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Affinity Photo vs. Luminar: A Photographer’s Perspective

Affinity Photo 1.9 and Luminar 4 have different perspectives on photo editing. The first (Affinity Photo) aims to provide advanced tools for adjusting and fine-tuning each aspect of your photos. Luminar embraces Artificial Intelligence (AI) and aims to provide automatic tools for fast and efficient editing without too much human intervention. In this article, we look at Affinity Photo vs Luminar from a photographer’s perspective.

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These two image editors offer a wide range of adjustments, presets, batch processing, RAW support, and much more. Both have strong communities around them, provide regular updates, and offer a fresh approach to editing photographs. But which one provides the smooth workflow you need in order to spend more time taking photos than editing them, while at the same time giving you enough control over the post-processing steps, that you need? We need a comprehensive and detailed comparison to make an informed decision.

When we compare two editors, we take into consideration all their powerful features, not only photo retouching tools. Everything matters, from speed and technical requirements to the user interface, variety of local adjustments, layer management, and the range of filters.

We want to help you choose a comfortable editor, user-friendly and reliable. Although some features may seem far away from a photographer’s interests, you never know when you’re going to need them or how they will impact your work. So let’s take a closer look and Affinity Photo and Luminar 4.

The Battle of Requirements

Technology advances so fast that is becoming more difficult and expensive to keep up with it. How often do you change your laptop or operating system? How often do you update the RAM, graphic card, or hard disk?

If you’re one of those photographers who want to focus solely on photography, you have to choose reliable and low-maintenance software. Check out the technical requirements of Luminar 4 and Affinity Photo before making a decision.

ResourceAffinity PhotoLuminar 4
Operating systemWindows, Mac OS, iPadWindows, Mac
Disk space953 MB for Windows, 2.8 GB for Mac (more during installation)10 GB
RAM2 GB minimum (4 GB recommended)8 GB or more

It worth saying that Affinity Photo’s latest update comes with well-needed hardware acceleration for Windows 10 systems with a Direct3D level 12.0-capable card.

Photo editors tend to be slower on Windows systems, especially for older versions of Windows. They also tend to require more RAM than the vendor mentions.

For example, working in Luminar 4 on a Windows 7 system with just 8 GB of RAM can be very tricky, slow, and prone to crashes. Luckily, Luminar 4 automatically saves your edits while you make them thus you don’t lose your work. But it’s still annoying and time-consuming.

On the other hand, Affinity Photo only requires just 4 GB of RAM and can run fast and errorless even on the edge of system requirements.

Both editors are serious competition for Adobe’s products in terms of price and features. Affinity Photo 1.9 offers a lifetime license at $50 (for all devices running the same operating system) and Luminar 4 at around $80 (for 1 device).

Both offer frequent promotions such as Affinity’s 50% off promotion that happens at this moment. Skylum charges for each major upgrade of Luminar (which comes on a roughly yearly basis). Serif, however, hasn’t asked users to pay for upgrades in several years.

Workflow and interface

Luminar 4 was designed by photographers and for photographers. As a result, it includes digital asset management that allows you to browse, sort, rate, and organize images directly from the app. It provides a complete workflow, from camera to the end result, and this comes handily for a photographer. The only thing that’s missing is tethered shooting.

Luminar 4 provides a tether-like effect, meaning you can connect the camera with the app to see the picture you’ve just taken on the screen but you can’t control the camera from the app.

Luminar single image edits
Luminar 4 image library

You’ll find Luminar’s interface extremely airy and visual. It’s pretty stylish.

Everything happens in the main panel, all the adjustments are listed on the right, and all presets are listed on the bottom. Everything is well-labeled and clear. You’ll probably need just a couple of days to learn to navigate through it.

Affinity Photo goes in a different direction. It doesn’t have digital asset management or tethered shooting. The interface is more complex and less visual. However, it has Personas.

Personas are dedicated workspaces that limit the number of tools you see and allow you to focus on a single action. Personas cover RAW image editing, working with liquify tools, tone mapping, and exporting files. You will mostly work in the Photo Persona.

They provide a straightforward workflow for the user. Add the fact that you can customize the interface and save its configuration for later use. You can also save a series of edits as snapshots and come back to them later. This allows you to explore different editing approaches and go back to a crossing point.

