I’ve processed quite a number of photos in Skylum’s Luminar 3 since its launch earlier this month. During this time I’ve discovered a few things that help me get the results I want, that I wasn’t doing in Lightroom.

First up is the Structure filter. I’m finding this invaluable with my aircraft photos but also useful for bird photos. In the case of aircraft, the Structure filter brings out some of the detail in the aircraft’s skin, giving the overall impression of a sharper image. I generally set the slider to around 12 but may tweak up or down from there depending on the particular photo. I will generally stick to between 6 and 18.

But there’s another trick to the Structure filter. You can push the slider left to “de-structure” the image. Where I found this really useful was a shot of a diminutive grey warbler perched in the branches of a tree with a dark background. With my zoom at full stretch and f/11 for sharpness (an attribute of this lens), my ISO had ridden up to 6400 and introduced a bit of noise. The denoise filter did a good job of taming it but still left some rough texture. I found using negative Structure did a wonderful job of really smoothing it out. The affected areas were mostly out of focus anyway, so no sharpness was required. The real trick here was to use two Structure filters — did you know you could do that in Luminar? You can!

I masked a +20 Structure to the bird to emphasise the texture in the feathers, then masked a -40 Structure to everything else. The result was very pleasing!

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The second trick I have found is less prescriptive rather than something to consider exploring. I’ve found the Advanced Contrast filter to have some really interesting effects. It allows you to set contrast separately for each of shadows, midtones, and highlights. I’ve found this can work to solve some interesting problems. In the shot below, the gravel was very bright and I was having trouble taming it while leaving the bird prominent enough. I could have used a graduated filter to help, but I couldn’t figure out how to de-emphasise the brightness without making it look flat. Enter Advanced Contrast. I pushed the highlight contrast to +77 and it squashed the brightness while at the same time bringing out the rich natural colour that had been hiding within it. I probably still need to apply some further processing to the bird, but I certainly tamed the biggest problem.

Any time a shot doesn’t quite look right, try giving this filter a go, and be sure to check out the balance slider for each of the target tones, as this can have a dramatic effect, too.

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