Skylum Luminar Neo Review, Editing Software for Drone Photography

Luminar Neo is a highly intuitive and easy-to-learn program, producing better results than any other editing program I have tried. Packed with advanced AI-based tools, Luminar blends most of the capabilities of Lightroom and Photoshop into a single very affordable program

I have recently tried several photo editing programs to find the best-suited one for drone photography

I was very impressed by Skylum Luminar Neo, so I decided to spend a few days testing it. I liked it so much that I decided to adopt it as my main program for editing and organizing my library of photos

For users who rely on a workflow based on Lightroom and Photoshop, Luminar can be used as a plug-in for these packages, adding plenty of the great functionalities that I will analyze in this article

Click here to find the price options for Luminar Neo. You can use the code “vicvideopic” for a 10% discount on the price

If you prefer to watch this as a video, you will find my YouTube version at the end of this article

Overview of Luminar Neo

This is an overview where I will show the massive amount of editing capabilities of this program, including the advanced use of artificial intelligence to speed up the workflow

I will not go too deep on how to use each feature, as I intend to do some specific tutorials about this excellent program

Luminar Neo is a very affordable program with different price options, it is possible to buy it as a one-off purchase or to pay a monthly or yearly fee

There is an option including all the extensions and a very cheap one where extensions can be added individually

I liked Luminar Neo so much that I decided to become an affiliate, so I get a small commission on sales

Luminar Neo has some database management capabilities, similar to the ones of Lightroom. For me, this is a crucial feature, as I have dozens of hard drives full of photos and videos

For testing purposes, I have added two hard drives with about 50,000 images and video clips and Luminar has maintained the same structure of subfolders, so it is very easy for me to navigate, excellent!

On most occasions the response of the program is very fast, the only functionalities that take a bit of time are the ones heavily based on AI, but this is understandable due to the number of calculations needed

Editing with Luminar Neo


Presets in Luminar Neo

There is a host of presets available by clicking on this icon at the top in the middle, grouped under different collections

I don’t use presets much, but there are some really good ones, they can be useful to users who don’t do any editing and need to post their images quickly on social media, or as a starting point for color grading

Tab Essential

By clicking on the icon Edit at the top we access all the tools for color correction and color grading

In the window on the right, there are several categories of tools

The tab Essentials contains all the traditional basic ones for color grading

Develop Tools

From the RAW file, the starting point is Develop to set the overall exposure, shadows, and highlights

I like to open the tab Curves to check the values on a nice and wide histogram

There is a Smart Contrast slider that works particularly well

The next tab is to set the white and black points, at any time it is possible to hit J to toggle an overlay that shows the overexposed and underexposed areas

Curves work well to fine-tune shadow, highlights, and contrast and to adjust the interaction of red, green, and blue

Further down there is a tab for the White Balance to adjust the temperature, tint, saturation, and vibrance

The two tabs for Sharpness and Noise Reduction work quite well, but I will show you later on two more effective tools based on AI

Optics is particularly useful with drones, as often we don’t have a profile for the lens and here we can get rid of distortion and vignetting in the RAW files, while the JPEG ones are generally already corrected

Transform is to be used mainly with architectural features to correct the perspective

Other Tools in the Essential Tab

Further down there is an excellent Erase tool to get rid of unwanted elements in the image while integrating the area with the surroundings

In the tab Color, we can access the HSL panel to fine-tune the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance for individual colors

The tab Black and White modifies the luminance and saturation for each color

In the tab Detail, there are separate sliders for small, medium, and large detail and for sharpening

In the next tab, Landscape, there are three interesting tools:

  • Dehaze is a tool that I use a lot to enhance the contrast and saturation of the sky
  • Golden Hour warms up the image starting from the area around the sun
  • Foliage Enhancer shifts the hue only on the vegetation

I only subtly use a few tools according to the scene, but the purpose here is not to achieve the perfect color grading, but rather to show how each tool works, therefore I make very bold changes to better show the effect of each tool

Creative Tab

In Relight it is possible to modify the brightness of the elements in the foreground and of the ones in the background, the slider Shift moves the foreground closer or further away

Atmosphere adds fog, mist, or haze

Sunrays is an interesting tool for creative effects around the sun, it is possible to customize the appearance of rays around the sun in different ways

Toning applies a color cast to the shadows and a different one to the highlights

I suggest playing around with the other tools of the Creative category, some of them can yield interesting results in some situations

Portrait Tab

There is an entire category of tools for portraits

I will go very quickly, as portraits are not very frequent in drone photography

There is a tab for Bokeh, with all the tools to defocus and control the aspect of the background