Affinity Photo’s Develop Persona

Affinity Photo provides lots of tools and you’ll need some time to learn them all. But the moment you do, navigating through the editor will be easy and fun. Everything is in the right place and, if it isn’t, you can move it there.

Batch processing and RAW support

There isn’t much difference between Affinity Photo and Luminar 4 when it comes to RAW file support. They both support hundreds of camera models so check if yours is on their list. It probably is.

Batch processing is also something both editors offer. Affinity Photo allows you to save images in JPEG, PNG, TIFF, EXR, and AFPhoto file formats, change image dimensions, and apply macros (pre-recorded sets of actions). Luminar 4 gives you a little bit more control and allows you to apply Looks (Luminar’s presets) and adjust their intensity, rename files, change images’ size and color profile, save in JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and PSD file formats, and save batch processing settings for later use.

Photo adjustments and filters

Here is where a photographer becomes interested. Photographers want to have control over each pixel and each aspect of an image. And their photo editing software should give them control. We want endless ways of expressing our creativity, from mixing layers to local adjustments and special effects.

We also want advanced tools for retouching photos, creating atmosphere, and defining our signature style. The good news is that both Luminar 4 and Affinity Photo excel in this chapter.

To understand how these editors work you need to understand their philosophies.

Luminar 4 aims for as many automatic adjustments as possible and provides dedicated tools for portrait retouching and landscape enhancing. It provides AI-based tools meant to fix an image without any human intervention. Luminar 4 comes with around 80 default presets and encourages you to create your own or download more from Luminar Marketplace.

Luminar 4 goes for fixing everything in one move. And for some photographers, this philosophy works. But does it work if you aren’t a portrait or landscape photographer?

Affinity Photo has a different approach. It provides all the tools you need to process photos step by step and finish them up for social media, photo books, or printing.

For example, it has drawing tools and tools for adding text over an image. It has advanced selection tools, brushes, and layer management. It has live filters and layer effects.

On the other hand, Affinity Photo has fewer presets and automatic adjustments. It addresses all types of photography and supports the graphic design part any photographer needs from time to time.

Basic and advanced adjustments in Luminar 4

Luminar 4 groups photo adjustments in four categories: Essentials, Creative, Portrait, and Professional. In the Essential category, you’ll find common adjustments such as exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, saturation, and denoise. You’ll also find more advanced tools for enhancing details, removing haze and color cast, converting an image to black and white, and adding a vignette.

The Creative category is dedicated to special effects. Portrait photographers will love the Portrait category that provides tools for enhancing and enlarging eyes, adjusting lips saturation and redness, removing red-eye, whitening teeth, and more. The Professional category is dedicated to advanced color and contrast controls, dodge and burn, and split toning.

Luminar 4 Essential adjustments panel

Because it wants to keep the interface airy, Luminar 4 displays the history panel, adjustments, layers, and miscellaneous tools alternatively. As a result, you have to remember which layer you’ve selected when applying adjustments to it.

Switching between panels can be a drawback. Another problem is the lack of selection tools. If you need to make a local adjustment, you have to rely on masks. And Luminar 4 creates masks just by brush, radial, using a gradient, and using luminosity.

Luminar doesn’t provide layer effects and has only 14 blending modes compared with more than 30 blending modes provided by Affinity Photo.

Basic and Advanced Adjustments in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo also groups photo adjustments in a single panel called Adjustment.

The panel includes everything from basic adjustments (e.g. Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, and White Balance) to advanced ones (e.g. Curves, Black and White conversion, Split Toning, and Color Balance). For each of them, Affinity displays small previews of the most common settings.

You can see the effects of each adjustment on the entire image, in real-time, before committing to applying it. Furthermore, Affinity Photo treats each adjustment as a layer and allows you to set the opacity and blending mode. This opens up endless possibilities to combine adjustments and effects and produce unique photographs.

Affinity Photo Adjustment panel

Affinity’s Develop Persona, the persona dedicated to RAW editing, provides more advanced tools such as lens correction, chromatic aberration reduction, detail refinement, noise reduction and addition, and overlays.

Automatic Adjustments and Filters in Luminar 4

Automatic adjustments are Luminar’s specialty. It aims to provide AI-based tools that replace human intervention or at least minimize it.

