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.

Links

The Best HDR Image Editor There is, Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019, is Available for Pre-Order until October 4, with Discounts

Towards the end of each photography editing software maker Skylum, formerly Macphun, announces then releases the annual major update to its two multiple award-winning flagship products, Aurora HDR and Luminar, and both are made available at pre-order discount for a certain period from announcement to the actual release date. 

Right now it is Aurora HDR’s turn, about to be updated to Aurora HDR 2019, with discounts applying until October 4 2018, and the many new additions and improvements in this version make it an absolute must-have update in my humble opinion. 

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Skylum Aurora HDR 2019, with this version blessed with more smart enhancements than ever before as well as a good list of other new features and improvements.

I have dipped my toes in and out of the high dynamic range aka HDR realm for some years at least since Adobe added HDR capability to Photoshop, trying a range of HDR software whether in the form of plug-ins or standalone applications, but none really caught my attention nor got me excited by the possibilities of this form of image creation and editing until Aurora first made its appearance.

Over the years since then the Skylum team has steadily improved Aurora as well all the rest of its software with concepts and features very different from what those usually found in more conventional image editing software made by more conventional image software companies.

One of those unconventional concepts involves features that appear to derive from a side project, Photolemur, described as “the world’s first fully automated photo enhance that makes all your images great automatically with the help of Artificial Intelligence”.

The products of Photolemur’s AI advances started to find their way into Aurora HDR and Luminar a versions or two ago and, with Aurora HDR 2019’s software engine being radically updated to the brand new Quantum HDR Engine and with a number of AI and Smart features appearing in both flagship applications.

I suspect the AI integration in both will continue and look forward to seeing what will appear in Luminar 2019 in the coming months.

Skylum’s modus operandi has been to create standalone versions of its software that can also operate as plug-ins to popular host applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and more recently to each other with, for example, Aurora HDR 2019 being able to call on Luminar and Photolemur as well as a long list other popular Photoshop plug-ins.

My personal MO when processing HDR images is to do the fundamental HDR tone mapping and basic editing in Aurora then pass the image on to Luminar directly or oftentimes export as a TIFF file with a detour through DxO ViewPoint for powerful automatic optical corrections based on my raw files’ EXIF data and sometimes though DxO FilmPack or Alien Skin Exposure as well for each application’s excellent simulations for classic and quirky analog films and printing processes.

With the addition of Look Up Tables aka LUT support in Aurora HDR 2019 as previously occurred in Luminar, I suspect I will doing less of this detouring with the benefit of applying items from an extensive LUT collection acquired over many years shooting video.

A number of those LUTs are derived from scans of classic, now often sadly discontinued, colour and monochrome movie film stocks and printing films or are based on feature film colour grading looks based on analog films, with one of the most recent such releases being Digital Film Stock aka DFS by LookLabs.

There is a host of similar LUT collections available on the Web for free or very reasonable prices given their quality and if you are new to the world of LUTs I recommend searching and trying to see what LUTs can do with the benefit of Aurora HDR 2019’s new LUT Mapping tool.

Screenshots, Aurora HDR 2019 user interface

The new and improved features in Aurora HDR 2019

User Interface / Performance

  • Tone-mapping technology for bracketed images with the Quantum HDR Engine.
  • Tone-mapping technology for single images with the Quantum HDR Engine.

Editing

  • HDR Smart Structure for realistic and artifact-free structure.
  • All new Aurora HDR Looks to enhance and stylize images.
  • LUT Mapping filter for creative color and tone adjustments.
  • Eleven integrated LUTs to use with the LUT Mapping filter.
  • HDR Details Boost filter that allows for high-resolution tuning while adjusting – improved.
  • Adjustable Gradient filter with new controls for Shadows and Highlights– improved.

Open / Plugin / Export

  • Photoshop plugins support.
  • Photolemur plugin support.
  • Plugins menu for both Mac® and Windows® users
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A quick tryout, resurrecting ghosts

Unlike most of the photographers who rely on HDR, I use this style of photography not so much for landscapes, cityscapes, architecture or interiors but for portraits, product shots and stills for use in videos often for use with the Ken Burns effect.

For portraits and product shots in particular, most often shot with a mixture of natural and artificial light and increasingly with rather challenging natural light conditions, the HDR plus Aurora HDR combo results in images where textures acquire a hyperrealism that enhances the feeling of actually being in front of that person or those objects.

But I digress.

The 3-bracket HDR image above is one of my less frequently shot scenic photographs and my rather unsophisticated quick and dirty edit in Aurora HDR 2019 in the middle shows just how far Skylum’s software engineers have come with their Quantum HDR Engine and its radically improved processing quality and speed.

Instead of needing a fair bit of work to get a typical HDR image natural looking, Aurora HDR 2019 creates a very realistic tone mapping rendering from the word go, then allows you to choose from a large and growing selection of naturalistic or highly creative presets, or even more image editing controls than in previous versions of Aurora.

