphun products.

Aurora HDR 2018 User Interface, Tools and Features

Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 high dynamic range image processing software is the most sophisticated and feature-rich of its kind, and has persuaded me to create a growing proportion of my stills photography work in HDR. Each version of Aurora keeps getting better.
The HDR brackets import dialog offers Ghost Reduction and Chromatic Aberration removal options, both of which I choose especially when shooting HDR brackets handheld or of scenes containing moving objects. Aurora HDR does a great job of ghosts removal, giving me the confidence to shoot almost anything anywhere as HDR even when I am not carrying a tripod.
I first started seriously looking into HDR imaging when working on a short video project involving applying the Ken Burns effect on a long series of stills images shot in hard sunlight in the tropics. I was disappointed by the inability of non-HDR photographs to retain a long dynamic range, leading to near-black shadows without enough detail to justify a camera move into those areas. The HDR software of the time was not sophisticated enough for what I visualized. Then, Macphun released the first version of Aurora HDR.
Aurora HDR 2018 comes with plenty of realistic and beyond realistic presets, and a straight, unedited HDR multi-bracket merge might be exactly what you want without any further image editing. The choice is yours.
One of the most exciting new features in Aurora HDR 2018 is its manual Lens Correction tool. When using previous versions of Aurora, I would export TIFF files to DxO ViewPoint 3 to apply automatic profile-based lens corrections. Having Lens Correction in the new version means avoiding that extra, external step to keep your files fully editable within Aurora HDR 2018 alone. I am hoping that lens-based corrections will find their way into future versions of Aurora and Luminar.
Aurora HDR 2018’s new Transform Tool allows corrections to perspective and other attributes in a way that needed to be done by exporting TIFF files to external editors like DxO ViewPoint 3. Now we can keep it all within Aurora and eliminate those extra steps.
Aurora HDR 2018’s History panel is another very welcome new feature in this version, allowing you to backtrack and refine your edits in the same way as History panels in other image editing software like Photoshop.

Before and After, Naturalistic and Enhanced

With Aurora HDR 2018’s new capacity to create an acceptably naturalistic HDR merge before you apply presets or controls, you cam choose a wide range of looks for each image from mildly realist through to wildly surrealistic, as illustrated by the following images from Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 press pack.

If Aurora HDR 2018’s over one hundred tools and editing features are not enough, you can export your images directly into Luminar as a plug-in for even more editing tools, presets and more extreme looks again.

Lone Yucca, White Sands, by Alik Griffin

Moraine Lake, by Jim Nix

Dubai, by Dima Sytnik

Using Aurora HDR

Based on the lovely landscape and travel photographs most software developers use to promote the products’ capabilities, I am not their typical user.

My photography practice centres on documentary genres in monochrome and naturalistic colour, on portraiture, on scene-setting cityscapes and street photography to keep my visual reflexes in order in between documentary projects.

I have yet to produce a sunrise or sunset landscape like the many fine examples Macphun uses to show off its excellent Aurora HDR and Luminar raw processing and image editing software.

But I do use both Macphun products for all the genres and subjects un which I work, as well as the company’s Creative Kit, and I am increasingly shooting portraits and product shots as multiple bracket HDR images.

Although I have some excellent LED lights for stills and video in the form of a Rotolight Neo 3 Light Kit, I often need to quickly grab fast but good quality portraits or product shots with camera and lens only, handheld.

Since its inception Aurora has been adept at handling handheld HDR brackets, automatically erasing the effect of movement between frames aka “ghosting”.

Each successive revision of Aurora has made it easier to avoid HDR’s more blatantly surreal effects, adding controls and presets permitting more subtlety, increased realism.

Aurora HDR 2017 was key in that regard, persuading me to shoot almost all my product shots as HDR images, all the better to deep dive into the textures, materials and construction of the objects depicted.

Early forays into handheld HDR portraiture bore encouraging fruit and the arrival of Aurora HDR 2018 with even more improvements in more real than real image processing now have me planning an environmental and head-and-shoulders portrait project.

