Highlight and midtone control like Luminar's capabilities


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?


@Halo Welcome to the forum!

Have you read Deep blue sky effect? Read through the entire thread for tips and implementations. Note that I haven’t found the time to update my gmic script to have an option bring back the color of the sky.

Also, while RT has a steeper learning curve and has room for improvement, it is powerful enough to meet most needs. If you need more editing capabilities, move on to editors like GIMP after initial RT processing.

If you are new to RT, you may want to read Getting Started and Eek! My Raw Photo Looks Different than the Camera JPEG.


I read through the attempts, but it’s not just about creating a deep blue sky but about preserving the deep blue sky while boosting the midtones and shadows. If I go to GIMP afterward, the sky is already lost. I can import another image with less boost of the shadows to preserve the sky, but working with complex images and layers becomes extremely tedious and I still can’t get the results of Luminar.

Thanks for the suggestions, though!

I’ve been using RT since WAY back and I have years of technical competence in photo editing across numerous platforms and programs. I’m a big RT fan, and would like to see the Luminar features implemented here. I’ve been hoping for a highlight preservation like Luminar’s in RT for a LONG time.


Good to know. I wasn’t implying otherwise; just getting to know you :slight_smile:.

I guess the best way to do that is to give us examples of the interface, adjustments and results (i.e. screenshots and files), so we know what you are looking for.

Just know that much of FOSS, at least in my experience, tends not to abstract features as much as commercial software, and so there are less one-click solutions. The reason that I shared the sky thread was to illustrate one approach to a given problem and not the tools per se. I.e., Luminar likely does similar things but under the hood.


A similar thing, Lightrooms Shadows and Highlights sliders, have been discussed in the past. Generally these sliders have a lot more under hood than just lifting shadows or lowering highlights. They generally add local contrast to make up for the loss when lowering global contrast and they also use good masking algorithms to hide halos and create smooth transitions.

I have been chasing this kind of thing myself and so far my two best solutions are:


Maybe this helps you…

(Alberto) #6


Well, I personally have no idea of what Luminar is (other than an image processing software), let alone of what it does in this specific context.
As @afre wrote:

I’d really like to be AMAZED, but I’m afraid that it won’t happen without the above :wink:




Here are two images. One with luminar, one with RT. The RT image is washed out in the sky while the shadows remain dark. The Luminar image is bright in the shadows, the distant water is not flat, the sky retains blue (sorry, didn’t have a deep blue shot handy at the moment, but it still gets the point across), the clouds have SUPERB definition, and the water flora has bright detail.

I tried wavelets and local contrast and shadow/highlight recovery and a ton of manipulations of each of the settings and it’s not even close. There are slight halos in the Luminar image, but they are not obtrusive, but still noticeable. Neverthless, the output cannot be approximated well in RT at all.

The only controls required to get this look in Luminar were the Accent and Tone controls in Luminar. That’s crazy easy.

(Alberto) #8

thanks. Any chance to get the RAW to play with?


Here you go. Again, hoping to see this capability in RT. Wish I had programming skills, but I’m not that type of engineer. :frowning:

DSC_6210.NEF (32.5 MB)

(Mica) #10

You’ve got all kinds of fringing and discoloration around the palm trees and clouds and water. Looks like some sort of tone mapping + HSL/shadows/highlights adjustment.


It certainly is a kind of tone mapping, and yes there are some color artifacts, but at 100% they are not overtly distracting. Those tradeoffs are small for my photography needs and audience, and far less distracting than the artifacts from RTs tone mapping.

The fringing appears in both photographs, so I don’t know what you’re seeing, but if you can point them out more clearly I’d like to know what I’m missing.

(Karlheinz Lehmann) #12

Hi, I got the strong impression that I don’t like your Luminar version and not your RT version. I fear you will say the same about my RT version …
DSC_6210.jpg.out.pp3 (11.0 KB)

(Alberto) #13


thanks. To be honest, I do not like your Luminar version, it’s really not my taste. However, I’m not here to criticize :slight_smile: so I tried to get in the same ballpark with RT. This is not how I would process your image, but maybe you find this acceptable? :thinking:

DSC_6210.NEF.pp3 (10.8 KB)


try my profile:DSC_6210.NEF.pp3 (10.8 KB)

(Morgan Hardwood) #15


You can’t see it, agriggio, but your versions lower midtones are EXTREMELY flat. Apply it to a portrait shot and you’ll see it more clearly, where faces will be solid grey… The Luminar version has no issues like that.

Your curve flattens out all details and color in the lower midtones. :frowning:


took me 50 sec in LR

and with a gradient mask

I also betatested Luminar (and for that matter most of professional photo and video software out there), has some interesting tools, lum masks, wow effects (which are hard to tame) – ah the IA, yes yes, the AY! - and plenty filters. They keep adding stuff but even with saved pressets (which do not keeo the masks) at the core the workflow is way too slow for me.
It is interesting to see where the guys who want to eat the crumbs left by adobe’s super duper tyranic system are going, they are probably all going to the restroom to copy each other to death {sigh}… I haven’t seen anything worth writting home about… not in the DAM world… the last surprise was Oleg’s innovative 3DLut creator (like in 2013) and very possitive experience from camera bag photo, very cool, even if they max output is 8bit tifs. Sorry I digress

2 min in Photoflow, lift shadows w luma mask, oposite with HL, split details as TM

the horrendous desktop wallpapper is from apterus :stuck_out_tongue:


This is my try: DSC_6210.NEF.pp3 (10,8 KB)

(Alberto) #19

Well, I can’t say I disagree, but OTOH I did tell you I didn’t like it :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Just FYI, here’s a version that I consider acceptable – without any attempt to emulate what Luminar gives. (warning: you may very well dislike this as much as the previous one)


@Halo I like your photo.