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Photoshop vs Luminar: Sky Replacement Tool Comparison

Published: 13/11/2020

Author: Colin Robertson

Adobe finally copied the one Luminar tool I use. How does it stack up? Here's a summary of my experience comparing the two AI-powered tools:

Photoshop Pros:

  • You get a layer mask that you can edit
  • No need to use a separate plug-in
  • Ability to build your own sky library using Creative Cloud

Cons:

  • Results aren't as good
  • Fewer controls to fine-tune the sky replacement
  • Has crashed Photoshop several times during use

Luminar Pros:

  • Generates a far more convincing effect
  • Less detail loss and virtually no haloing
  • Has more controls to fine-tune the sky replacement

Cons

  • Controls to fine-tune the mask are obscurely named (i.e. "Sky Global", "Sky Local") and not obvious, resulting in lots of fiddling around to get the best result.
  • Sometimes the sky will "bleed through" onto building surfaces that have a similar tone and contrast to the sky.
  • The mask editing tools are no good.
  • You can't generate an editable mask.
  • You need to buy and run a separate piece of software.

I have compared both sky replacement features using the same sky, fiddled with the "Shift Edge" and "Fade Edge" sliders and my results are just never as good in Photoshop; and that's when it doesn't crash. In this comparison, (ignoring the different sky) you can get a good idea of how much better Luminar is at recognizing what is sky and what isn't.

Luminar isn't perfect either, but I'm seeing lots of detail loss in the trees and haloing around the building edge with Photoshop. Yes, I could fix the mask, but it's faster to get to a good result in Luminar and I plan to keep using it until Adobe catches up.

I don't want to be too down on Adobe here. I think using the new sky replacement tool could be a great starting point to a high-end, more manual replacement where you want maximum control. I've even used it to generate a quick mask to fix a sky replacement I did in Luminar where the sky bled through to the building (but otherwise looked great). Given Adobe's push into AI in the past few years, I have every expectation that this tool will eventually catch up to Luminar's genuinely impressive technology. For now, I still consider Luminar a great value and a must-buy if you find yourself regularly doing sky replacements; even if that's all you use it for.

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Brandon Cooper
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