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The story of Luminar: everything you need to know

Luminar is one of the leading photo editing software used by photography professionals and for good reason: it has excellent image editing capabilities and a pleasant user interface.

Luminar 4, Luminar AI, Luminar Neo: the software has undergone great changes since its inception in November 2016. Each new version available on Windows and MacOS has brought its share of new tools with the aim of improving the quality of Luminar user photos.

Developed by Skylum (formerly Macphun), the Luminar photo editing software has a history that reflects these changes and improvements. We invite you to discover its history.

Table of contents

The origins of Luminar

Today, Luminar is a photo editing software program widely recognized by photography professionals. But how did this software come into being?

Paul Muzok and Dmitry Sytnik, the two co-founders of Macphun Software

To focus on Skylum’s history, you must first go back to the origins of Luminar. Luminar’s story began in 2009.

That year, Paul Muzok and Dmitry Sytnik founded Macphun Software. At that time, the company developed different types of applications and was not yet specialized in photo editing.

Macphun Software gradually specialized in photography and developed Luminar

A few years after its creation, Macphun Software wanted to refocus on a specific field. A field that both co-founders are passionate about: photography. Specifically, the founders want to develop innovative solutions related to technologies for creative photography.

It was during this period that Macphun Software created the first version of Luminar. When it was created in November 2016, the photo editing software was far from resembling what it is today. 

All about Luminar's history 3

2016 to 2018: from Macphun Software to Skylum

Over the years, Luminar has evolved. Updates with new tools and features are emerging to bring different versions of Luminar to life, which will be presented below.

The first of Luminar’s major updates was called Luminar Neptune and was released in 2017. However, Luminar remained exclusively available to macOS users at that time. In order to extend this availability, the company launched Luminar 2018 available on both macOS and Windows for PC. This new version included a RAW development module, a new user interface and many new filters.

With Luminar 2018, the two co-founders intend to extend their tools and functionalities to as many people as possible. A major change was then made to mark this new page in the company’s history. With the launch of Luminar 2018, Macphun Software changed its name to Skylum.

Luminar today

Today, Luminar is one of the most reliable photo editing software programs for photographers.

As we will see shortly, Luminar has continued to evolve over the years, as has Skylum. The Ukrainian company has grown into an international team of enthusiasts. Skylum has even won numerous awards in the field of photo editing as well as the trust of thousands of users.

The evolution of Luminar and its different versions

To briefly introduce Luminar, here are its main features:

  • Luminar works as a standalone application or as a plug-in;
  • Luminar allows you to work directly on RAW files;
  • Luminar offers filters that can be used to edit images;
  • Luminar also offers layers and masks.

But to learn more about the features of the software, it is necessary to focus on the evolution of Luminar. Over the years, new updates have made it possible to improve the photo editing software and even to create specialized versions, such as Luminar AI offering features related to artificial intelligence.

The first versions of Luminar

The first version of Luminar software released in 2017 is called Luminar Neptune. A few months later, Luminar 2018 was released, followed by Luminar 3 which brought a new library and cataloging module.

These different versions are now considered to be old versions and are no longer available.

Luminar 4

At the end of 2019, Skylum released a new version of its photo editing software: Luminar 4. This version generated a lot of anticipation as, for the first time, Luminar was offering innovative features based on artificial intelligence.

During this new update, improvements and additions were also made, such as:

  • improving the interface for better ergonomics;
  • the functionality of replacing the sky with a single click;
  • specific features dedicated to portrait retouching (skin improvement, removal of red eyes or dark circles, face refinement, etc.) ;
  • the addition of the AI structure tool that optimizes the structure (sharpness and clarity) of a photo thanks to artificial intelligence.

Luminar AI

At the end of 2020, Skylum released a new version of its photo software: Luminar AI. Artificial intelligence was already present in Luminar 4, this time, the AI features are even more numerous.

Artificial intelligence is central to the photo processing process in this version, and allows for a lot of editing to be done much more quickly. Simply put, Luminar AI allows you to perform tasks in just a few clicks, where it was necessary to spend time in various settings on previous versions. However, the interface of the software remains simple and is very suitable for beginners.

So how does Luminar AI make photo editing much easier and faster? Artificial intelligence is able to analyze an image and separate the different elements present in the photograph (sky, faces, vegetation, etc.). The corrections can then be applied automatically to various parameters such as:

  • contrast;
  • light;
  • colorimetry.

Luminar AI brings other new features:

  • AI sky that allows to edit the sky of a photo, but also its reflection in the water in an automatic way;
  • transparent texture caches that allow you to add PNG files with transparencies as texture (ideal for adding text or emojis);
  • new templates to simplify photo editing.

Finally, users agree that Luminar AI has a simplified navigation experience.

All about Luminar's history 1

Luminar Neo

However, it is Luminar Neo, the latest version of the RAW file processing software published by Skylum, which is now the only version available. Luminar AI and Luminar 4 were replaced in 2022 by Luminar Neo.

Previous versions are no longer available, but don’t panic. Luminar Neo takes over from these predecessors while bringing new features and improvements. Luminar Neo uses the same principle as Luminar AI, which is based on artificial intelligence tools, to provide a wide range of processing:

  • Accent AI;
  • Face AI/Iris AI;
  • Structure AI;
  • Body AI;
  • Skin AI;
  • Portrait Bokeh AI;
  • Atmosphere AI.

Other AI tools are available with Luminar Neo, such as Relight AI to adapt the lighting or Mask AI to create masks by identifying objects or elements automatically.

Finally, a great new feature is available with Luminar Neo: the new version of the photo processing software has a completely rewritten and accelerated RAW development engine. While Skylum can offer add-ons (extensions) in the future, other third-party publishers also have the possibility. This aspect makes the software even more complete and accurate while being scalable over time.

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