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Skylum Announces Luminar 4 with AI Sky Replacements

Published: 21/08/2019

Reza in Sweden writes:

I saw an ad a few weeks ago that says Luminar 4, which is coming out late this fall, will have an AI sky replacement feature. If this technology works well, it could save me a ton of time in post and potentially have a significant impact on our industry. What are your thoughts?

I'm sure people in our community will be torn on this issue but I'm all for anything that can help us produce better images in less time. That being said, there are a few basic things that should be considered when doing proper sky replacements.

  1. Learn a few useful selection techniques in Photoshop to make sure that you can create clean masks in multiple scenarios and avoid hazing around fine details like leaves and branches.
  2. Make sure you choose a sky that suits the scene and doesn't look over-processed. There's nothing worse than seeing a nicely composed front exterior of a home, only to be distracted by an obviously fake sky.
  3. Spend some time adjusting the colors of the entire image to make sure the overall tones make sense. For example, if you drop in a lovely sunset, the home and surrounding areas should have a warm tone to them.

Will the Luminar AI be able to make these considerations and adjust accordingly? I don't know but I'm excited to find out! Once the software is available, we'll do some test runs and report back to the community.

In the meantime, I'm curious to hear what everyone else thinks.


Brandon Cooper

16 comments on “Skylum Announces Luminar 4 with AI Sky Replacements”

  1. Surly sounds worth looking into however, since the volume of jobs coming in over the past year I have the editors take care of this aspect.

    That being said if I over shoot a property I’ll generally spend a few minutes to process the exteriors that take a lot less time to save a few dollars.

    Here is my simple quick process for sky replacement:

    I have a couple images that are already color corrected and desaturated to fit just about any day light image

    Import the blended LR Enfused exterior image and the pre made sky image jpg into photo shop, hold shift and drag the sky on top of the exterior image. Then in the sky layer create a black mask, then in the same sky layer under the blend modes select darken mode, then just take your white paint brush and just paint over the sky and trees and it generally works perfectly for about 95% of your exterior images. Takes all of 30 seconds to replace the sky.

    Hope that helps,

  2. The software going into phones may be more powerful than even our best programs.

    There are camera phones that mask VIDEO on the fly. Imagine the computational power that takes. You can make a black and white background for example and keep your subject color.

    I think the technology for replacing skies immediately in photos is far beyond where we need to be is the point.

    So, that sky replacement technology will be in phones, if it is not already. Instant perfect, well masked skies. I believe they will be able to use those depth sense "cameras" for this. Instant verticals are coming soon too I am sure. Phones have such powerful processing engines it is scary, and I bet many of these features you will even be able to preview before you take the photo. Not to mention all the low light, multiple photo, handheld algorithms already in phones.

  3. RE: Andrew... Good for the phones’ algorithms. Unless you’re shooting with continuous lighting, phone-based cameras are useless for more than a walk through and planning. When I can sync my Algorithms also don’t “see” the image...AI can try, but won’t replace the human eye (and brain) anytime soon. Skynet may eventually replace us with machines, but for the near future, AI isn’t ready for prime time.

  4. I've been using Landscape pro for a few months now and it's amazing for sky replacements. You can adjust the over all picture, you can easily select the items, sky, building, trees... it has fine tuning that helps a ton and a library of skies. You can also use you own skies and upload them to the software. It's a stand along but also a plugin to Photoshop. It's been really great for me!

  5. So far these programs are s l o w. I can put a sky in from scratch 10x faster then trying to make Landscaper Pro do it. The time consumption is mask refining. I dont use masks to work on skies, I use blending - darken mode. Im not going to replace a sky that has content anyway, only a sky that is white.

    It will be interesting to see if Skylum improves this process. I use their software, but sparingly - their natural presets must be made for out-of-camera RAW or somewhat flat files. If you apply it to a jpg you've already processed in LR, the coloration is outrageous.

  6. There is a director shooting Hollywood movies on a phone. Soderberg. He is so crazy about it he says he is going to continue using it as well. I was just replying to the comment that "phones are useless for anything more than a walkthrough", which obviously is simply not true. Phones are absolutely more than capable to shoot RE exteriors for example. I would hope we could all agree on that. Interiors as well. There are photographers in this group using their phone for RE video with great results.

