Are you looking to enhance your photos with Luminar effects? Are you looking for that ‘secret sauce’ that can really improve your photos?
Look no further.
Because this article will give you 10 useful Luminar effects–which will instantly enhance your shots.
Let’s get started.
10 Luminar Effects: Video Tutorial
For those of you who prefer watching a video, I’ve filmed a quick tutorial covering all the effects mentioned in this article.
Check it out here:
But for those who prefer text, keep reading!
1. Recover Highlights and Shadows With the Light Sliders
If you want to create stunning edit effects with Luminar, I recommend you start with exposure.
Luminar offers two excellent sliders for bringing back detail into your photos, both located under the Light tool in the Essentials tab:
The Highlights slider is excellent for situations when you have too-bright highlights, such as when you’re working with a bright sky. Just drag down the Highlights slider, and you’ll be able to bring out a lot more detail.
Note that you don’t just need to use the Highlights slider to recover lost detail. It can also be used to enhance detail that’s already present–but just doesn’t stand out.
You can generally use the Shadows slider in a similar (but opposite) way:
To boost the shadows, either to bring back lost detail into the scene, or to make the shadow detail more apparent.
While both of these adjustments may seem very basic, they’re an extremely important early step in the editing process. They give you a great foundation for further editing in Luminar–and they just make photos look plain better.
2. Add Contrast With the Smart Contrast Slider (Or Curves)
Here’s another very basic adjustment, but one that’s pretty much indispensable:
Contrast will take your photo from something boring, like this:
It really is a key improvement, and it’s one that you should harness in almost every one of your photos.
Now, you can boost the contrast in a few easy ways. The first, and simplest, is to use the Smart Contrast slider in the Light tool panel:
Just raise the contrast until you get something you like.
The second way to boost the contrast is with the Curves tool (which is found under the Advanced Settings menu in the Light tool):
Add a few points to the curve, then drag it into an S-shape:
And your photo will become nice and contrasty.
3. Crush the Blacks for a Contrast-Heavy, Cinematic Look
I’ve talked about the value of adding some contrast to your photos.
But if you want to get really advanced, you can selectively add contrast…
…to the darker parts of the photo.
You should do this with the Curves option, found in the Light tool panel.
Just add some points to the curve, as demonstrated in the previous section.
And then drag down the leftmost part of the curve:
That way, you’ll “crush” the darkest parts of the photo to become even darker, and create a cinematic feeling.
(This is a common trick used by filmmakers to add drama.)
And speaking of cinematic looks, filmmakers love this next post-processing effect:
4. Lift the Black Point for a Beautiful Fade
The black point refers to the point at which your photo loses all detail.
And if you want to create a very cool effect, you can lift the black point, for a faded look:
It’s pretty simple to do. Just open the Light tab and head to the Advanced Settings dropdown, as described above.
Then add a few points to the curve.
Last, drag up the end point:
And your fade will immediately appear.
5. Bump Up the Saturation or Vibrance for Enhanced Colors
One of the most common mistakes in post-processing is to overuse the saturation sliders.
But here’s the thing:
When used carefully…
…saturation can be the difference between a boring photo and a photo that pops.
Check out this photo without saturation adjustments:
And then look at this photo with saturation adjustments:
Big difference, right?
And all you have to do is open the Color tool in Luminar, and bump up the Saturation or Vibrance slider:
What’s the difference between these two options?
Well, the Saturation slider boosts the intensity of all the colors in your photo equally.
Whereas the Vibrance slider primarily boosts the intensity of non-skin-tones and areas that are initially less saturated.
(In other words, it’s like a smart saturation effect.)
Personally, I tend to use Saturation on nature scenes and Vibrance on scenes with people.
But it’s usually worth testing both sliders out, just to see what you get.
6. Use the Advanced Color Sliders to Deepen Areas of Your Photos
Selective color adjustments are one of my all-time favorite editing effects.
And Luminar offers a really easy way to use these:
With the Advanced Settings option in the Color tool.
You can select different colors, then adjust the hue, the saturation, and the luminance (i.e., the brightness) of that color.
This is super useful for simplifying a photo’s color palette. For instance, if you have some blues and greens, but you find the mix of colors distracting, you can push the blue hue to become greener. Or you can desaturate the blues, so they distract less from the overall image.
You can also desaturate spots of color in the background, or you can increase the intensity of certain colors to make them stand out.
I love to deepen greens in my images for a little extra pop, like this:
I’d go so far as to say that the selective color adjustment tools can be a game-changer for any photographer; they’re just that powerful.
