About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

Luminar 3 With Libraries: A First Look

Luminar 3 With Libraries: A First Look

I’ve been a fan of Luminar ever since it first came out. The reason is that I like it so much is because it is a powerful piece of software and it doesn’t try to be like anything else. It’s not trying to be a Lightroom clone. It has a lot of unique features, and I find editing with it to be a fun and artistic way of working. But it’s always had a few limitations, and the biggest of which has been the fact that it has been a single image at a time editor. That’s about to change.

Later this month Skylum software is going to release Luminar 3 with Libraries. This will significantly change the way you work with Luminar. It will go from working like Photoshop, where you have to open and image, work on it and then save it, to something more like Lightroom: where you have a whole library of images, and you can move from one to the other, without ever having to manually open or save. I’ve been given access to a prerelease version, and after spending some time with it, here are my first impressions: 

I should note that I’ve only had access to the software for a limited time, so this is just a first look. It’s also still beta, so I’m not going to pass any judgements on stability etc (which, even for a beta has been mostly fine)

So what’s it like? Well, the first thing that struck me was that it’s pretty fast. I added a whole bunch of folders to it, and once the initial cataloguing was done (which can take a bit of time if you’re adding gigabytes of images like I did) browsing the images is pretty speedy. 

The software uses a database / catalogue, so it’s much more than just a glorified file browser. It also keeps in sync with changes made on the hard drive. You can either add existing folders to it, or import images from your memory card etc. You can also add albums, and there is a pre-built selection of tools for finding images based on date, favourites and images that have been edited.

It’s also modeless - so no switching between separate library and edit “modules” like you do in Lightroom. Instead it behaves more like Apple’s Photos, or Capture One, where you’re simply changing the tool interface. Editing with the software is fast and works well. It’s now much easier to edit lots of images at once compared to the previous version. I’m actually impressed with how they’ve managed to re-architecture the software to change the way it works so fundamentally. And it’s fast too, especially considering that the Mac I’ve been using it with is getting old (2012 Mac Pro).

Browsing Recently Edited Images

Browsing Recently Edited Images

The gallery view or whatever it’s officially called, presents your images as a thumbnail mosaic. You can scale these to various sizes, with a selection of options, rather than a continuous slider. However, there’s no option that I can see to overlay any information on the thumbnails, other than the ratings. You can’t see the filename for example, which is a bit annoying, especially if you have a folder full or Raw and Jpeg files and you want to see which is which (Raw + Jpeg management isn’t currently included, but is slated to be added next year).

There’s some kind of caching / previewing system in place, and when you switch to an image, it loads the preview first, while it then loads the RAW file in the background. The first time you move to a particular image, you may see the colour change, in the same way that Lightroom works. It’s pretty fast overall, but it still takes a a couple of seconds before an image is editable. I will have a video soon showing it in action. Again, it’s important to remember that I have an old computer, but it doesn’t feel anyway slow to me. 

You can copy and paste edits between images and you can sync settings between images. There isn’t any way to set defaults for a particular camera yet, except for the colour profile. I haven’t found any way to set a look on import either, but it’s straight forward to apply a look to one image and then sync it to the other photos in your folder.

The database side is still a bit limited compared to something like Lightroom, or even Apple Photos. The most obvious thing that is missing is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of metadata editing. There is no way to add, or modify metadata, such as caption, description and so on. There isn’t any way to add keywords yet either, or search by any metadata either. It also doesn’t seem to sync metadata from XMP files on your hard drive, and I suspect limitation is two way at the moment. You also can’t filter by file type, which makes it a bit difficult to manage RAW+Jpeg pairs.

There is a rating system, which gives you the option to rate by star, a favourite heart button, and colour label, and you can filter images by these ratings, however, as of now, there’s noting more advanced when it comes to managing and searching by metadata. These are all features slated for release in the future (based on the official road map) but for now, these features aren’t in the software, so set your expectations accordingly.

So the question that a lot of people probably want to know is: can you use this as your primary photo workflow software? Can it replace Lightroom? Well, that depends. If you just want to edit lots of images at once, and don’t need any kind of metadata editing, then yes, absolutely. I spent several hours yesterday, moving between different folders of images, editing different photos and it all felt pretty seamless. I could absolutely see myself using this for a complete shoot, and once I get the chance to do that, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. 

Skylum have been teasing this software for a while now, and I suspect that the hype has maybe set expectations a little high, especially given some of the comments that people have made to me over the past few months about it. Anyone expecting this to completely replicate every feature of Lightroom in this first version is going to be disappointed, but it’s a very solid step in the right direction. Skylum have been very aggressive with developing Luminar, and in my opinion, this is a big leap. While there are a few things that will still need to be added before it’s able to completely replace something like Lightroom, many of those features are already on the roadmap

Preorders for Luminar 3 start today. It’s a free update to existing Luminar 2018 users. For those who aren’t current users, Skylum is offering a whole bunch of bonuses for those who pre-order, and those pre-ordering can also get it at a discount. Here’s an outline of what’s available:


  • New users can purchase Luminar 2018 for US$59 ( US$49 With the code TFP10).
  • Current users of Luminar 2018 will be able to update for free .
  • Current users of Luminar 2017 can upgrade for US$49 ( US$39 With the code TFP10).
  • Current users of a Luminar 2018 trial (those who have downloaded it before November 1) can purchase Luminar 2018 for US$49 ( US$39 With the code TFP10).
  • Owners of Skylum legacy products (Creative Kit, Noiseless, Intensify, Tonality, FX Photo Studio, Focus, Snapheal, Filters for Photos) can purchase Luminar for US$49 ( US$39 With the code TFP10).
  • Current users of Aurora HDR (2016–2019) can purchase Luminar for US$49 ( US$39 With the code TFP10).
  • Current users of Photolemur can purchase Luminar for US$49 ( US$39 With the code TFP10).
    Note that the price after the Luminar 3 with Libraries release will be US$69.


  • ViewBug: 3-Month Pro Membership (US$42 value)
  • KelbyOne: 2-Month Pro Membership (US$40 value)
  • Rocky Nook: Choice of ANY e-book (US$40 value)
  • Daniel Kordan: Awesome Landscapes Tutorial (US$80 value)
  • Manfrotto & Gitzo: US$20 Gift card with US$120 purchase (US$20 value)
An important Note About Preset Visibility in Lightroom 8.1

An important Note About Preset Visibility in Lightroom 8.1

Video: Setting Fuji Film Simulation Modes in Capture One 12

Video: Setting Fuji Film Simulation Modes in Capture One 12