Then sliders to add light to the face and to slim it, both very useful

Apparently, there is a Liquify tool planned to be released soon

Then a tool for Skin Retouch. Some sliders for quickly losing some weight without going to the gym. And finally a series of sliders for high-key portraits

Professional Tab

The tools grouped under the label Professional are very powerful. All sorts of effects can be achieved and it is better to play around with them for a while to get used, rather than trying to describe how they work

Supercontrast is for setting separate amounts and balance of contrast for Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights

Color Harmony shapes the colors in different ways, including control of the balance of Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights

Dodge and Burn is a very welcome recent addition to slightly and precisely lighten and darken portions of the image to fine-tune the aspect of the scene

Another recent addition is the classic Clone Stamp tool

Favorites Tab

In the tab Favorites, there are two of the most interesting tools

Enhance with the two sliders Accent and Sky Enhancer perform the entire color grading from a raw file. It does an excellent job and in many situations, all that is needed is to add the tool Supercontrast for a super fast editing job

The Sky Replacement tool, based on AI, works very well. After having chosen a sky in the different themes, plenty of adjustments can be made and finally, the mask can be tweaked to integrate it better

Extensions Tab

In the category Extensions, there are three of my favorite tools, all based on AI

  • Noiseless works very well, getting rid of both luminance and chromatic noise without introducing any artifacts
  • Supersharp adds detail without any unwanted halos. There is a choice of three levels of strength and I suggest using the low value in most cases. Adding sharpness is to be done only when the image calls for it. Supersharp is very useful for adding detail in certain areas, maybe masking out other portions of the image
  • Magic Light is great fun to use and adds atmosphere to some images. When selected, it analyses the scene and only gets ready to use if some lights are detected, the sun, the moon, street lamps, car lights, and so on. It is then possible to apply star effects and glow of any shape or strength around the light source

Masking in Luminar Neo

With most tools, it is possible to apply masks to restrict the effect to only a portion of the image. Masks are very well organized, one of the strong points of Luminar Neo


In this case, I want to apply contrast only to the elements on the ground, as I don’t want to create artifacts in the sky. A quick way to select the elements on the ground is to use a Linear Gradient and place the central line at the edge of the sky

The red area shows where the adjustment will be applied. I can now use Supercontrast to adjust the contrast in the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. The edits apply only to the elements on the ground

By opening Mask Action it is possible to copy this mask to use it with other tools

Let’s say that I want to add Dehaze to this image, but only to the sky, I don’t want to affect the elements on the ground. I can use the mask that I created previously and invert it so that now it affects only the sky

If an effect has to be applied to the whole image, by going to Mask Actions and choosing Fill, the mask will apply to the whole image

Beside Linear Gradient, there are other tools for masking, like the classic Brush and the Radial Gradient. But the house specialty is the AI masking tool

With a simple click, it will analyze the scene for a few seconds and create several masks for different portions of the image: Sky, water, mountain, architecture, flora, natural ground, and so on

It is a very interesting tool for speeding up the workflow; it is the only tool of Luminar Neo that still needs some improvement, but it is getting better and better

Edit in Luminar Neo

By clicking on Edit, we access all the adjustments made to the image with the different tools

It is possible to hide each of them for a before and after comparison, to reset the value, or to erase them

Like in Lightroom, the workflow is non-destructive, in other words, it is possible to return to the original file

In the Crop tab, there is a Composition button based on AI, it tries to find the most interesting framing according to the rule of thirds, and the results are often interesting

There is also an automatic button to straighten the horizon

Layers in Luminar Neo

Luminar is also a powerful multilayer program, capable of separating a subject from the background to replace it with a different one or to work with composite images, in a similar way to Photoshop, but without the need of going back and forth to Lightroom

It would take too long to analyze how Luminar handles layers. It will be the subject of a specific video

Merge to HDR

Merge to HDR

There is an HDR merge option to blend several images taken in Automatic Exposure Bracketing

It is a very useful option to improve images shot in the direction of the sun, although Luminar Neo is capable of retrieving a great amount of information from the shadows even in single photos, so merging is not always needed

There is also the possibility of merging to HDR a single photo, which is unusual, the results are quite interesting

Limitations of Luminar NEO

Are there any limitations or flaws?

The database management functionality is not as powerful as the one of Lightroom for users who need to apply complex metadata

Professional users who need the catalog functionalities of Lightroom can still enjoy Luminar Neo as a plug-in

The only tool that needs some improvements is Automask, but the team at Skylum has shown the ability to constantly improve their programs

Luminar Neo is now the program I recommend to the vast majority of users, and it is also great fun to use

If You Prefer To Watch This As a Video


I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

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