7. Add a Vignette to Push Focus to the Subject
If you’re looking to add the finishing touches to an image, a subtle vignette can be the perfect effect.
See, vignettes darken the edges and corners of the frame. This serves to focus the viewer on your main subject–so that they’re compelled to return to it, over and over again.
Here’s an exaggerated example:
And here’s a much more subtle one:
The best vignettes are difficult to actually see; instead, they do their work almost subconsciously.
To create a vignette with Luminar, open the Essentials tab, then tap Vignette.
You’ll have the option to adjust the size of the vignette, the placement, the amount, and more!
8. Dodge and Burn for Added Dimensionality
If I had to show beginner photographers one effect that can take photos from mediocre to incredible in a few minutes, it’d probably be this:
Dodging and burning.
Now, the effect is quite simple; all you’re doing is painting on brightness (dodging) and darkness (burning).
But what a difference it can make.
You see, by selectively painting brightness on the highlights and darkness in the shadows, you can add significant depth to your photos, making them far more three-dimensional.
You can also use the dodge tool on your main subject, in order to emphasize it, while using the burn tool on your background, to make sure it avoids attention.
To access the dodging and burning tools in Luminar, head over to the Pro tab, then click on Dodge & Burn.
Then tap Start Painting, and work with the brush that Luminar provides:
I like to work with a brush on very low strength (usually around 10%), and slowly build up brushstrokes, rather than starting out strong. This will result in a more realistic effect.
9. Use the AI Sky Replacement Tool to Punch Up Boring Skies
Here it is:
The effect that Luminar is most known for.
The AI Sky Replacement tool.
It really is quite astonishing what this tool can do, though it’s far from perfect.
It’ll take a photo like this:
And replace the sky, to give you this:
To access the AI Sky Replacement tool, just navigate to the Creative tab:
Then find the AI Sky Replacement tool:
Finally, go ahead and choose a sky from the dropdown menu. Feel free to experiment with different choices to see what looks best!
Note that you can also upload your own skies, in case you decide you’d like to change things up a bit.
Oftentimes, the AI Sky Replacement tool will do a great job, seamlessly blending the sky with your photo. But it has problems with brighter tones along the edges of objects that are framed by sky, so you’ll need to be prepared to use a masking brush to deal with this.
And pretty soon, you’ll be a Luminar sky replacement expert!
10. Use the Split Toning Tool for a Nice Final Touch
Split toning allows you to add colors into the highlights and the shadows.
Here’s a photo without split toning:
And here’s a photo with split toning:
Cool, right? Split toning is an extremely common effect in portrait and fashion photography, and it’s tough to find a movie that doesn’t use split toning (in some form). But you can really use split toning in all sorts of situations and come away with unique results.
To access the split toning effect in Luminar, head to the Professional tab, then click on Split Toning:
By dragging the Hue slider, you can change the split tone color in the highlights or the shadows.
And by dragging the Saturation slider, you can change the split tone intensity.
Now, split toning tends to work best when you generate contrast between colors. So complementary colors (that is, colors that sit opposite one another on a color wheel) work very well.
Here are a few complementary color pairs to test out:
Notice that I said “test out,” because different color pairs work better for different images, depending on the colors already present–and sometimes you’ll prefer the effect of a near-complementary color pair, or even a non-complementary color pair, better.
No matter what you do, however, I recommend keeping the Saturation fairly low. Too much split toning can be a bad thing!
10 Luminar Effects to Take Your Editing to the Next Level: Next Steps
You’re now familiar with 10 powerful Luminar effects–all designed to improve your photo editing, fast.
So the next time you edit in Luminar, try a few. You don’t have to use them all; just use a few ideas from this article.
My guess is that you’ll like the result!
Some of my favorite editing effects in Luminar include the Dodge & Burn tool, which are great for adding depth to your photos; the advanced color adjustments, which are perfect for enhancing the colors in your shots; and the Split Toning tool, which is an excellent way to add a beautiful finishing touch to your images.
To create a cinematic look in Luminar, I recommend crushing the blacks and raising the black point, just as I describe in this article. You can also add a nice split tone for some cinematic color grading.
To split tone in Luminar, click on the Professional tab in the edit menu, then find the Split Toning tool. Use the Hue slider to adjust the color of the split tone, and use the Saturation slider to adjust the intensity. I recommend using a low saturation–and I also recommend working with complementary color pairs, such as yellow and blue.
Jaymes Dempsey is a professional macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan; his work is published across the web, from Digital Photography School to PetaPixel.