I have been using Luminar Beta for a bit now and its handling of highlights and midtones is fantastic. Using the Accent AI Enhancer and the Tone controls for highlights/shadows/whites/blacks/smart tone can lead to FAR superior results compared to Rawtherapee in certain conditions. The ability to boost midtones/shadows and pull highlights down allows blue sky to remain deep blue even as midtones/shadows are boosted 2-3 stops, looking quite natural when done properly. The functionality far exceeds ALL of the shadow/highlight recovery tools in RT, especially when trying to boost shadows and midtones while retaining the deep color of the sky and cloud detail. RT just compresses the highlights, leaving bright sky and clouds flattened. Luminar keeps all the contrast and can even add contrast to highlights even while pushing midtones and shadows SIGNIFICANTLY.
However, much of RT’s functionality is missing from Luminar, and the ability to even control JPEG quality is limited. The program is also exceedingly slow and memory/processor intensive, even with moderate changes. Luminar can make some images look super fake, too, but that can be controlled by the user completely.
Any idea how the Luminar guys do it? How can such highlight and midtone shaping be incorporated into RT?