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Do We Really Need This?

This Luminar Neo review will cover Skylum’s newly announced photo editing app, including my personal opinion on what we already know.

When Luminar Neo is officially released later this year, I’ll test it thoroughly for a full review and update this article.

For the time being, you can discover all there is to know about Neo right here, or by clicking the button below.

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Luminar Neo

Luminar Neo

Feature-rich AI-powered photo editing software with layer-based editing and mobile app available for preorder.

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There’s a lot of confusion surrounding Luminar Neo, in particular, where it sits among the family of Skylum apps: Luminar 4 and Luminar AI.

In this guide, I answer all the common questions while remaining 100% impartial, to help you decide whether you need to buy Luminar Neo in 2021.

Let’s dive right in.

What is Luminar Neo?


According to Skylum, Luminar Neo is a powerful new image editor powered by AI technologies that can simplify complex photo editing tasks, making them faster and more fun.

The application for Mac and Windows provides the ability to build detailed images with an advanced layer-based workflow and flexible tools that can be applied in any order.

It also boasts a high-speed core engine that will help accelerate complex image editing tasks.

From what I can understand, the basic premise with Neo is that any AI-powered tools previously seen in other Skylum software will take a significant jump forward in function and performance.

Due to be released in Winter, Luminar Neo will be revealing its full feature set in the coming months.

I’ll update this review in due course, but for now, here’s what I think about the announcement.

My Honest Thoughts on the Announcement of Luminar Neo

I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and disappointed in Skylum for releasing yet another photo editing app, instead of updating Luminar 4 or Luminar AI.

I’m a fan of Luminar 4 and recommend it as an alternative to Lightroom for photographers who don’t require all the Adobe bells and whistles.

I also enjoy Luminar AI, and recently published a full review of it on the Shotkit YouTube channel which you can watch here.

However, I’m still not convinced that we need another Luminar product with features that seem to heavily overlap the existing Luminar software.

I brought up my negative feelings in a private group, only to be met with a very defensive response from Chief Product Evangelist Richard Harrington.

Based on our informal discussions since then, Richard has (helpfully) tried to explain that Skylum was unable to simply ‘update’ Luminar 4/AI to include the newer features promised in Luminar Neo.

(The large changes apparently aren’t “backwards compatible”, hence the need for something completely new.)

Apparently, Luminar 4 can’t support the newer AI tools and Luminar AI can’t support layers, so in order to make something that’s faster and different to anything else, Skylum created Luminar Neo.

Now, I can’t vouch for any of the above since a) I’m not a product engineer at Skylum, and b) I haven’t had a chance to actually use Luminar Neo.

However, if we take these statements at face value, we can begin to understand why Neo has come into existence.

Only time will tell whether Luminar Neo is something that the photography community actually needs, or just a rehash of Skylum’s existing software that seemingly wasn’t built with the foresight to make it fully upgradeable.

When Neo releases before the end of the year, anyone who placed a preorder will be given 30 days to evaluate it, and get a full no-questions-asked refund.

Should You Buy Neo? My Recommendations

If you’ve never owned a previous version of Luminar, you can get the preorder discount here.

Skylum has made decent software in the past, so it’s safe to assume that Neo will be decent too.

(If it turns out to be a dud, just get your money back within 30 days after it’s released.)

If you already own Luminar 4/AI, I wouldn’t bother pre-ordering – just keep enjoying your current app, unless it’s painfully slow to use – in which case, you may want to just wait until my full review to be published here.

Answers to Common Questions Since the Announcement of Luminar Neo

These responses have been compiled from the official Neo FAQ page, as well as from an informal ‘interview’ that I conducted with Skylum’s Chief Product Evangelist Richard Harrington, via email.

What’s new in Luminar Neo? (How’s it different to Luminar 4 and Luminar AI?)

  • Much faster core engine – a brand new ‘modular’ engine means that each part of the editing process can be optimized for the best speeds. Less memory is required to edit the photos and updates to the software can occur more frequently. One of the common complaints of previous Luminar products was about the speed, so this will be a welcome upgrade.
  • Relighting options – easily control exposure and tone with one click.*
  • Layer-based workflow – composite images with blending and masking modes, like Photoshop. Add textures, overlays and visual effects.
  • Remove distracting images – clean up unwanted elements in the background of a photo.*
  • Mobile app – transfer photos between a mobile device and a computer for easy sharing or viewing on the go.

