Luminar as a Nik Software Alternative
Last week Google announced that it would no longer update the Nik software suite that it acquired some time ago. The Nik collection has long been a staple of many photographers over the years and it offered some excellent tools for both creating black and white images with Silver Efex Pro, and also for enhancing colour images with Colour Efex. I have been using the software since it was owned by an independent company, and I even paid the full price for it back in the day. While I’m sad to see it go, I hadn’t been using it for a while anyway, as my main go-to plug in now is MacPhun’s Luminar.
I’ve talked about Luminar on this site before several times. While it has been mainly discussed online as a raw converter, it’s actually in my opinion, even better when used as a plug in for either Photoshop or Lightroom. It offers many, although not all, of the features that Colour Efex Pro, and in some respects is more flexible. You can also do some cool black and white processing with it too, and while it isn’t exactly the same as Silver Efex Pro, you can do quite a good bit of black and white processing with it too. If you’re looking for an alternative I can highly recommend it.
I actually had a very brief video about this a while ago, which you can find embedded below. This was just touching on what you can do with it though.
If you haven’t tried Luminar before, you work in it by adding a series of “Filters” to your image stack. The software has a number of cool filters that you can add many of which are similar to those included in ColorEfex pro. For example, I loved the detail enhancer in Colour Efex Pro, and Luminar has a similar feature. I also really like the Orton effect filter. You can also add things like Neutral Gradient Filters, or Toned Gradient Filters, and there’s lots of options for enhancing contrast and so on. I did a full review of the software a little while ago, and while this was more about using it as a raw converter it ives you an idea.
Here’s another example of what you can do. In this case I started out in Lightroom and did the initial processing there, before sending the file to Luminar.
While you can also do black and white images in Luminar, it’s probably not as straight forward as Silver Efex Pro, although it does come pretty close in terms of functionality. Probably the biggest thing missing is Nik’s u-point technology, but given that this is probably patented, I’m guessing we won’t be seeing that again, unless Google decides to give that up (I doubt it) or make it open source.Having said that, the black and white images you can create with Luminar are pretty impressive. There is a lot of options for adding tonality and contrast, and it does have some grain tools built in too.
Macphun did have a stand alone black and white app called Tonality, but as far as I know (I could be wrong about this) much of that that functionality has been rolled into Luminar. The grain tools are actually pretty nice too. I’ve also done a video where I discuss using Luminar as an alternative to Silver Efex Pro:
If you want to buy it it’s available from their website and they’re currently doing a deal where you can get it with a good bit of extra content too.
Incidentally, another alternative to Silver Efex Pro if you’re a Lightroom user is of course many of the available Lightroom presets. I make a number of black and white presets, and I even have a bundle of them available which you can get for a discounted price.
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If you're a Fuji X-Trans shooter and Lightroom user, check out my guide to post processing X-Trans files in Lightroom. I also have a guides for processing X-Trans files in Capture One and Iridient Developer.
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