From the evidence of the list above of new and improved features in Aurora HDR 2019, and the results of my quick and dirty tryout scene, I will be rethinking my use of HDR imaging and especially how I will be processing future HDR images. 

Reservations that I used to have about HDR due to haloing and processing speed have now gone and I am looking forward to counting on HDR and Aurora HDR 2019 far more than I ever have before.

Portraiture tryout, 7 brackets, straight tone mapping and minimal processing

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Expressing exhaustion and resignation via Aurora HDR 2019 and a film emulation LUT.

A friend I have often used as a test subject dropped by and I decided to try out Aurora HDR 2019 as a portrait processing toolset.

This is the result, above, after minimal processing entirely in Aurora HDR 2019.

During my editorial photography career in the analog era, I specialized in making emotive close-up portraits and information-packed environmental portraits for magazines and newspaper colour supplements, using colour transparency films, Polaroid Type 55 instant positive/negative film and Kodak Tri-X using sheet film and 120 roll film cameras of various types.

That career was interrupted at its height due to succumbing to photochemical allergies followed by conceiving and cofounding “not only Black+White” magazine, a project that helped further my longtime ambitions to help bring about positive change in how photography was understood and used as a means of communication and as an art form in Australia.

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The light in the café where this was shot is amongst the worst that I have shot in over the years and previous attempts using earlier versions of Aurora HDR have been disappointing. This attempt processed with Aurora HDR 2019 is much better. HDR portraiture benefits from expressive lighting, whether natural or artificial, rather than this sort of dull overhead illumination.

My portraiture practice was intimately shaped by the cameras, lenses, films and processing and printing materials and methods of the time.

I carted my 4″x5″ sheet film camera with a medium wide and a medium long lens, sheet film and 120 roll film holders, Broncolor 3-light electronic flash kit, tripod and light stands, with my two Leica M-4P rangefinder cameras and lenses as backups, around the city and suburbs on assignment, photographing creative people, chefs, actors, celebrities and businessmen.

It was fun while it lasted and I used it as an opportunity to introduce my clients to new ways of processing, printing and reproducing my work all the better to communicate the emotions I wanted readers to experience when looking at my photographs in those magazines.

I have long wanted to get back to those forms of photography but this time unencumbered by all that gear, stripping my means of production back to just me, a handheld camera and uncomplicated but expressive processing methods.

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Portrait of a real estate agent on a day of smokey sunlight due to burning off in the local national park nearby.

Will Aurora HDR 2019 allow me to do that?

I hope so, based on the results of this quick and dirty test above.

Time to take a good, hard look at the current state of the magazine editorial photography landscape here in Australia now?

Definitely time to build a new portrait portfolio, and Aurora HDR 2019 may well be an important factor in that.

One of my aims in portraiture was and is to create the impression in the viewer’s mind that they are in the same room as the subject.

High dynamic range photography appears to assist in helping form that impression, though I have much to try and much to learn about how and why, and how to get the best out of it for portraiture.

Links

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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

Skylum Software’s Luminar 2018 Jupiter Update, Amazing Raw Convertor and Image Editor, Released

Skylum Software, the independent photography image editing and raw file processing software company, maker of the excellent Aurora HDR, Luminar and Creative Kit desktop applications, has released the Jupiter update for Luminar 2018. 

Skylum Software was formerly known as Macphun during its macOS-only days and changed its name to better reflect the fact that the company is now making its software for Windows as well as macOS.

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Luminar 2018 Jupiter contains over 300 improvements and updates to make Luminar more responsive and more useful, including significant performance enhancements to allow faster photo editing with speed gains of up to a factor of twelve.

Luminar’s Raw Develop filter has reportedly been updated for even cleaner images with better color and less noise.

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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’s long-awaited digital asset manager (DAM) functionality is scheduled for release later in 2018.

Links

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….”

Links

Jim Nix: Luminar Live: Diving Into Luminar 2018

“Hello friends! This was an attempted Facebook Live event that didn’t go live there due to technical issues, so I recorded it and am sharing it here instead. I edit 3 images and go through some new filters in Luminar 2018 while sharing some tips for getting the most out of them. Check it out and enjoy!”

Macphun: New Luminar 2018 Supernova

https://macphun.com/blog/new-luminar-2018-supernova

“We haven’t announced it officially, but many of you have already guessed that the new version of Luminar will be available this year….

… Right off the bat, get better images with an improved RAW engine that’s not only faster but delivers less noise and better color. Then take complete control over your image with new Lens Correction and Transform Tools, plus old favorites such as Spot Heal and Color Temperature to remove flaws.

We’ve dramatically improved the existing filters and added blazing fast noise reduction for cleaning up unwanted noise in real-time. Also added: new impressive filters to stylize, tone, and enhance your photos, including Sun Rays, Dodge & Burn, LUT Mapping, Hue Shift, Brilliance, and a cool new Matte Look….

… We’re working on a fantastic digital asset manager (“DAM”) which will work like magic with the hard drives you already own and with any cloud storage platform you want to use. …”

Links

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: