© 2020 by David Sornberger | Port Perry, Canada | info@davidsornberger.com

Luminar 4: Working with the Essential Tools

The Essential Tools are some of the most frequently used in Luminar. These tools perform core adjustments that are useful for most images.

  • Select an image in your library or open a single image

  • Click the Essentials Tools icon in the Edit Sidebar

  • Choose the desired tool from the list

Light Tool

The Light tool contains the most essential controls for adjusting an image. The Light tool contains color and tone adjustments that should be made. This sets the stage for all the adjustments that come after.

Standard Controls

  • White Balance. The Eyedropper can also be used to click on an area that should be white or neutral gray to calculate a custom white balance. If working with a raw file, use the White Balance preset list to choose from a variety of presets that are similar to a camera’s white balance menu.

  • Temperature. Use this slider to warm or cool a shot. This adjustment essentially adds Cyan or Yellow to an image to change its color temperature.

  • Tint. This adjusts the amount of Green or Magenta that is added to a shot. It is useful for removing color casts from an image.

  • Exposure. Adjusts the global luminance of the image. Moving this slider to the left results in a darker image (reduction of exposure value). Moving this slider to the right results in a brighter image (an increase of exposure value).

  • Smart Contrast. Adjusts the contrast of the image. Contrast is the difference in luminance or color that makes an object in an image distinguishable from another. Practically speaking, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of an object in relation to other objects within the same field of view. The Smart abilities of this correction limit the shifts in color and prevent the details from becoming blocked up.

  • Highlights. Adjusts the brightness of the brightest areas of the image. Moving the slider to the right cause very bright areas to become brighter, while moving the slider to the left, makes them darker.

  • Shadows. Adjusts the brightness level of the darkest areas of the image. Moving the slider to the right will cause such areas to become brighter and additional details will appear. When moving to the left, such areas become darker, and the number of shadow areas in the image generally increases.

Advanced Settings

  • Profile. Are you looking for truly professional control over your raw files? Be sure to give DNG Camera Profiles a try. Luminar recognizes the industry standard DCP files that you may already have on your computer (or have bought from third parties). These offer greater control over how the color and tone in the raw file is handled. Need a bunch of free DCP profiles? Just install the free DNG Converter from Adobe.

  • Whites. Adjusts the white point of the histogram and white tones in the image. When moving to the right, the brightest tones will become brighter while the histogram stretches to the right. Moving the slider to the left will cause white tones in the image to become darker and the histogram to compress to the left.

  • Blacks. Sets the black point of the histogram or black tones in the image. Moving the slider to the right, black tones become brighter and the histogram compresses to the right. Moving the slider to the left, black becomes darker and the histogram stretches to the left.


  • One of the most powerful tools for adjusting tones to brighten, darken, add contrast and shift colors. Curves can usually be applied to all channels together in an image, or to each channel individually. Curves can help you manually fine-tune the brightness and contrast of the image.

  • Tabs. You can make a curve adjustment to all channels equally or to an individual channel (such as to blue to emphasize the sky).

  • Sliders. At the bottom, there are sliders that let you adjust black and white points of the histogram (the leftmost and rightmost sliders), as well as the middle bend of the curve (the central slider).

  • Points. You can add up to 10 control points. Drag up to add contrast to an area and down to lighten the area. Multiple points can be employed for contrast adjustments based on tonal range.

Most users will either use Curves a lot or they won’t use it at all. The Curves interface is a bit complex and allows for up to 10 control points. This can significantly open up more options when adjusting color and exposure. The primary advantage of Curves is that you have precise control over which points get mapped for tonal adjustment.

AI Enhance Tool

This tool contains two useful adjustments that harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to enhance your photos. The tool automatically analyzes your image and instantly corrects it while still offering control over the final amount.

  • AI Accent. Under the hood, more than a dozen controls are in use. This effect tends to yield naturally beautiful results with one simple slider. The AI Accent tool can substitute for many traditional controls like shadows, highlights, contrast, tone, saturation, exposure, details, and others.

  • AI Sky Enhancer. Luminar analyzes and detects the sky in an image to improve the texture, tone, and colors of the sky itself. The tool can recognize the sky in most photos as well as distinguish between water and other elements in a photograph. It also detects the objects in the foreground and their edges for perfect masking. AI Sky Enhancer performs the necessary improvements, selectively adjusting brightness and contrast, saturation and vividness, alongside recovering the details and improving the textures of the sky and clouds. The AI Sky Enhancer is designed to work with most photographs of skies and works from blue hour in the morning to the blue hour in the evening. The tool is not designed to work with night skies.


If the controls are grayed out after applying the tool, the artificial intelligence could not recognize the sky in the photo. Skies that are very out of focus or blurred may not be detected automatically.


If you apply a Luminar Look that uses the AI Sky Enhancer tool and no sky is detected, Luminar will skip the adjustment. This allows you to create your own custom Luminar Looks containing the AI Sky Enhancer tool and still apply them, to images whether they include any sky or not.

AI Structure Tool

This tool allows the adjusting of image detail and clarity. Using this tool you can get great detail or get a smoother picture with less detail. This is the main tool to increase the contrast of the image and visualize more details in the image. Thanks to AI the tool is content-aware, so it can adjust areas variably based on the subject. The tool is also human-aware so it doesn’t over-process them. As a result – faces and skin look natural, while the objects around them look detailed.

  • Amount. The strength of the effect. By moving the slider to the right, the amount of visible detail in the image increases. Moving the slider to the left will cause the image to lose detail and flatten.

  • Boost. Adjusts the overall display of details. Moving the slider to the right will accentuate details.

Color Tool

This tool is a useful way to control the Intensity of colors in a photo. It is often used in conjunction with the Light tool.

Standard Controls

  • Saturation. This slider adjusts the intensity of all colors in your photo.

  • Vibrance. This slider adjusts only the intensity of muted colors, ignoring well-saturated colors. This is useful for finer control when adjusting color.

  • Remove Color Cast. Automatically removes undesirable color casts in your images by detecting and adjusting the hue.

Advanced Settings

  • Color Block. Choose a color target that you want to control.

  • Hue. Adjusts the hue or basic color shades of your image for the selected target. Sliding the control further to the right results in a shift towards the next color in the list (for example from Orange to Yellow). Sliding the left shifts the hue towards the previous color in the list (for example from Orange to Red).

  • Saturation. Adjust color saturation for the selected target. Sliding the control further to the right results in a more intense color. Of course, moving to the left removes color.

  • Luminance. Adjust the brightness of the colors for the selected target. Sliding the control further to the right results in a brighter color within the image. The further to the left, the darker the image.

  • Hue Shift. This filter lets you roll the hue in a photo for subtle or dramatic changes. A little is perfect to eliminate unwanted color tints while a big adjustment is perfect for a dramatic style.

Black & White Conversion Tool

  • Convert to B&W. Click this button to convert between color and black & white.

  • Luminance. Color sliders control the brightness of each relative color as it is converted from color to black and white.

  • Saturation. Each Color slider will introduce the respective color that was present within the original color image back into the black and white image.


If you want to create a spot color effect, be sure to explore the Edit Mask for the tool.

Details Enhancer Tool

The Details Enhancer filter helps you create dramatic photos and brings crystal-clear sharpness to your images. With the proper detail enhancement, you can make your photos look great and sharp, with no halos or extra artifacts.

Standard Controls

  • Small Details. Small sets sharpness of fine details. At 0, the effect is not applied. Moving the slider to the right will intensify the clarity of small details while moving to the left; on the contrary, it will somewhat wash out the fine details.

  • Medium Details. This option sets medium-sized parts sharpness. At 0, the effect is not applied. Moving the slider to the right increases the sharpness, while moving the slider to the left decreases it.

