Skylum Luminar 3's layout.

Luminar’s library is set to open soon, but expect construction to continue through at least next year.

The long-awaited update to Skylum Software's photo editor adds in-app photo library management, which the company says is the first step toward building out a complete Digital Asset Manager (DAM). Called 'Luminar with Libraries', this version more directly competes with applications that organize your photos, such as Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC. Luminar 3 arrives December 18, runs on macOS and Windows, and is a free update for owners of Luminar 2018.

This version more directly competes with applications that organize your photos, such as Adobe Lightroom

That’s mixed news for photographers contemplating a switch from Adobe’s applications, especially since Skylum has been teasing a Luminar DAM for well over a year (and just barely hitting their promise to ship it in 2018). Acknowledging the situation, Skylum is making further updates to Luminar free throughout 2019.

Luminar 3 is a free update for current owners of Luminar 2018. Owners of Aurora HDR, Photolemur, and legacy products can upgrade for $49 until December 18. New preorders cost $59 until that date, and $69 thereafter. There’s no subscription pricing model.

Library vs Digital Asset Manager

Here’s what Luminar with Libraries offers:

  • The Library component is integrated into the application, not existing as a separate app. It keeps track of all the images you throw at it in a browsable image gallery. Photos can be imported from cameras or memory cards, or you can point Luminar at existing folders on your hard disk. Unlike apps such as Apple Photos or Lightroom CC (the cloud-focused version, not Lightroom Classic CC), Luminar doesn’t squirrel the images away to its own folder or container. It creates a central catalog file to track file locations and edits, but the originals remain wherever you put them in the first place.

  • In the Library, you can rate photos from zero to five stars, mark them as flagged or rejected, or apply any of five color labels.

  • You can create albums and populate them with photos.

  • A few shortcuts act like smart albums, revealing photos based on their capture dates, import dates, and recently edited dates.

  • In the Info panel, a limited set of EXIF data is shown, such as the camera, lens, focal length, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation.
  • You can filter the library based on any of those attributes.
Filter images based on the criteria the Library offers.

Luminar with Libraries covers the basics of wrangling files and making them easily available for editing, but a full DAM provides a deeper level of interacting with one’s photos. Not included in this release is the ability to apply keywords or IPTC metadata, any kind of text-based search, a way to expose and take advantage of location data, or synchronization of images between computers or devices. The interface for importing photos relies on traditional Open dialogs instead of a way to preview the shots.

Editing Changes

Luminar 3 is still the same editor as it was before, with a few enhancements. Presets are now 'Luminar Looks,' which sounds like just a rebranding attempt, but actually rolls presets, LUTs, and some AI-enhanced operations into one-click actions.

"Luminar Looks" isn't simply advantageous alliteration, but a merging of presets, LUTs, and some AI processing.

More significantly, the inclusion of the library into Luminar makes it possible to apply edits to one image and sync them among many other similar photos.

Sync edits from one image to several similar shots.

The Windows version includes improvements to Luminar’s color management to get consistent color among displays and devices, plus a host of bug fixes and performance boosts.

What’s Next

Skylum plans to release frequent updates throughout 2019 to add features and expand the library’s features. In its Luminar Roadmap, the company lists targets for the first half of the year that include:

  • Improved handling of Raw + JPEG image pairs (instead of treating each part separately).

  • The ability to create virtual copies of photos.

  • A Smart Search feature for locating shots “using keywords, EXIF information, and file names” (suggesting keyword support will be forthcoming).

  • IPTC core data editing and syncing among images.

  • Features that use AI technology “when editing skin on portraits, architecture, removing objects or simply applying masks on your images.”

  • A Lightroom migration tool.

Although Luminar 3 won’t arrive with a fully-formed DAM, as many photographers were hoping, incorporating the photo library into the application is still a big deal. Melding the library and the editing tools in the same environment streamlines the overall workflow. It allows you to work on a range of images quickly, without the hassle of opening and saving individual images (and deciding where the edited versions live). It’s a big reason why people stick with Lightroom or use alternatives such as Capture One, Alien Skin Exposure, or ON1 Photo Raw.