While Adobe is bringing generative AI models to professional photographers and designers, another company is working to make easy-to-use generative AI tools available to a wider range of photographers, including hobbyists. Starting today, Luminar Neo, the photo-editing software from Skylum (formerly Macphun), is rolling out a set of generative AI features to its desktop apps for Mac and Windows that will allow users to remove unwanted objects from their images, expand a canvas, or replace and add specific elements into a photo.
The tools are similar in some ways to Google Photos’ Magic Editor and Magic Eraser or Adobe’s own Generative Fill tool. The difference between Adobe’s Generative Fill is that Luminar Neo offers two tools, GenErase and GenSwap, instead of one. It also doesn’t require the use of a text prompt field. Instead, the user selects an area on the image to remove and clicks “Erase.” But unlike Adobe’s Generative Fill, it doesn’t offer result options to choose from — the user would have to click the “Erase” button again to get a different outcome.
Founded in 2008 as Macphun by game developers and amateur photographers Paul Muzok and Dima Sytnik, the company now known as Skylum originally focused on iOS applications, like Vintage Video Maker, which Apple recognized among the best apps of the year in 2009.
The team then proceeded to develop around 60 other iOS apps over the years that followed, but were always drawn to photography. That eventually led the team to launch their first Mac app, FX Photo Studio Pro in 2010, which topped 50 million downloads. On Mac, they also launched other image editing apps like Snapheal, Intensify, Tonality, Noiseless, Auora HDR, then later merged several apps together to make Creative Kit. Photo editing software Luminar came about in 2016. And in 2018, when they also rebranded as Skylum, the team began to focus only on their Luminar project.
The idea with Luminar was to create photo editing software for desktop users that lets you perform complex tasks in simple ways. The latest version of this app was launched in 2022 as Luminar Neo, and its user base is primarily hobbyist photographers. But a handful of professionals use the app, as well, the company says. For example, some commercial photographers tend to use Luminar Neo more as a plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop, they note.
With the rise of generative AI models for image editing, the team knew they wanted to incorporate this functionality into the product to make editing photos even easier. The plan is to release one generative AI tool each month through the end of 2023, starting with GenErase on October 26.
GenSwap (to replace elements) and GenExpand (to expand the canvas) will arrive on November 16 and December 14, respectively.
“All three generative features that will be released this year are based on the same technology, but combining and changing the parameters gives us different results and covers different use cases for the end user, which is why we decided to have three separate features,” explains Ivan Kutanin, the Ukraine-based CEO of Skylum, in an email interview with TechCrunch.
The models are based on Stable Diffusion, but Kutanin says the company also uses its own Upscale AI model and others in a single pipeline, which allows the software to increase the resolution and quality of the generated images. Currently, it offers up to 1536×1536 in image resolution, he says. For comparison, Photoshop currently offers a
resolution of 1024×1024.
The processing itself takes place in the cloud, so the app requires an internet connection to work. However, the company doesn’t store either the input or output images to protect customer privacy.
The ease of use is what the company hopes will set its software apart from others that offer similar generative AI tools.
“Luminar Neo is the latest-generation photo editing software and has around 40 complex AI models as part of its architecture, which makes it truly powerful. What we’re best known for is the ease of use and how effortless it is to start out if you’re a complete beginner,” says Kutanin. “Since a huge part of our user base are photography enthusiasts, we really focused on the user interface and making it as pleasant and fresh as possible,” he adds.
The software is offered at multiple pricing tiers for both new and existing users. After Oct. 28, it’s either $14.95 per month, $119 per year, or $179 for 2 years. A lifetime pass is available for $299, which comes with a “Creative Journey Pass” that has time limits on the new generative AI features through August 16, 2024. After that point, they need to purchase a new Creative Journey Pass or switch to a subscription.
For current users, the upgrade is slightly less expensive with the 1-year plan starting at $79 for year 1, then $99 per year going forward, also after Oct. 28. There are other discounts available if bought prior to Oct. 28.
The company has never raised outside funding and has been profitable for a few years now, employing a team of over 120.