  • Large Details. Use this choice to set the sharpness of the global contours of objects in the image. At 0, the effect is not applied. Moving the slider to the right increases the sharpness, while moving to the left decreases it.

  • Sharpen. The Sharpen Tool helps focus soft edges in a photo to increase clarity or focus. Use this tool to significantly improve image quality. Keep in mind that too much sharpening can give your photo a grainy look.


Please note: on most screens sharpening results can be seen at 100% or more Zoom.

Advanced Settings

  • Details Protection. To ensure that areas of the image aren’t over-processed, use the Details Protection slider.

  • Details Masking. The dynamic masking feature allows you to reveal details only in appropriate areas and can help you define the sharpness in your image.

  • Sharpening Radius. Distance away from contrast edges that the effect is applied.

  • Sharpening Masking. Try the Masking slider to control the zone of detail amplification. When moving the slider to the left, the number of zones increases and the image becomes more detailed. When moving to the right, the number of granularity zones is reduced.


Optimal masking comes from a setting in the range from 30 to 70.

Denoise Tool

Upon close inspection, you may notice unwanted and distracting noise or grain in your digital image. This is typically caused by shooting photos with a high ISO setting on a digital camera, but it can also be caused by underexposure or long shutter speed. A lower-quality consumer camera is also more likely to exhibit noise problems. Fortunately, Luminar offers an easy tool to reduce or remove noise.

Standard Controls

  • Luminosity Denoise. Removes grayscale noise from an image.

  • Color Denoise. Removes color noise from an image.

Advanced Settings

  • Boost. Increases how aggressive the Denoise filter is.

Landscape Enhancer Tool

These tools are designed specifically to help landscape photographs. However, they can also help with real estate, travel, and nature photographs as well.

Standard Controls

  • Dehaze. The perfect blend of contrast, clarity and color adjustments to help eliminate the effects of fog and haze often found in cityscapes, landscapes, and aerial photos. It’s especially helpful when editing photos shot through glass or if there is a lot of mist or fog in the scene.

  • Golden Hour. Use this tool to bring warmth, softness, and golden glow to all of your photos. Simply dial in the amount of warm toning to introduce an even more overall color vibrancy. Quickly emulate the magic that happens just after sunrise or just before sunset.

  • Foliage Enhancer. It enhances the colors of foliage and greenery automatically, making them more vivid and natural. A good choice for nature and lush landscape images.

Advanced Controls

  • Hue. Modifies the hue of the affected foliage. Useful to dial in the right amount of green.

Vignette Tool

A Vignette darkens or lightens the edges of your image. This is quite an old technique to emphasize the accents on photos. The effect typically leaves the central area unaffected while the edges are shaded or lightened. Luminar goes further by letting you place the center point of the vignette anywhere in the image you like.

Standard Controls

  • Choose Subject. Click this button to enable a crosshair, you can then click within the photo to center the vignette. This allows you to adjust the visual focus of the vignette by offsetting it. Use this to guide the viewer’s eye to your subject.

  • Amount. Strengthens the darkening around the edges of photos. Move the slider to the left side of the picture to give more shading to the edges, while moving the slider to right will brighten the edges.

  • Size. Size of the obscured area. Moving the slider to the left will increase the area of darkening. Moving the slider to the right will reduce the area of darkening.

Advanced Controls

  • Mode. Choose whether you want the vignette to be applied before or after any cropping applied to a layer.

  • Roundness. This slider changes the shape of the shaded area.

  • Feather. This slider sets the smoothness of the transition between the area of shading.

  • Inner Light. This slider increases the brightness in the central region which is not affected by shading. It allows you to create a contrast effect.


This tool allows you to highlight key points in the photo, making it more interesting. A slight edges shading always provokes the viewer’s eye to consider the lighter central part of the photo. For a realistic picture, don’t lower the Amount below -50. As a rule, this effect is used only with darker shading. Highlights are rarely used except for some vintage looks.