The photographs in this project will initially be handheld and consist of three to five brackets, but I am itching to try seven and even nine brackets under challenging lighting conditions to learn whether that will reveal even more information and a visual richness not achievable by any other means.

Having tried out 3 Legged Thing’s Equinox Leo micro-traveller tripod some time ago, the same company’s taller Albert travel tripod is looking appealing so that I can stand face-to-face with my subjects or a little higher art lower as demanded by an environmental portraiture approach.

I will be working on new HDR photographs in several of my favourite genres – portraiture, still life, urban documentary – over the coming weeks and look forward to sharing the results in other articles on Aurora HDR 2018 as well as using them to illustrate articles on production hardware.

First images processed in Aurora HDR 2018

These first stumbling steps into Aurora HDR 2018 reveal new possibilities and some major improvements over its predecessors that I will continue to explore over the coming weeks and months.

I have been wanting to explore new directions in photography for some time, other ways of making images more related to what I experienced of painting and the other fine arts way back in art school compared to the film-simulations-influenced way I usually default to when processing digital photographs.

One thing I am really happy about is how Aurora HDR 2018 is not subject to halos in the skies like previous versions. In the photograph of the garage, Aurora HDR 2017 would always render distinct halos around the power lines and now there are no halos at all!

Another thing I really like about Aurora HDR 2018 is how good the initial tone mapping looks, how naturalistic it is. It is a great starting point from which to explore realism or surrealism with further manipulations within Aurora based on what works best to support the ideas and emotions I want to express.

Links

Macphun: Let Your Aerial Photos Come to Life with Luminar

https://macphun.com/luminar/aerial-photography

“Do you yearn for a bird’s eye view? The latest version of Luminar for Mac features powerful and dedicated tools that help aerial photographers create their best photos ever….

… The new workspace instantly reveals the key photo filters you need to fix and enhance your aerial photos, from Dehaze to Accent filter, powered by artificial intelligence….”

Link:

Think Tank Photo Releases SKB Series Hard Cases with Think Tank Photo Soft Interiors for Photographers and Videographers

At long last, a company has recognized an issue that has increasingly been coming to the fore for travelling photographers and cinematographers, and has come up with a thoughtful, well-designed and well-made solution to it. Or rather, two companies in close collaboration, Think Tank Photo and SKB, and that issue is the increasing demand by airlines that we agree to stashing our precious, costly gear in the cargo hold instead of carrying it on as cabin luggage.

Think Tank Photo, a company whose soft camera bags and accessories I have used for some years, has collaborated with a maker of hard cases, SKB, a company new to me until now. Think Tank lists the products of this collaboration on its website under the SKB Hard Cases moniker and SBK has them on its website as the SKB Flyer Series.

There are similarities and differences between the two companies’ listings of the products of their collaboration, with SKB adding some video-oriented Flyer cases and a very useful long logistics hard case for carrying lighting and other production gear while Think Tank Photo appears to be  concentrating more on the stills side of things.

Think Tank Photo was a pioneer in supporting hybrid stills/video photographers/cinematographers with its brilliant but discontinued Wired Up Multimedia soft case range that I use to this very day. Think Tank Photo seems to have passed the hybrid thing by now, focussing on pure cinematography with a fourteen soft case-strong collection of video transport cases illustrated carrying RED, Canon Cinema EOS and DJI drone cameras.

A subset of Think Tank Photo SKB Hard Case photographs

Think Tank Photo has recently begun illustrating its products with Fujifilm X-Series mirrorless cameras in a hat-tip to the ever-growing popularity of APS-C and, one assumes, Micro Four Thirds hybrid stills/video cameras for professional photography and moviemaking, especially in the self-funded independent documentary and feature sector, a refreshing relief from their former concentration on 35mm format DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.

