Which Post-Processing Program Should You Buy?

Photoshop vs Luminar: Which Program Should You Buy?

If you’re trying to decide whether to purchase Photoshop vs Luminar, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we take a careful look at these two programmes. We offer a breakdown of all the key features, including pricing, editing capabilities, and photo organization capabilities. And we explain why you might want to pick one over the other.

So to find out which program is right for you, then keep reading!

(Note: This comparison examines Luminar AI. To learn more about the just-released Luminar Neo, head over to Skylum’s website.)

Adobe Photoshop: Overview

welcome screen in Adobe Photoshop CC

Photoshop is a photo-editing program developed by Adobe, and with almost 35 years on the market, it’s the industry standard for photographers and visual creators.

In 2013, Photoshop became part of Adobe’s subscription-only Creative Cloud service. You can get a combined membership with other Adobe apps; for example, the Photography Plan includes both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is dedicated to professional visual creators, and in addition to extensive post-processing capabilities, it offers video editing, graphics editing, and even three-dimensional modeling.

Unfortunately, Photoshop does come with a steep learning curve, and the monthly fees add up over time. Plus, Photoshop lacks photo organization capabilities, so for a complete editing workflow, you must combine it with other Adobe apps (such as Bridge or Lightroom). Below, I elaborate more fully on the pros and cons of the program.

Skylum Luminar AI: Overview

editing module in Luminar AI

Luminar AI is an editor developed by Skylum, which works as either a standalone program or a plugin.

Unlike Photoshop, Luminar AI is available as a one-time purchase. Note that Skylum offers several Luminar products, including Luminar Neo, though Luminar AI is not Luminar Neo’s predecessor.

Luminar AI offers a sleek, beginner-friendly interface; As the name suggests, it also packs plenty of artificial-intelligence features to help you get great results with limited editing experience.

The program is a dedicated photo editor, so it doesn’t support video or graphics, but it does include a file manager, which you can use to categorize and group your images.

Luminar AI is powerful, but it requires a lot of processing power. So if you work on an older or low-spec device, you may find the editing features a bit laggy.

Photoshop vs Luminar: In-depth comparison

Now that you have a broad understanding of both Photoshop and Luminar, let’s take a closer look, starting with:

Price and license

As I explained in a previous section, Adobe Photoshop is a subscription-based software. You pay a monthly or yearly fee to use the program – and once you cancel your subscription, you lose access to all Photoshop features.

The cost depends on the membership and payment plan you choose. The highly popular Photography Plan begins at $9.99 and includes both Photoshop and Lightroom. Alternatively, you can gain access to just Photoshop for $20.99. All plans include some volume of cloud storage space (which can be upgraded for a fee).

An Adobe subscription lets you install Photoshop on multiple computers, but you can stay signed in only on two and you can use only one at a time. If your needs exceed this capacity, you do have the option to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud for teams.

Luminar AI, on the other hand, is available for a one-off payment. Therefore, once you buy it, you can use it for life – but once a new version comes out, you need to upgrade if you want access to the latest features.

Luminar AI’s price changes according to when and where you buy; It’s often on sale, and you can find promotions on third-party websites. At the time of writing, the program costs just $47.

Luminar has a two-computer version that lets you install and use the program on two computers, or you can go with the cheaper, one-version plan. If you want additional access, you’ll need to buy a second plan, as there is no team or business option.

Performance and system requirements

In this section, I share the minimum and recommended system requirements for both programs.

I have used the programs on a 2014 MacBook Air with just 4 GB of RAM, and both did function, though Luminar AI struggled more and took longer to perform each action. Of course, the more powerful your machine, the better the performance you can expect.

For a full list of minimum and recommended system requirements, you can go to the official Adobe and Skylum websites.

Photoshop for Windows: Minimum requirements

  • Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support
  • Windows 10 (64-bit) operating system
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 4 GB of hard-disk space plus space for installation
  • GPU with DirectX 12 support; 1.5 GB of GPU memory

Luminar AI for Windows: Minimum requirements

  • Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor
  • Windows 10 (64-bit) operating system
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 10 GB of hard-disk space
  • Compatible with Open GL 3.3

Photoshop for macOS: Minimum requirements

  • Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • macOS Catalina (version 10.5)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 4 GB of hard-disk space plus space for installation
  • GPU with Metal support; 1.5 GB of GPU memory

Luminar AI for macOS: Minimum requirements

  • Intel Core i5 processor or Apple M1 chip
  • Mac Model: Early 2010, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac Air, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, Mac Mini
  • macOS 10.13.6 operating system
  • 8 GB Ram
  • 10 GB of hard-disk space available

File organization

Luminar AI Catalog

Adobe Photoshop does not include file management capabilities. To organize files within the Adobe system, you’ll need to pair Photoshop with Lightroom or Bridge. Otherwise, you can use third-party software such as Photo Mechanic, ACDSee, or Capture One.

