The ‘Pluto’ update to Luminar brought a selection of new tools including a new Golden Hour filter. If you want to know more about it, you can download the Luminar trial version. This filter is designed to simulate the warmth of a late afternoon sun, something which is actually a lot more difficult to do digitally than you might imagine. It’s easy enough to add an overall warming effect to a photo but that’s not realistic because it’s the light that should be yellow, not the whole picture – blue skies need to stay blue.
Update: Luminar 4
This tutorial was written for Luminar 1, and we’re now up to Luminar 4. A lot has changed, especially in the Luminar workspaces, but the Golden Hour effect is still available – if you know where to look. It’s been simplified down to a single slider (it still works fine) which you can find in the Essentials workspace, in the Landscape Enhancer panel.
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So here’s a guide to the new Golden Hour filter. It’s so simple to use, however, that there’s very little to explain. So I’ll also use this as an opportunity to demonstrate Luminar’s workspaces and filters, and how they work together to produce an interface that’s as complex – or as simple – as you want it to be.
01 Clear the workspace
Luminar opens in its default workspace, which includes a whole bunch of filters we don’t need right now and which are only going to confuse things. So let’s get rid of them by opening the Workspace menu and selecting Clear…
02 Select the Golden Hour filter
So now we need the new Golden Hour filter, and to do this click the ‘+’ button at the top of the Filters panel and choose it from the list. Let’s hope it can do something for this exceptionally grey and dull-looking photo.
03 Adjust the Amount
Well that’s made a difference already! I’ve pushed the Amount slider up to 50 and already the colours are much warmer and richer – but, crucially, the sky is still blue. I could push the Amount slider still further, but the colours soon start becoming unrealistic and overdone.
04 Adjust the Saturation
You’ll have noticed there’s also a Saturation slider, and it’s tempting to push all of these controls up to maximum to get the strongest effect possible. With this filter, though, just increasing the Amount value quickly pushes up the colour saturation, so this time I think it’s useful to knock the Saturation value back a bit rather than pushing it still higher.
05 Add the Curves filter
There is no problem with the saturation, but I don’t think there’s enough contrast. This kind of late afternoon light generally has lots of contrast. Admittedly, the start image was unusually flat, and you won’t necessarily need a curves adjustment on top, but I’m going to add one here just to show how easy and flexible the Luminar interface is. As with the Golden Hour filter, you just need to click the ‘+’ button and choose the filter from the list.
06 Adjust the curves
I haven’t done anything particularly elaborate here. I’ve just dragged down the base of the curve to make the shadows richer and denser, dragged the highlights upwards to give them a bit of a kick, and this has steepened the curve in the midtones for a general contrast boost – it’s a classic s-curve contrast adjustment.
07 Compare it with the original
Luminar has a rather neat split-screen view that lets you quickly check how far you’ve come with your adjustments. This is a very good result with very little effort, and of all the ‘golden hour’ type landscape warmup filters and tools I’ve used, this is by far the best. I might just have another tinker with the curves adjustment to give the highlights a bit more sparkle, but otherwise I’m very happy with this.