*Previous versions had these tools but we can assume Luminar Neo will offer more features or perform tasks faster.

Why did Skylum create Neo rather than just updating Luminar 4/AI?

This is the response from Chief Product Evangelist Richard Harrington:

“This is a brief answer, we’ll be releasing more details soon: When we built Luminar AI, we integrated artificial intelligence throughout.  For example, when you open an image, Luminar AI can identify more than 7,000 subjects which helps with suggesting edits and powering the AI tools with things like human recognition and 3D depth analysis.  However, Luminar AI was designed to be easy to use and work only with single images (not layers).  This is to speed up the workflow with batch processing and syncing.

With Luminar 4, you have an application that did support layers and advanced masking.  All along we stated that Luminar AI was NOT an upgrade to Luminar 4.  Luminar 4 however does not have an artificial intelligence core like the one described above.

So with Luminar NEO you will find a reimagining of Luminar.  Neo means new in Greek but in the sense of holistically.  It draws on the past history of the product, pulling in the best features and abilities.  It adds new tools and abilities that were driven by research and feedback with current Luminar artists.  Plus it’s a platform that’s ready for future expansion.”

Is Skylum planning to release another software (after Neo) in the next 1-3 years?

Another answer from Richard:

“Most software companies release new products every 12-18 months, so if that is your question, yes we plan to have paid options to expand your experience.

We’ve also publicly confirmed we’re actively working on apps for both iOS and Android/ChromeOS

The purpose of the new engine in Neo is to be expandable. The engine inside this is something we’ve been working on for a long time.”

I already own Luminar AI – do I need Luminar Neo?

I can’t really comment on this since I haven’t had a chance to evaluate the new software, but according to Skylum, Neo will build upon Luminar AI with faster and more powerful features, as well as offering the mobile app which sounds exciting too.

Luminar AI will continue to be supported with updates to its performance and support for new cameras. Users will also receive updates for new computer OS, such as Microsoft Windows 11.

Can I migrate my catalog from previous Luminar Versions to Neo?

Unfortunately not – this will likely annoy a lot of users, but if you’re new to the Luminar ecosystem, this obviously won’t affect you.

However, Skylum states that their support team will help you convert any Luminar AI Template into a Ne0-compatible format.

Luminar Neo Features (To Be Updated)

These are the features that have already been announced by Skylum – I’ll be updating this section when we receive news of anything else.

At this point, it’s rather hard to tell how beneficial the enhancements over the existing Luminar software will be – only time will tell.

Layers and AI Masking



Unwanted Object Removal



One-Click Background Removal


How Much Does Luminar Neo Cost?

Luminar Neo is available for the first 30,000 customers at a special preorder price that Skylum promises will be the lowest ever.

(The last time I checked, there were some 13,000 spots remaining – you can check the exact number and see the pricing in your home currency here.)

If you own a previous version of Luminar or Aurora HDR, you can also get a loyalty discount here.

The final version of Lumianr Neo is set to ship this Winter – preorder customers will have 30 days to try the software.

If you don’t like it, you can get a full refund.

Should you Preorder Luminar Neo?

If you’ve never owned a previous version of Luminar before and are keen to see what Artificial Intelligence can do to your photos, grab the preorder discount while you still can – historically, Skylum has made useful software for photographers, no question about that.

If you already own Luminar 4/AI, don’t bother pre-ordering – just keep enjoying your current app, at least until I can provide a full review of Neo.

Final Words

This Luminar Neo review will be updated when we get hold of a full working copy of the software – keep checking back regularly or sign up for the Shotkit newsletter to be notified.

In the meantime, click the button to learn more or preorder Luminar Neo for the cheapest price it’ll ever be available.

Exclusive Discount

Luminar Neo

Luminar Neo

Feature-rich AI-powered photo editing software with layer-based editing and mobile app available for preorder.

Get Discount

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

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