Luminar 4 uses AI to deliver content-based adjustments and improve image quality. For example, AI Accent enhances the features of any image by adjusting simultaneously exposure, contrast, color, brightness, and white balance.

AI Sky Enhancer uses AI to determine which part of an image represents the sky and apply specific adjustments only for the sky area. AI Structure enhances details and AI Skin Enhancer is calibrated to recognize faces and people and removes skin imperfections.

Even if you don’t rely completely on automatic adjustments, Luminar’s AI-based tools work very well and can be a very good start to your editing process.

What Luminar’s AI Sky Replacement tool can do

Another good start for retouching photos or creating mood is using Looks. Luminar 4 provides looks for many types of photography and artistic styles. And you can also create yours.

Looks are amazing when you’re dealing with a large volume of photos from the same photo session. The photos have similar lighting and colors and you want to give them a homogeneous aspect. Using presets is a great way to save time and deliver spectacular photos.

Luminar 4 has around 80 default Looks

Automatic Adjustments and Filters in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo has just four automatic tools for adjusting levels, contrast, colors, and white balance. In addition, it uses macros, pre-recorded sets of actions that act like presets. You can import macros created by someone else or create your own.

Affinity also provides a long list of filters and special effects that can do almost anything. You can use them to blur or sharpen parts of the image, add lighting, add or remove noise, and distort the image.

An entire Affinity Persona is dedicated to tone mapping HDR images. There are default presets in the Tone Mapping Persona too. And you can import more or create your own.

It seems that Affinity Persona goes for different presets and filters for each task you have for it. There are small automatic processes everywhere but not a one-preset-fits-all type of action.

Tone Mapping Persona uses presets too

Both Luminar 4 and Affinity Photo work with LUTs (lookup tables). Affinity Photo supports .3dl, .csp, .cube, and .look extensions, while Luminar works best with .cube extension.

Which one is the best choice for a photographer: Affinity Photo vs Luminar 4?

Luminar 4 and Affinity Photo deserve to be considered. But evaluate them from your point of view.

If your editing style involves easy fixes and improvements over the entire image, Luminar may be what you need. Especially if you do portrait or landscape photography, or if you need to use the same style for multiple images. It also helps that Luminar comes with image organizing tools that allow you to classify and rate your photos.

But if you need a wider range of tools and your editing style involves lots of local edits, Affinity Photo may be what you need. Affinity Photo may be the best choice for creative photography, where tools such as drawing, painting, liquify, and adding text are a must. Or for macro photography, where you need focus stacking from time to time. Or for large-scale photography, where stitching panoramas is required.

Affinity Photo is more versatile and adapts to any photography style. While it’s not as easy to use as Luminar, it has tools for everybody.

Some of Affinity Photo’s tools

If you choose Luminar 4, you’ll need software for signing your photos and prepare them for publishing. If you choose Affinity Photo, you’ll need software for image management. Neither of these two editors is perfect but both can be the perfect one for you.

Some would say that comparing Affinity Photo with Luminar is a bit odd, like comparing Adobe Lightroom with Adobe Photoshop. To some degree, it is because if you go with Affinity Photo you lack the capability to organize your photos, and if you chose Luminar, you lack the possibility for more advanced photo editing, that i.e. Affinity Photo offers.

What you choose should reflect your preferred way of editing photos, speed editing, or careful editing with control of each aspect of post-processing. Choosing one doesn’t rule out the other though.

A Note on Luminar AI and Luminar 4

We should mention that Skylum, the company behind Luminar offers a new app called Luminar AI. The confusing part is that Luminar AI is a different program and not an update for the existing Luminar 4.

Existing Luminar 4 licenses don’t work for Luminar AI. But it’s not a replacement either because Skylum sells them both, almost at identical prices. However, Luminar AI looks a lot like Luminar 4.

Yes, Looks are called Templates and you can’t use the Looks you bought for Luminar 4, which makes many people angry. And there are more AI-based features for portrait and landscape photography. But the rest is pretty similar: almost identical interfaces; similar digital asset management; similar layer and mask tools.

It’s clear that Luminar moves towards autonomous post-processing rather than towards a more complex one. But it’s confusing for Skylum’s customers to have to choose between two similar programs.

Let us know which is your favorite: luminar vs affinity, and what do you think about their philosophies.

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