Luminar AI includes a photo manager in its Catalog section. Here, you can import photos for editing and organization. Unlike Photoshop, Luminar edits are non-destructive; instead of altering the original image, edits are saved in a separate file.

In the Luminar Catalog, you can also label, rate, and geotag your images, which makes for easy organization and decent search functionality.

Editing tools

Now let’s take a careful look at Photoshop’s and Luminar’s editing features:

Photo editing

comparing the editing features in Luminar vs Photoshop

Photoshop and Luminar are designed as photo editors, and both pack plenty of high-quality tools, from exposure adjustments and color grading to selective editing and vignetting.

However, Photoshop offers a far more expansive set of editing tools than Luminar AI; Luminar’s toolset, while powerful, is limited in range and caters to beginners.

In Luminar, you can open a RAW file without difficulty. But Photoshop cannot handle RAW files, so your first set of edits must take place in Adobe Camera Raw (a plugin-style editor that is closely integrated with Photoshop). Personally, I don’t find this disruptive because the process is automatic. But if you prefer to apply quick edits while scrolling through an image feed, you may find Photoshop’s two-step RAW workflow unwieldy.

When it comes to selective editing, Photoshop has the clear edge over Luminar AI. Photoshop features an enormous number of selection tools and masks for astonishing precision. And while Luminar does include tools for selective adjustments, they just don’t offer the same amount of flexibility or precision as their Photoshop counterparts.

Batch editing

Luminar allows you to quickly apply the same adjustments to multiple photos. Simply select all the files you want edited, then choose the Sync Adjustments option. (If the images are in different folders, you can copy and paste the adjustments instead.)

syncing adjustments in Luminar AI

Photoshop, on the other hand, doesn’t have a library – so the batch-editing process isn’t quite as smooth. You can do it via an Action (more on those in a moment), but creating one can be finnicky, so most photographers tend to edit images individually in Photoshop.

batch editing in Photoshop

Presets

Luminar AI offers its own form of presets, called Templates. You can make your own templates or download free and paid options from the Skylum website. LUTs are also available for color-grading purposes.

using different Templates in Luminar

Photoshop also has presets, called Actions. You can create your own Actions, or you can download free or paid Actions online. LUTs are also available in Photoshop.

adjusting an image in Photoshop with actions

Video editing

While Adobe Photoshop isn’t really designed for video editing – Premiere is Adobe’s flagship video post-processor – you can still make plenty of adjustments in Photoshop. You can change the audio and video, add subtitles, apply filters, and even add motion effects to text and photos.

Luminar AI doesn’t support video; it’s purely designed for photography content.

Graphics

adding text in Photoshop

Photoshop boasts some serious graphic design features; you can work with placeholders, text, and many other designated graphics tools. Note, however, that Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign are made specifically for graphic designers.

Luminar AI doesn’t support graphics work.

Ease of use

Photoshop's editing panels and tools
Here is a small sample of Photoshop’s wide array of editing panels and tools. It takes significant time to learn how to use each and every option. Of course, you only need a few tools for basic editing, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Photoshop has a steep learning curve, and the interface isn’t beginner friendly, especially compared to Luminar AI. Although Adobe has made Photoshop more accessible in recent years, it is intended for professional work and comes with all of the required features.

Bottom line: If you really want to become a skilled Photoshop editor, it’ll take some time and effort.

Luminar editing panels
These are the Luminar editing panels. They’re structured intuitively and mostly based around sliders.

Luminar AI is Photoshop’s opposite: It’s aimed at enthusiasts but is also capable of professional work. While Luminar is powerful, the interface is much friendlier, in part because it doesn’t support video or graphics editing.

Luminar is also more comprehensive than Photoshop; a photographer can complete an entire workflow within the program, from organizing and tagging to editing and exporting.

Photoshop vs Luminar: final words

Looking purely at editing capabilities, it’s difficult to choose between Photoshop vs Luminar. Photoshop offers more tools and is better for precise selections, but Luminar is easier to use and great for beginners.

On the other hand, Photoshop is the obvious choice if you need to do other types of work such as video editing or graphic design.

Also consider whether you prefer subscription pricing or a one-time purchase. You’ll pay less up front for Photoshop, but after a few months, Luminar AI will be cheaper.

Finally, the programs do have a free trial period, so if you’re on the fence, download them both and do some tests!

Now over to you:

Have you tried either of these editing programs? Which do you plan to use? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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