I do not use the inane and inaccurate “full frame”, “full format” and “crop sensors” terminology in reference to digital sensor sizes. Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera makes such olde worlde 35mm absolutism appear ridiculous, especially given that its body is about the same size or just a little bigger than the average DSLR but with a much larger sensor, establishing a new standard for image quality to be judged against if one is so inclined.

Although M43 cameras are not shown in the product shots, it is safe to assume that a case that can carry Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2 Super 35 APS-C cameras, lenses and accessories can also hold Panasonic or Olympus Super 16 M43 cameras, lenses and accessories.

That is good news for those like me who would prefer to transport our Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DMC-GH4 or DMC-GX8 fully rigged and ready for fast camera case egress going straight into shooting documentary footage minus fussing about attaching microphones, recorders, monitors, cables, cages, rigging and the like.

The same assumptions should apply to transporting the GFX 50S for stills photography given its DSLR size but bigger and better sensor.

The Think Tank Photo cum SKB Flyer hard case cum soft internals series could not have come at a better time as I am currently having to radically rethink how to carry my stills and video production gear during shoots, going to and from shoots and, when this interminable subdivision process is finally completed so we can refinance our projects including Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success, travelling intercity, interstate and overseas.

I am on the verge of a major camera case cleanup, reducing my reliance on shoulder bags and even some backpacks unduly straining permanently damaged spine, shoulders, arms and back.

Another clean-up factor is leather now that Sydney’s weather veers towards sub-tropical with ever-advancing climate change and the danger of leather-loving, lens-destroying mould taking up permanent residence in most Australian homes. Add to that the cruelty and environmental impact aspects of leather production.

I want to see all camera bag and accessory makers abandon the use of leather and follow the examples of companies like Cosyspeed that use kinder, safer materials like synthetic leather as used in the automobile industry.

Meanwhile I am looking at the specifications of all ten of the SKB Hard Cases at Think Tank Photo’s website while remembering scenes I witnessed in the days when I carted aluminium hard cases and soft logistics cases around the deserts of Western Australia and the odd foray to the eastern states for corporate assignments.

Watching luggage handlers hurl bags on and off their trailers, topple them onto the ground or sling them into luggage chutes made me cringe every time. It is great if you can get away with carrying your gear into the cabin but best to be prepared for that odd stroppy ticket or gate attendant who disputes that your “airline carry-on approved size” really is the approved size or rejects it for breaching said size by a millimetre or two.

Think Tank Photo SKB iSeries 3i-2011-7BP Backpack & Rolling Case

The 3i-2011-7BP is the one hard case in the SKB Hard Cases collection that combines a removable backpack with a rolling case, for use in a way not unlike the one that Deanne Fitzmaurice demonstrates in her How to Pack Gear for a Regional Jet video.

I have been considering something similar for safely transporting a future mostly-video documentary production kit based around the GH5 and its predecessors the GH4 and GX8. I just need to determine whether the set-up illustrated above will carry everything I need for short and feature documentary projects. Time to make a list!

I will need a second camera bag for cabin-only documentary stills gear, to complement the cabin or cargo hold mostly-video case, as well as a safer way of carrying tripod, lights and lighting stands for my coming new travelling kit to be complete.

It would be terrific if a vendor turns up at the SMPTE 2017 at Darling Harbour mid-July with a massive collection of Think Tank Photo camera bags so I can work out some optimal carrying combinations.

The steady reduction of photography retailers in this part of the world and the ending of photography trade shows here makes seeing, trying and selecting the right gear even more difficult than before. Guessing which camera bags you need based on product shots with cameras, lens and accessory systems you don’t use can be a challenge!

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Image Credits:

  • Header image made from product photograph kindly supplied by Think Tank Photo and SKB Cases, processed with Macphun Luminar Neptune using a preset from the Tintype Looks collection, in remembrance of Khadija Saye,  the emerging British artist tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Macphun: Celebrate! Macphun Photo Software is Coming to Windows PC

https://macphun.com/pc