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Unlocking the power of LuminarAI to add detail and sharpening to your photos

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Skylum’s LuminarAI is effective at quite a number of things including creating detail and sharpening. Although using the sliders are simple, clicking to open the menu reveals more tools that can fine-tune the sharpening of our images.

Note that the examples below can also be done in Luminar 4.

A night photo of an abandoned waterpark in the Mojave Desert. I increased the detail and sharpening with Luminar
A night photo of an abandoned water park in the Mojave Desert. I increased the detail and sharpening with LuminarAI.

Opening the Details Panel

LuminarAI has a large array of editing in the Edit Menu. Click on Edit > Tools > Details. This opens up a dialog box that has four sliders: Small Details, Medium Details, Large Details and Sharpen. Toggle these and see how the photo changes. 

Details Masking

Clicking on the Details panel opens up more possibilities. Moving the Details Protection slider to the right helps ensure that the image isn’t over-sharpened or over-processed. 

The Details Masking slider controls helps to define what areas you want sharpened, controlling the details.

Sharpening Masking

Clicking on the Sharpening Masking extends the panel further. The Sharpening Radius slider allows you to adjust how far the sharpening effect, or contrast, is extended. I tend to prefer small sharpening radiuses, but it really depends on what you are sharpening and why. 

The Sharpening Masking slider controls the zone in which details are amplified. Moving it to the left increases the size of the zone and makes the image more detailed, while moving it to the right reduces this.

But wait, there’s more!

At the top of the Details panel is a pointed tip within a circle. Click on that and this produces a pull-down menu. It defaults to Paint Mask, which is my personal favorite, as I love painting on photos for more control. 

Paint Mask

Using Paint Mask to add details and sharpening in Luminar AI. Screenshot.
Using Paint Mask to add details and sharpening in LuminarAI. The controls for the Paint Mask can be seen on the upper part of the Details Panel.

With Paint Mask or the other three masks, Luminar shows the area you paint on as a bright red color, making it easy to figure out what has been painted. Using Paint Mask, LuminarAI allows you to control the radius, the softness of the brush, and the opacity (0 to 100%). The bolder the red, the more the effects are applied.

Radial Mask

Luminar AI Radial Mask, one of three different ways of applying masks to an image.
Radial Mask, one of three different ways of applying masks to an image.

This produces a circular mask. You may draw the circle, allowing you to have the detail and sharpening effect radiate out. Or you can choose the left button and have the opposite of that.

Gradient Mask

Applying a Gradient Mask to the bottom half of the image in Luminar AI.
Applying a Gradient Mask to the bottom half of the image.

The third type of mask is the Gradient Mask, allowing you to create a graduated filter and control the angle at which this filter works. This works similarly to gradient filters in other programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

Final thoughts

I find the LuminarAI Details panel to be quite effective at creating sharpening, which just about every digital image needs, particularly if you are shooting RAW files. My preference is to keep it all reasonably subtle, using more of the Small Details slider than the others, and not jacking the Sharpening Slider all the way to the right and making everything look “crunchy” and harsh. 

I use either Luminar 4 or LuminarAI for every photo that I process. Both programs handle color, dynamic range, details and sharpening exceedingly well, and are an important part of my workflow.

Ken Lee

Ken Lee

I am a night photographer. I drive long hours in a dusty car listening to weird music, stay out all night creating photos, get dirty, hang out with other creative sleep-deprived weirdos, see the stars drift across the sky and always find the best taco stands while photographing forgotten abandoned locales and amazing nightscapes. I have one book published with two more on the way, and my images have appeared in National Geographic Books, Omni magazine, Los Angeles Times, Westways magazine and numerous other publications.

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