Photoshop might be rapidly improving its AI editing tools, but a more affordable rival called Luminar Neo just arrived for photographers who want something a little simpler and more affordable.
Want our verdict on Skylum's latest editing software, which has just been given its full release? Check out our in-depth Luminar Neo review, which praises it as "powerful, very easy to use, and a great place to start for photographers who fear the complexity of Lightroom or Photoshop".
The software builds on the promise of predecessors like Luminar AI, but adds new AI tools, like smartphone image processing, that are designed to help you produce pleasing snaps without any editing fuss.
You still get industry-standard tools like curves and white balance adjustments to help you tweak colors and contrast, but Luminar Neo's real special sauce is those AI tools, a few of which we've seen before in Luminar AI. The AI crop tool, for example, quickly fixes your compositions, while the opinion-splitting Sky Replacement mode is on board, too.
But there are lots of new tools in the full version of the software. Luminar Neo can, for example, automatically remove power lines or dust spots from your photos, and performed this very effectively in our tests.
More complex automated edits are a bit of a mixed bag The Relight tool, for example, lets you make exposure tweaks based on a depth map of your photo, but struggles with snaps that have a large depth of field.
Luminar Neo is also currently missing two fairly big features, MaskAI and Portrait Background Removal, which are expected to be added in the next few months. But at only $79 / £59 (for a one-time purchase), the program offers good value that does work out considerably cheaper than a combined Photoshop and Lightroom subscription from Adobe (which is currently $9.99 / £9.98 / AU$14.29 per month).
Analysis: Another strong AI rival for Photoshop
A smartphone-style revolution is taking place in desktop photo editors, thanks to AI-powered tools – and our full Luminar Neo review found it to be a compelling new contender, particularly for amateur snappers.
You won't find Lightroom-style cataloguing or the pro-level depth of Photoshop, but that's precisely the point. If you don't need that level of photo editing or management or find Adobe's software a little too complex, then Luminar Neo is worth checking out.
It's a shame that some tools, like MaskAI, aren't included in the current version of the software, but what's there already is certainly enough to help speed up your editing process.
These kinds of tools, particularly Sky Replacement, tend to split opinion among photographers, with some considering them overstepping the mark and taking post-processing from photography to digital art.
But the majority of Luminar Neo's automated tools make edits in a subtle, time-saving fashion. And with other rivals like Affinity Photo and Capture One offering fine alternatives to Photoshop and Lightroom, Adobe has its work cut out to continue justifying its subscription pricing. Of course, the real winners of all this competition are photographers.
- Check out our guide to the world's best photo editors
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.