If you’ve only just got your hands on Skylum’s Luminar, then you’re in for a treat.
After all, I firmly believe that Luminar is the absolute best photo editing software for beginners.
Plus, it’s super powerful.
But even though Luminar is the most intuitive software I’ve ever used…
…you’re still going to want to get yourself set up right, so that you can get down to the business as soon as possible.
Here’s what I recommend you do:
1. Familiarize Yourself With the Luminar Interface
If you understand the Luminar workspace from the get-go, you’ll have a very easy time learning the software–and your pictures will look better, faster.
So take a few moments and look over the interface, so that you’re able to locate everything you need, when you need it.
Let me give you a quick tour:
When you open Luminar, you’ll find yourself in the Library mode (also known as the Library view). This is where you’ll do all your importing, via the Import button in top left:
And it’s where you can view your images in Grid mode, like this:
And you can add stars and ratings and such via the tools at the bottom of each photo:
You’ll also see a toolbar across the top, which has a few helpful items, including the Crop tool:
And the Before/After preview button:
Oh, and a tip: You can hit the backslash key, ‘\’, if you want to preview the original image. Then, when you let go of the backslash key, the file will revert back to its edited state.
Next, click on the Edit button to move into the Edit mode:
This is where you’ll do all of your editing.
You have the Layers tab, where you can create layers:
The Canvas tab, where you can remove unwanted objects and deal with lens aberrations such as distortion:
The Essentials tab, where you’ll do the bulk of your editing:
The Creative tab, where you’ll be able to add cool effects to your images, such as fog, textures, and–yes–alternative skies:
The Portrait tab, where you can do advanced portrait edits:
And the Professional tab, where you can add finishing touches to your images, with options such as the Vignette tool, the Dodge & Burn tool, and the Split Tone tool.
Finally, you have the Info mode/view, which really just shows you a bit of information about your selected photo:
And that’s it!
Pretty easy, right?
2. Add an Album for Each Genre You Shoot
Once you’re familiar with the interface, I recommend you prepare the Luminar workspace for your images.
Fortunately, this is very easy!
You see, Luminar offers two methods of photo organization.
First, there are Folders. These correspond to folders on your desktop, and work in sync with your desktop folders–so when you create a new folder in Luminar, an identical folder is created on your desktop.
And when you move a photo from one folder to another in Luminar, the photo moves on the desktop.
Because of this, I don’t advise using folders. They’re too easy to mess up by accidentally moving photos around on your desktop.
Instead, you should do organization within Luminar.
That’s why Luminar’s other organizational tool is my favorite, and what I recommend:
Luminar albums exist completely within the program framework. They’re basically just containers into which you put your images.
Have an image meant for one album? Drag and drop it in. Have an image meant for another album? Drag and drop it in there, too!
So here’s what you should do to get started with your Luminar album organization:
Create an album for each genre of photography you shoot.
In other words, you could have separate albums for:
- Landscape photography
- Street photography
- Bird photography
- Wildlife photography
- Architectural photography
- Product photography
- Portrait photography
- Still life photography
- Travel photography
- Macro photography
And be generous; even if you’ve only ever shot birds once in your life, still create a bird photography album. It’s important that you have a place for all images, not just some of them; the time will come when you’ll want to find that bird photo, and–unless you have a dedicated bird photography album–you won’t know where to look.
By the way, you’re also free to separate out different genres into subgenres and so forth. Instead of having a landscape album, you might have a seascape album, a mountain album, a river album, etc.
It’s up to you.
Once you have your albums, here’s how you should work with them:
Every time you upload images to Luminar, go through every shot–and put it in the proper album.
Then you can indicate your favorites by flagging them with Luminar’s Flag label:
Or by giving them star ratings:
3. Import Your Best Images for Editing
Now that you’ve got your image organization setup, it’s time to actually begin importing images to Luminar.
You can do this in one of two basic ways:
First, you can import single images.
You do this by tapping the Plus icon at the top of the screen, and then selecting Edit Single Image:
But I don’t recommend this, because then it’ll take forever for you to get through all of your shots.
Instead, go to the Plus icon, and select Import Folder:
That way, you can import an entire folder of your images. And you can sort them according to the organizational workflow I outlined above.
I recommend you always put your photos in their final location before importing them to Luminar.
Because if you import your photos while they’re on your desktop, but you then decide to move them onto your external hard drive, they’ll disappear from Luminar.
(Well, they won’t actually disappear–you’ll be able to see a small preview, but that’s it.)
So instead of importing your photos while they sit on the desktop, wait until you’ve moved them to your external hard drive, and then import.
Things will go so much more smoothly!
By the way…
Do you want a checklist that gives you a step-by-step workflow for gorgeous edits in Luminar?
To gain instant access, just click here:
4. Import (or Create) Your Favorite Presets
You have photos.
Now it’s time to start editing.
Here’s the thing about Luminar.
It has some insanely good one-click edit tools.
In particular, Luminar offers lots of few in-built presets, also known as Looks.
(If you’re interested, there are also plenty of high-quality paid Looks you can buy.)
Now, you’re not necessarily going to want to use Looks on every photo.
But they’re a great way to make your images look amazing, fast. With almost no work on your part.
Here’s what you do:
Select a photo.
Then go to the Looks tool in the upper left-hand corner:
Scroll through the different Looks options.
Try a few. There are plenty of great ones!
And when you find one you like, keep it!
By the way, if you prefer to use your own presets, then Luminar has you covered.
Because you can easily create custom Looks–which will be stored with all of Luminar’s original looks.
Just make the changes to your photo you want to save as a Look. Open the Looks tool, then head down to Save New Look.
Click that button, and you’re all set. You’ll be able to use your custom look again and again when editing in the future.
5. Start Learning With Free Luminar Resources
One of the best things about Luminar is that it’s simple but deep.
Simple, because you can get started very quickly and begin producing amazing edits in (literally) minutes.
Deep, because there’s a lot of more complex, advanced tools that you can use to improve your photos even further, if you’re interested.
That’s why I recommend you check out some of the Luminar resources that exist on the internet.
There are plenty of great free options, such as Scott Davenport’s Luminar video series:
As well as Jim Nix’s Luminar tutorials:
So you can get learning, as fast as possible!
(And if you haven’t already, make sure you sign up for my newsletter–I’ll send you lots of tips, tricks, and secrets for amazing results in Luminar! The sign up form is at the end of this article.)
Getting Started With Luminar: The Next Step
Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to start creating stunning edits with Luminar.
So go ahead and import your photos.
And get experimenting!
But don’t stop there!
If you’re looking to keep take your photo editing to new heights, I recommend you sign up for my email list, where I send all sorts Luminar tips, tricks, and secrets that I don’t share on my blog.
I’ll also send you my Luminar workflow checklist, free of charge:
The 7-Step Luminar Workflow to Create Stunning Photos
Just enter your email below:
Then check your inbox!