Skylum has announced a new version of its Luminar 4 software, Luminar 4.2. The free update includes a major new feature, AI Augmented Sky. The new AI Augmented Sky feature allows photographers to place various objects directly into the sky, leading to new ways to create digital art. In addition to AI Augmented Sky, Luminar 4.2 includes new portrait tools and general performance improvements.

The new AI Augmented Sky feature can be found in Luminar 4's Creative tab. This tool allows users to select objects from Luminar's database or import their own. The included objects are: Aurora, Balloons, Birds (three choices), Clouds (six), Eagle, Fireworks (three), Lightning (two), Moon (two), Mountains (four), Plane (two), Planet (four) and Rainbow (two).

Luminar leverages its artificial intelligence to automatically detect the sky in a selected image and place the chosen object, including creating masks for foreground objects such as trees or buildings. Luminar also includes content-aware technologies, allowing the object and overall image to blend together naturally.

In the before and after comparison above, my original image had a completely bare sky. Using Luminar 4.2's new AI Augmented Sky functionality, I added clouds and mountains to the image. The software did a good job masking out the trees along the horizon and matching the clouds and mountains to the existing scene.

You have control over the placement and size of the chosen object. You can also adjust its opacity, the color temperature and the strength of the software's blending tools. If you have any issues with the automatic masking, you can also customize the mask manually with brush, radial, gradient and luminosity mask tools. The mask refinement strength and defocus can be adjusted as well through sliders.

In this before (top) and after (bottom) comparison, you can see that I added clouds and an additional hot air balloon to my image. I resized the added hot air balloon and placed it where I wanted for my preferred composition. When adding the clouds, the software identified the blue panel on the balloon as sky, which resulted in clouds appearing on the balloon. This was easily addressed by manually erasing that part of the balloon using the mask brush tool.

During my time with the software ahead of its public release, I experienced varying levels of success using the AI Augmented Sky feature. In some cases, the feature worked well, especially for adding clouds to an otherwise bland sky. Even when working around trees and other fine details, the software did well, especially when working with a blue sky. Around very fine branches, even when adjusting the strength of the mask, there were some occasional problems. I experienced less success when working with darker skies, including dark gray skies. Also, the software doesn't automatically detect and mirror objects for reflections in water, which can make it difficult to create a convincing image in some cases.

Of the new AI Augmented Sky feature, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Skylum, Dima Sytnyk, said, "We're really excited to see how photographers use the AI Augmented Sky to create digital works of art. AI Augmented Sky can be used to make everything from subtle tweaks, like moving the moon in the sky, or to totally transform the world around us. The possibilities are endless!"

In addition to AI Augmented Sky, Luminar 4.2 includes enhancements to its built-in portrait tools. The software includes new architecture for the Face Features Detection Neural Network, which allows for the software to better detect different faces in multiple positions, bad or mixed lighting and faces with heavy makeup. Luminar 4.2 can also detect multiple faces in a group photo. By utilizing the software's improved face detection technology, Luminar 4.2 can now help users restore skin in overly shiny areas and slim faces via a slider adjustment.

In this before (top) and after (bottom) comparison, you can see the impact of the new Shine Removal tool inside Luminar 4.2's AI Skin Enhancer. The result was subtle in each image I processed.

These portrait enhancement tools join existing tools such as AI Skin Enhancer, face lighting, eye whitening, eye enhancement, dark circles remover, eye enlargement, eyebrow improvement, lip saturation, lip redness, lip darkening and teeth whitening. As with the AI Augmented Sky feature, the shine removal and Slim Face 2.0 features have automatic masks but can be manually edited.

The new shine removal tool can be found in the AI Skin Enhancer section of the Portrait tab in Luminar 4.2 and works on a 0-100 slider scale. The tool works well on different skin types and in my experience, did a good job of convincingly reducing the shine without adversely affecting texture or color balance in the image. It works better than simply reducing highlights in an image.

In this before (left) and after (right) example, I utilized the new Slim Face 2.0 tool. Even using 100 percent slimming, the final result is quite subtle. In this example, I was particularly impressed by how the software handled the model's hand against her face and her hair partially obscuring her right eye. The face detection technology is highly impressive.

The new Slim Face 2.0 adjustment is found in the AI Portrait Enhancer section and is also a 0-100 sliding scale. While I'm unlikely to use this feature when processing portraits, its implementation is very good. The software does an excellent job of convincingly slimming a face while keeping proportions looking natural and maintaining the overall quality of the image file. I tried it on a variety of portraits and found it to do a good job in every instance. Alongside the existing AI Portrait Enhancer tools, the new Slim Face 2.0 function fits in nicely.

In addition to the key new features of Luminar 4.2, the software includes various upgrades and other enhancements. The Relight Scene technology in the AI Sky Replacement tool has been improved, providing better and more natural colors. There are also improvements to the ML Cache, which will increase the speed of interaction with the machine's processor. Windows users will find faster previews on multi-core systems and third-party plugin implementation to be able to use plugins such as Aurora HDR, DxO Nik Collection and Topaz plugins inside Luminar 4.2. Luminar 4.2 also includes a new user manual, making it easier for users to find information on the software's included tools and functionality.

In Luminar 4.2, the Relight Scene technology has been reworked, resulting in more natural colors. In the example above, I replaced the original sky with a very different sky and the software did a nice job changing the overall image to represent the change. It's impressive how Luminar 4.2 is able to deal with not only the objects in the scene, but the reflection as well, including the ripples in the water.

Luminar 4.2 is available now as a free update for existing Luminar 4 users. If you are interested in trying Luminar 4 for the first time, you can download a free trial from Skylum. For a limited time, if you purchase Luminar 4 for $89 USD, you will also receive the Inspiration Looks pack, a $49 value, free of charge. You can also upgrade to the Plus Edition, which includes the Inspiration Looks pack and the California Sunset skies for $99. There is also a bundle with Luminar 4 (with bonuses) plus Aurora HDR 2019 for $169. You can learn more by visiting Skylum.