Luminar Neo – A closer look at Relight Ai


My post yesterday focused mainly on providing my first thoughts about Luminar Neo with respect to the very much cut down beta software available to early adopters. In this version the two stand out features of Luminar Neo are Relight Ai and Sky Replacement although the latter has been a key feature of Luminar since version three.

In this 2-part review, Part 2 I will look at how PortraitPro Studio tackles the same job, I want to take a closer look at Relight Ai as this feature will be of significant interest to portrait photographers. Relight Ai is designed to allow the editor to effect changes to the background and forground lighting as well as how the light depth changes the image. Skylum suggest that using this technology you will be able to completely relight your image so as to affect stylistic as well as cosmetic changes to the image. This is no mean task and to pull this off in any meaningful way, Relight Ai woud need some significant understanding of the characteristics of light, it’s direction and intensity. Does it work? Read on!

In my normal work as a photographer I would tend towards tools such as PortraitPro Studio for portrait work. Laterly though, products like On1 PhotoRAW have included some useful if limited portraiture tools which reduce the need to take every image into PortraitPro Studio. This is made somewhat more difficult in the case of Luminar Neo though as the version I have does not include any useful portraiture tools so you are left only with the basic tools available in this particular release. If and when Skylum update the software to include these tools I will return to look at how these might help or hinder portrait development. Even so, this is an excellent opportunity to see if Skylum are heading in the right direction with Luminar Neo.

The image I have chosen to work with is one that I “snapped” a few weeks back of frind Chris Welford at an informal gathering that we attended. I have decided to process this in two ways. Firstly to use Luminar Neo, with what is currently available in the beta version and to compare this to an image modified using PortraitPro Studio. This is probably a little unfair but I think you might be suprised by the results.

The way Luminar Neo works with Relight Ai is a little unusual as the mask, as I found out, does not cover say just the face as in the case of other software applications, for example On1 PhotoRAW, but the whole of the image. I’m a little unsure then how Neo applies different effects to the image when the mask is uniform across the whole image but it does. This initially resulted in a little head scratching as my first attempts at creating a differential lighting scenario hardened the hairline making it look totally unrealistic. What I found out was that in order to “soften” the effect where needed it was necessary to erase the mask in these two problematic areas. You can see the affect of these changes to the mask in the before and after image below. This is not an easy task given the delicasy of the hair in this area but the results improve with patience.

Once I was reasonably happy with the edit to the hairline all that remained was to modify the image with regards it’s colour pallette which I did using the Mood tool. Mood is basically a LUT selector which gives you the opportunity to modify the colour and tonality in your image using either your own LUTs, LUTs purchased from Skylum or a 3rd party supplier. As it was I elected to use one of the provided LUTs. BEWARE though, for some reason this version of Luminar Neo doesn’t keep a record of the LUT applied so good luck trying to remember which one you used! Hopefully this will be sorted out in future releases. Finally, I took some of the vibrance out of the image to provide for more natural skin tones and added an Accent which helped balance the background and foreground. The results of this work can be see in the image below.

Final image after applying Relight, an included LUT and some basic colour and accent adjustments


Firstly, let me say that the software I am using is an beta release for early adopters and as such, the software may by now be more advanced and complete. Please bear this in mind when reading my conclusions.

Relight Ai is a tool promoted as allowing you complete control over how your image can look if you apply variable lighting to your scene after capture. In part, this is a pretty accurate statement – it can, especially for the sample images provided. However, it can’t do it in all and in cases as shown here, it did need some help with mask adjustments. Now as soon as you have to start working with masks, any software can achieve the same ends. I could do this job in Affinity Photo, Darktable, On1 PhotoRAW 2022 or even in my old copy of Luminar 4. Don’t get me wrong, in many situations and for many photographers I think Relight Ai is going to be a Godsend. However, if you seek perfection in your final images then good is often not good enough and you are going to have to do some work on the mask.

Things I liked about Neo in terms of this task was the reletive ease of applying basic relighting to the scene. That worked really well. I liked the fact that you had control over the depth of light adjustment although this seems to basically mean right to left rather than front to back. I need to research this more. I also like the easy way you can adjust the mask, which you are very likely going to have to do. For the image above I really did need to zoom in to hair strand level in order to achieve my goal of making the transition look as realistic as possible. I also liked the basic tools provided in this release. The work above was done using just three tools, Relight Ai, Mood and Colour plus a slight adjustment to the Accents in the image. Another problem is that Neo, once I had started to look at other tools seemed to forget the edits I had made in Relight Ai. For example, when I went back in to change the colour of the sunglasses back towards the green hue in the original using a mask adjustement in Colour, Neo lost the editing around the hairline. I hope that these issues are associated with the beta software rather than a trait that will carry on through to the final release.

Am I happy with the final result? Yes, I am although I could have perhaps pushed the foreground lighting on the face a little more having looked at the end result. Even so, it’s changed a decent image into a better one from my perspective so I have to be happy with that.

A big thanks to Chris Welford for allowing me to use the image for this article.

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