Think Outside the Box With Luminar Neo

Now in its seventh year and incarnation as Luminar Neo, Skylum’s editing software can meet the needs of some photographers as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. What if you wanted to push the limits of your creativity with him? This is when you have to think outside the box.

When it comes to editing images, everyone has their favorite software, and there are plenty of them. You can choose to pay a monthly subscription or purchase a standalone product, depending on your needs. Each has its caveats, whether it’s the aforementioned rolling subscription or perhaps a slightly limited range of editing possibilities. Luminar Neo can do so much with your images and doesn’t have a steep learning curve like some other software, so you can get the finished results relatively quickly.

Luminar Neo isn’t on the market to compete with Photoshop or Lightroom, although it has many of the same features and some that neither does. Some sliders are programmed in such a way that with a simple adjustment of these, sharpness, contrast and tonal balance are applied. You may or may not like it, but there are plenty of people out there who want quick results and fair play with them. It is the process that makes you appreciate photography more.

Working with layers

Luminar Neo is constantly being updated, and we’re now on version 1.0.7, with even more features added and a future timeline of more additions. As it is primarily an image editor, meaning you open your raw file and process it as you normally would, it also has layer functionality so you can add even more to your original edit via these layers, but only above the original image. , and it can be somewhat limited depending on what you’re trying to create. So what if you could get around that?

In this article, I’m going to show you very quickly how it can be done and also give you tips on what not to do to save yourself the pain after creating an edit, only to see it disappear before your eyes.

Get off the beaten track

Since its main function is to edit photos and any image you open is locked at the bottom of the Layers panel and cannot be unlocked, how do you unlock it so that it can? Well, you just add a gray base coat, as I’ll call them.

Think of this layer as your blank canvas. Your canvas can never be moved, but you can add more layers above it and rearrange them in any order to get your final image. I’m using gray as the base layer due to blending modes when compositing in Photoshop, but you can also use an image. it’s entirely up to you.

If you decide to use an image that you won’t be using for anything else, I recommend adjusting the image to black, white, or gray through exposure and other settings so your base layer is flat and devoid of any color. , as this will affect some of the blending modes you may use later. This will also be your background color if you choose to use Mask AI on the layer above to isolate a subject. Remember, however, that you can edit it at any time during the editing process via the editing panel on the right side. First, select the layer, then go to the editing panel to make your adjustments, then resume your editing.

With the gray layer added, you are now free to modify the image as you wish and have the freedom to rearrange your image layers, use Mask AI to isolate objects or people and add as many layers as you wish to create your imagery.

What to consider?

One of the main considerations you need to take into account when creating this type of imagery is what blending options you will use. This is based on what’s under the layer you applied the layer blend to, as it reads all the information from those layers. It’s at this point that you might want to change your gray layer color to something else.

For the image below, I didn’t actually need the gray base layer, as I left the background of the second layer untouched and used screen blending modes on the layers above to achieve the final effect. However, with a gray base layer, if I had wanted to add a background to this image behind the girl, I could have simply used Mask AI to select her and then added an image layer below her . That’s why it’s a good idea to start with a gray basecoat, in case you change your mind while editing.

What can go wrong?

As with all software, there are many things that can go wrong in the editing process. A few of them that I discovered through trial and error based on the above are:

  • Do not add a preset once your edit is complete. Luminar Neo bases the preset on your base layer, in this case the gray, not the final edits. So all the work you put into your image disappears before your eyes and returns to the base layer with a preset applied.
  • The solution to this would be to save your image as a JPEG and then re-import it to apply the preset. Luminar 4.3 was able to condense all your edits into a single layer, so maybe this will be a feature in future releases.
  • Create multiple gray or base layers with different names — gray1.jpg, gray2.jpg, etc. The reason is that Luminar caches the image so that when you start a new edit with a previously named gray1.jpg, it opens that image to reveal the last image you edited. Yes, that might sound logical, and it is, but I’m just letting you know the workaround by creating multiple named gray layers.
  • The solution to this would be a possible update to include a new document creation function, similar to Photoshop and other image editors.

As you can see from the image above, when I first made this type of edit and deleted all layers except the base to create another edit, I lost the editing steps for this. Fortunately, I exported the finished JPEG first.


Luminar Neo is not a composition editor, although it does have layers, so ultimately it has its limitations when trying to do this kind of work. It actually crashed when I was cutting out the finer details of the car when zoomed in. For my part, it did not bother me, because it is a photo editor. It’s fun to see what the software can do for you and your images, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to get the results you’re looking for.

I hope this thought process and example helps you push Luminar Neo and perhaps create images that you normally wouldn’t.

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