eXtensions - Wednesday 23 November 2016

Macphun releases Luminar: Photo Editing Software for the Mac (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I am rather keen on photography but I only consider myself as an enthusiast. Output quality is important for me: whether for social networking, my own website, or images I send to the Bangkok Post. I sometimes try to steer users away from Adobe Photoshop, not because there is anything wrong with it (apart from pricing), but that the power of that application is totally wasted for most users, especially if their pictures are just being uploaded to Facebook.

That is not the case for professional users of course. The wide range of tools offered by Photoshop his essential for them. In comparison, I make use of some quite modest applications. Over the years I have been able to produce some reasonable work, some of which I print out in larger formats.

My primary editing tool for images from my DSLR camera is Apple's Aperture. While that is intended as a workflow application (like Adobe Lightroom), there are enough tools to cover many tasks. Apple's Photos now has a fair number of ways that allow basic editing and there are now a number of applications that provide extensions for Photos. It is like working with the original application, but from within Photos.

I use several applications: Graphic Converter, for some of the detailed spade-work images may need; Affinity Photo, with its advanced editing tools; and the slightly similar Pixelmator, updated this week with support for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

Luminar I also have a collection of applications from Macphun, including Tonality (for monochrome images) and Intensify. These both have extensions for Photos, while Tonality Pro also has a plugin for Aperture. At the end of last week, Macphun released its latest photo-editing application, Luminar. This can be bought directly from Macphun or from the Mac App Store. It is shown as $49.99; or 1,750 baht here: fractionally cheaper.

I installed this on three Macs (the licence allows up to 5): my MacBook Pro, a Mac mini in my office, and a MacBook. As well as the standalone application, I have tried it as a Photos extension on all three; and with the Aperture plugin for the first two. Apart from saving files, there is no major difference to the way it works in any of the permutations I have tried.

Luminar Running in Photos

When an image is selected, it is displayed in a panel with a number of thumbnail presets below, showing variations of that image. Editing controls are to the right of the main image. There are currently six filter groups: Basic, Street, Outdoor, Portrait, Travel and Dramatic. More will be available in December. Each group has ten or eleven presets. When one is selected, the effect is applied to the image and a slider appears on the thumbnail showing 100%, so users may gradually reduce the effect if they want.

Each preset has its own set of filters, with sliders that allow for a considerable range of fine adjustments to an image. As effects are applied, the main image changes, so an accurate edit is easy to achieve. Just above the main panel are tools for showing "Before and After" or a "Quick Preview", so I was able to make quick comparisons while working.

Luminar as a Standalone Application

If more adjustments are needed, there is a list of around 40 filters to choose from. As each item in the filters list is highlighted, a text description of the filter along with before and after sample images are displayed.

To make working easier, both the presets panel and the selected filters may be hidden using icons on the top toolbar. The first is useful when a preset is decided on and detailed work with sliders is being carried out. Hiding the filters makes the entire workspace clear so additional tools may be used. To the right are Move, Masking Brush, Gradient Mask Mode, Radial Mask Mode, Transform Tool, Clone & Stamp, Erase, Denoise and Crop.

Luminar in Aperture

A local reader tried Luminar out and compared input from Fuji and Sony RAW files, finding that Capture One imports were saturated, while with Luminar there was some highlight clipping. Lightroom, he said, was just right. He found similar differences with NEF (Nikon RAW) files. Each application interprets RAW files differently. However, as the intention of Luminar is filter-based output, I do not think this is critical. Nonetheless it is being reported to Macphun (update) is being addressed in a future release.

I am now re-examining photographs I have taken to see how I can apply the range of new effects I am able to access using Luminar. This is a really easy way to edit images. Users can see the changes as they are applied and do not have to select filters, options or tools from a complex menu system.

For those who want to read detailed information about what it is and what it does, a user manual is available online.

Last week, I mentioned that the developer Serif had released its Affinity Photo for Windows. This week, Serif has made Affinity Designer for Windows available.

Affinity Designer for Windows

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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