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Looking for an Adobe Lightroom alternative that’s powerful and cheap?

“I don’t want to pay for a subscription to Adobe!” I hear this all the time in photography forums. Many photographers are looking for a Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom alternative…

UPDATE: Skylum Software has now released Luminar 4 with AI Enhancements including Portrait and Skin Enhancements, Sky Replacement, and Structure. Click here to learn more!!

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Luminar 3 is just that. I’ve used previous versions of Luminar and was not terribly impressed. They were more like an amped up version of Adobe Camera Raw with presets, but Luminar 3 is very impressive.

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Improved User Interface

I’ve used a couple of versions of Luminar at this point and this is by far the best UI I’ve seen. It’s more intuitive and easier to figure out where the tools are located.

You can also quickly toggle between a variety of workspaces including professional, black & white, landscape, and ‘quick & awesome’.

alternative to Adobe Lightroom image editing software

Luminar 3 also has LIBRARIES!!

Previous iterations only allowed you to open one image at a time and there was no way to ‘browse’ images. You can now create multiple catalogs, import different folders, and batch process images…just like in Lightroom.

I’m not sure how many photos each catalog can conceivably hold. I haven’t tried to push it yet. I did notice that it took considerably longer to ‘import’ images than with Lightroom.

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Presets and LUTs

Luminar 3 comes with a number of included presets. Some are very good, others are what I would consider more along the lines of an Instagram filter.

You can also purchase other presets through Skylum (the company that makes Luminar) or you can make your own. Just make your edits and then save the preset. Again, just like in Lightroom.

You can also make use of LUTs (Look Up Tables) in Luminar 3. These are the same as “profiles” in Lightroom and you can use the LUTs that come installed with the program or import your own.

Layering Filters/Adjustments

You can add multiple layers of filters and adjustments to your photo and adjust the intensity of each layer with a slider.

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Spot Adjustments/Cloning/Masking

Luminar 3 also has the ability to make spot adjustments (much like Lightroom) with all of the tools as well as cloning, erasing, and adding masks.


Is Luminar 3 as powerful as Lightroom? It doesn’t seem to be, BUT it is close.

It lacks some of the cataloging and exporting abilities (maybe I haven’t figured it out, but there doesn’t seem to be an apparent way to resize when exporting an image after making adjustments) of Lightroom as well as the clickable “Quick Edits” Lightroom offers (everything is adjusted via sliders).

However, for the price point – $69 for a one time installation, no subscriptions – it should be taken VERY seriously. For photographers who don’t need all the bells and whistles of Lightroom or those who don’t want to pay a subscription fee!

Want a discount? Use the code NERDYPHOTO at checkout and take $10 off!

Click here to try Luminar 3 free for 30 days. Or check out some sample photo edits below! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Editor’s Note: Yes, this post includes affiliate links. However, I have used several editions of Luminar at this point and I would recommend this product to photographers of any skill level!


I feel the need to mention that all of these sample images were edited in about 15 seconds. The interface is really easy to use.

luminar before and after image editing
before and after luminar image editing software
adobe lightroom alternative software

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The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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