A few years ago, there wasn’t really any photo-editing software that could stand against the Adobe Suite. Now, however, things are much different. There are multiple programs out there that are giving Adobe a run for their money. One of these programs is Luminar, which seems to offer similar features to Adobe’s Lightroom Classic. Though they seem to be similar, that does not mean they are equal! Each program has their own strengths and weaknesses, and slightly different features, so there may be one that fits your needs better than the other.
Ease of Use
In terms of usability, Luminar does offer a simpler interface than Lightroom Classic. This can give Luminar an advantage in the eyes of a beginner. Lightroom offers a vast array of tools, which are displayed on the interface, which can be overwhelming to someone who is just starting out. Lightroom may take a little bit more time to learn than Luminar.
File Management & Organization
In Luminar the library module is very basic. When sorting through your photos you can apply star ratings and colour labels, and pick or reject photos, but this is about the extent of Luminar’s labelling functionality. Lightroom, on the other hand offers much more in-depth organization options. In addition to the star ratings, colour labels, and pick or reject features Luminar has, Lightroom allows users to create custom tags, and sort based on EXIF and IPTC metadata. This cataloging system may take a little bit longer to learn, but it is far more robust and allows much greater possibilities for organization if you are working with a large collection of photos.
Lightroom also allows you to sort your photos into Collections (i.e. Albums), either by hand or through the creation of “Smart Collections” that will automatically be grouped by using a set of customizable rules. Luminar has albums as well, but they can only be created by manually and dragging and dropping your photos.
Both Luminar and Lightroom contain basic and advanced editing tools. Tools for adjusting tone, contrast, HSL, vibrance, white balance, and more are all easily available in both programs. One thing that Luminar has over Lightroom is that Luminar allows you edit in layers.
Although Lightroom does not allow you to add layers in your editing, if you have a subscription for Lightroom or Creative Cloud, you likely have access to Photoshop as well, which does have layers. So, either way you will have access to a program that allows you to edit in layers, it is just a question of whether it matters if it is all in one program, or you have to switch between two.
Printing and Exporting
Lightroom has a wide array of options when you go to export your photos. In the Lightroom export window, you can choose from file types such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, DNG, and PSD, you can give your photos a custom name sequence, apply a watermark, change the size, and change metadata settings. You are also able to save settings as presets so you can easily access your favourite export settings again and again.
Luminar has a much more limited export window. In Luminar, you can only export photos as JPEG or TIFF files, and you are really only given options for image size, colour space, and file format.
Just like its export function, Luminar lacks advanced features on the import function. To import photos to your Luminar library, you simply hit the “+” button in the library sidebar. In Lightroom, you can apply edits like presets and add metadata, as well as rename files and add photos to Collections as you import them.
Both Luminar and Lightroom have their differences, and each program has strengths or features that the other does not. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference and what you want out of an editing program. Since Luminar offers a simplified interface and fewer confusing settings and options, it can be good for beginners who do not have a lot of experience with photo editing and may be intimidated by a program like Lightroom. For anyone who is editing large collections of photos, Lightroom is likely the best option because of the catalog management capabilities and export options.
Luminar is also available as a one-time purchase as a standalone product, whereas Lightroom requires a monthly subscription fee. Though the subscription means you always have access to the latest version of the software, the cost that a subscription fee adds up to over time might not make sense if you are not using the program regularly.
Luminar and Lightroom are both great editing programs that have pros and cons, so do your research and make sure you choose the one that is best for you!