Luminar does things very differently! Both new users and those used to Luminar 3 and earlier versions might wonder where such basic adjustments as levels and curves are hiding…
Well they are there, but you need to know where to look.
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The Luminar 4 interface has four basic workspaces, accessed by buttons on the right side of the screen. These are ‘Essentials’, ‘Creative’, ‘Portrait’ and ‘Professional’. We need to select the ‘Essentials’ workspace (below).
This displays a whole series of tools, and the one we need is right at the top and called ‘Light’. When you click a tool it expands to show the tool settings (below).
At first glance it looks like there’s not much here, just some basic sliders for white balance and a handful of exposure adjustments. What you need to do is click the ‘Advanced Settings’ button at the bottom.
This opens up another set of tools, including an image histogram and combined Levels and Curves adjustments. You don’t have to keep clicking ‘Advanced’ – these expanded options will now be displayed by default until you close them again (below).
Luminar 4 does not have separate RAW develop/processing tools. It uses the same levels and curves adjustments for both – but you will be able to use the exposure adjustments to recover additional shadow and highlight detail from RAW files ahead of your levels and curves adjustments.
Levels adjustments in Luminar
It looks like there are two ways of adjusting levels in the extended Luminar Light panel.
1) You can use the Whites and Blacks sliders to shift the white and black points in the image to fill the full width of the histogram (below).
2) You can drag the white and black points under the histogram to ’stretch’ the histogram. The only issue with this is that they no longer line up properly with the histogram – it looks like they have been adjusted in a way that clips the histogram (below).
You don’t have to adjust the levels before you start adjusting the curves, but if you’re going to it’s probably best to use the Whites and Blacks sliders to do it.
Curves adjustments in Luminar
Curves adjustments in Luminar work in much the same way as they do in any other program.
You can drag the mid-point slider underneath to move the center of the curve up and down to lighten or darken the image overall, or you can click on the curve to add control points to create an s-shaped curve to increase midtone contrast, for example, or an m-shaped curve to add contrast to the shadow and highlight regions (below).
There are buttons above the histogram for selecting all channels for adjustments (the usual approach) or for selecting the red, green or blue channels individually for apply color shifts in different areas of the tonal range.
Luminar’s levels and curves adjustments are somewhat hidden away, which is odd, but once you know where to find them they are perfectly effective.