    Arguing that expensive equipment is superior to cheaper or smaller equipment does not make you a better photographer. We see this often for whatever reason. I am not sure what you have against essentially what is just a smaller camera. Anyway, the point was phones are masking subjects in video in real time! So, how easy do you think it is for a phone to do a sky replacement on a photo!? Once the engineers know there are a few consumers out there who want that it will be feasible without a problem.

  7. I hope this feature comes to Photoshop, or Lightroom... or pretty much any other piece of photo editing software because just about every other feature they advertise for Luminar makes photos look over-processed and gross. That said, if the sky replacement feature works well, it would probably be worth the price of admission by itself.

    Then again, realtors love gross-looking, over-processed photos! ????

  8. Re: Loughton - agree that Landscape Pro is great for sky replacements.
    One of the really neat things is that as you can select and nominate the various items in an image - re Real Estate that means the trees, grass, ground, plants, items in the sky like satellite dishes and tall trees, etc.
    And why is this important you may ask?
    Well once selected in the final proofing stage you get the chance to darken or lighten objects, to match colours via the "copy to image" option where you can make the base image replicate closer the sky tomes/brightness.
    Prior to this I often found the top of the foliage meeting the sky was often too dark / too bright....and this fixes that. Also found it beneficial to darken any grass / plants / shrubs too.
    Been using it for a number of years and just really enjoy its flexibility.

  9. @LoughtonSmith, I wouldn't be so sure about that. I'm with Andrew Pece on this one. The computational photography being utilized in the current crop of cell phones is already impressive, and that tech advances WAY faster than the pro media stuff does. Can you imagine how much business we would all lose if one of these silicon valley millennials created an app to do clean HDR window pulled interior shots with an iPhone? Would they be as clean as what we're doing with flashes?...of course not, but they'd be good enough for the majority of real estate agents, and would get measurably better and cleaner at a staggering pace. If all one needs to learn is composition, the learning curve isn't nearly as steep as also needing to learn exposure and editing. As for me, I enjoy the heck out of what I do, but I also have no fantasy that the writing is on the wall.

  10. Re: Brian and Andrew: Perhaps I’m clinging onto current technology, but I just don’t see phones replacing current cameras and the quality of current lighting in the near future. Perhaps some photographers using phones will eventually pose a risk as competition, but will real estate agents hire them? Perhaps...

  11. Consumer technology is going to continue to get better. IMO, its a raising of the bottom, visually. There will come a day when consumer devices blend exposures as good as any of us, and with depth mapping and better sensors, I can even see better control over "virtual lighting" coming.

    It should be a reminder to all of us to always be improving. The bottom will rise --- that's for sure, and in some cases, its already there.

    We have competitors out there that sell "unlimited" photography packages pulled from 3D scans. The output isn't great, but its serviceable to a tier of the agents. The thing is --- what it's not, and I don't think could be for a while is a carefully crafted composition. Its a grab from a path of egress.

    All the more reason that we must further refine the artistic elements of our skillset. If one can pull a technically solid exposure set from the iphone 13, the biggest differentiator that our clients can see value in will be that in composition.

  12. I have about 5 workflows for doing a sky replacement that depend on the particulars of the image. What looks good is so subjective that an automated process is going to miss far more than get it right. Some skies I'm not doing an entire replacement but just grabbing my Cloud brushes and breaking up a clear blue sky for more interest. The problem is beyond just defining what is sky in a photo and needs a human to gauge what's natural or not. Sky replacement issues are in league with day to dusk conversions. I see poor ones just about everyday and just have to shake my head. The image would have been better if nothing was done to it at all.

  13. I just purchased Luminar 4 after being a dedicated Photoshop and Lightroom user for 4 years. I would guess ive replaced over 1000 skys in those 4 years. The AI in Luminar 4 definitely does an awesome job at replacing the sky. sometimes it overlaps the home or a tree a little bit but it can be brushed out very easily. The hardest part is learning where the tools are that you need...if thats the toughest part then its a huge help. Id say Ive saved a good 2-5 minutes per photo...this is a game changer for me and for any architectural, landscape, real estate photographer. Oh, and did I mention you can get it for $79 with a discount code FOR LIFE! yea...$79 FOREVER...pretty damn great if you ask me!

  14. Just tested Luminar 4.1 and the sky replacement - works great. Also retouching portraits is fine with Luminar.

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