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. 

The best way to use Luminar Flex with Lightroom

The best way to use Luminar Flex with Lightroom

If you are using Luminar flex as a plug-in for Lightroom, then there are lots of different ways to activate it. However, personally I use a bit of a roundabout method, by sending the image to Photoshop first. In this post I’ll explain why, and what the steps are that you should use if you want to work this way too.

Why use photoshop? Why not just launch it directly?

If you launch Luminar Flex directly from Lightroom, you will save a step, and it is certainly a little less work, but doing this loses you a degree of flexibility. More importantly though, you loose the ability to re-edit your image. If you send the picture to Photoshop first, and you send it as a smart object, you can maintain not only the edibility of your Luminar edits, but also the camera raw edits.

This is one of the advantages of Luminar Flex over the standard version of Luminar, when used as a plug-in. Because Luminar Flex supports Photoshop’s smart objects properly, if you apply it as a filter to a smart layer - you can go back in and re-edit your settings at any time in Photoshop. This doesn’t work in the stand alone version of Luminar. You can apply the stand alone version as a smart object, but it doesn’t retain the settings if you then re-edit the smart filter. It will revert back to defaults.

Step by step instructions.

Here’s what I do if I want to send an image to Luminar via Photoshop

  1. In Lightroom, select the image you want to edit and right click on it. From the pop-up menu choose: Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop
  2. This will send the linage to Photoshop as a smart object. This means that if you are working with a RAW file, all of it’s edibility will remain intact, and you can edit the RAW parameters in Photoshop’s Camera RAW filter by double clicking on the icon in Photoshop.
  3. Duplicate this layer. To do this right click on the layer and choose New smart object via copy. The reason you choose this method to duplicate, rather than just pressing command + j is that this method creates an independent smart object, where as command + j or the regular duplicate layer will just make a clone of it. The reason we’re creating a duplicate layer is so you can control the opacity of the filtered layer. This will allow you to fade whatever effect you apply in Luminar.
  4. Select the new layer, and from the menu choose Filter > Skylum Software > Luminar Flex
  5. Luminar flex will load and you can now make any adjustments that you want. When you are finished click Apply to send the changes back to Photoshop.
  6. In photoshop, you can adjust the opacity of the top layer if you wish, to “fade” the effect.
  7. Save your image in photoshop to send it back to Lightroom.

Editing your image

Now that you have used this method you can re-edit your photo at any time. If you have closed the image in photoshop you can send the photoshop or tiff file back to Photoshop from Lightroom by right clicking on the image in Lightroom and choosing Edit In >Photoshop (whatever version you have). From the options that open, choose to send the original, unless you want to duplicate it first.

Editing the Camera Raw settings

Once in Photoshop you can do one of two things. If you want to edit the original RAW settings, then double click on the layer with the filter applied. (the top layer if you duplicated the smart object) Mask sure to double click on the layer icon. This should open up the Camera Raw filter, where you have access to the same settings that you had in Lightroom.

Photoshop smart object - re edit camera raw settings

When you click ok, this will send the image back to Photoshop, and immediately, Luminar Flex will open. This will then apply the filter and save itself back out to Photoshop. This can be a bit jarring he first time it happens, and will take a good few seconds depending on the speed of your machine. You just need to wait till it’s finished.

Editing the Luminar settings

To edit the Luminar settings you just need to double click on the entry for Luminar Flex in the smart filters section in the layers panel.

This will open up Luminar Flex again, and your previous settings should load. You can now make whatever changes you want, and when you click apply again it will save these back to Photoshop. You can then save it back to Lightroom.

re-edit smart filter settings in Photoshop

The beauty of this method is that it remains non destructive. You can go back to it at any time and re-edit the image. I understand that this may not be for everyone, but it makes using Luminar as a plug-in that much more flexible, at least in my opinion. If you have Luminary Flex, give this method a try, and if you don’t find the extra steps too onerous, then it’s something to consider.


If you don’t have Luminar Flex and are interested you can learn more about it here . You can also use my discount code: TFP10 to get $10 off by entering the code at the checkout.


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