I've been spending more time working with Luminar and working out a workflow that works for me. My recent trip to Florence has provided a lot of new images for me to process as it is, and while I processed several of them fairly quickly on my laptop while travelling, I'm finding that several of them are worth a second look and more considered processing effort.
This time I've tried doing a roundtrip from Lightroom to Luminar. In the past, I was just using Lightroom to show me the raw file in Finder to open it directly in Luminar. The advantage of that approach was that I could save out the lmnr file to maintain the non-destructive nature of my edits. The downside was then the finished result didn't get added back into my library. It's not a significant concern at the moment, but I think the roundtrip workflow is much better if you want to keep using Lightroom as your catalogue. Unfortunately, I neglected to check if I can still save out the lmnr file while utilising the roundtrip workflow. I do like that you can choose to either edit the original file (in my case, the raw file) in Luminar or export with the Lightroom adjustments. This gives you some great flexibility if you want to use Luminar as your raw processor or just for effects.
The thing I'm enjoying with Luminar is that the workflow is very organic and you can trim things back to just the tools you need for the image. I'm starting to get a feel for what some of my "go to" filters are and am formulating some thoughts around setting up a starting place preset, but for now I'm starting with each image from scratch. There are options to save workspaces that present you with several filters loaded in right away, but I found that a little overwhelming at first. Starting with just the raw file and the raw develop filter is a basic starting point. What I then do is look at what I feel the image needs after that development. Given my style at the moment, that's usually saturation and vibrance along with the detail extractor filter, which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. In this case, I used a brush to apply it only to the buildings and the bridge, but not the sky and the water. I also used the golden hour filter to add some extra warmth. I was a bit surprised at how well golden hour worked for this image since I took it after sunset during the blue hour, but I think it helped with the look and I'll try it out on other images in the future.
After that, I can move on to thinking about the direction that I want to take the image. In this case, I suspected the image radiance and Orton effect filters would enhance the glow of the streetlights and the reflection in the water. Where I didn't have perfectly smooth water in this shot, I didn't mind letting the reflection go blurrier. I tried the fog filter to see if that would also help out but wasn't happy with the effect on this particular image.
Finally, I used the exposure filter to darken the sky, which I applied with a gradient mask, brushing out the effect at the tops of the buildings. Normally in Lightroom, that would be something I'd do much earlier in the development process. My traditional workflow has been raw development, local adjustments, and then effects. In this case with the ability to add in filters at any time I can mix that up more, and that's what I mean when I say that the workflow is more organic. I was pretty happy with the overall image except for the sky, which I felt was too light, it was trivial to deal with it as the final step of the process. I know that some people do further processing on their images in Lightroom after exporting to an external editor, but I don't like breaking up the non-destructive workflow, so this approach feels more natural to me. The only Lightroom adjustment I made to the Luminar edit was to sync the crop after working in Luminar. I only opted for that so that the crops would match identically and I wanted to start with the raw file in Luminar.
Now full disclosure, after my first post comparing Lightroom and Luminar, the folks from Macphun contacted me as they saw the post and invited me to join their affiliate program. I want to stress that this is purely an affiliate program, I am not being paid to write this content, and my relationship with Macphun is purely on a referral basis should someone purchase their software through my affiliate link.