Luminar Neptune To The Rescue?

With Google abandoning it’s Nik Software Collection by Google, there are a lot of people trying to duplicate the things they did in Nik in other plugins suites.  On1 and MacPhun are two plugin developers that have the ability to do the same image manipulation that the Nik does with varying success.

I’ve purchased and  used both suites but have not found that there was much added value to what Nik and especially Color Effects Pro 4.0 did.  And if Nik were to continue to be supported (apparently it is already breaking on some hardware and software platforms) I would probably not be looking for a replacement.

As a long time KelbyOne member I just watched a 2 hour class on a new MacPhun product called Luminar Neptune which seems to do some things like the Nik software. This may be because the MacPhun people were involved with developing the original Nik Collection.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding why Nik, MacPhun and ON1 all had separate plugins for different jobs.  It gets really confusing when the current products all had different version numbers like Color Effects Pro 4 and Define 2 etc.

Luminar Neptune is a single plugin that combines features of multiple plugins in previous suites.  Luminar Neptune can also be run as a stand alone application for developing raw or jpeg images without having to go near Lightroom or Photoshop.

So armed with the recent KelbyOne class and a credit card I purchased Luminar Neptune 1.2.0.  If you are a KelbyOne member or a previous owner of other MacPhun software you may be able to get a discount over the current $69 (US) price.

I bought it because it seems like the right time to transition off of the Nik Suite and because the tie in between MacPhun and the Nik Suite before Google. I was hoping that I might be easy to flip over. And it was. Except I went about it in the wrong way.

What I was hoping to do was set up some presets that basically did the same things I was doing on an ongoing basis with Nik.  So I started out with a cloud image that I had processed very normally in Lightroom applying the Camera ACROS+R filter for conversion to black and white.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. With Lightroom Processing only.

To apply any filters I always import the image into Photoshop as a Smart Object so I can re-manipulate whichever plugins I use if I feel the need (and I usually do). So first I used a action I created to launch Color Effects Pro 4.0 and apply a preset I created based on settings to Pro Contrast and Tonal Contrast that I picked up from a class by Moose Peterson which is also on KelbyOne.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Color Effects Pro 4.0 Pro and Tonal Contrast applied

I then made a virtual copy of the image and again passed to Photoshop as a smart object and this time launched the Luminar Neptune plugin. Now it would just be easy if MacPhun had created a filter called Pro Contrast and one called Tonal Contrast so I could just mimic the settings but 1) That might get a negative reaction out of Google. 2) been no fun at all. So the first thing I tried was to see if I could get Luminar to duplicate what I was doing in Nik. And that, in my opinion, is the wrong thing to do. Instead I went my own way using some suggested filters (thanks to Scott Kelby). I used the filters to make the image look like I wanted it to instead of making the image look like the Nik image. There is a lot more crunch in the image with the Luminar plugin than in the Nik one. In fact I was surprised at how soft the Nik processed image was. Look on the right side of the image at the small dark clouds about 1/3 of the way down. I really like what happens to them with the extra crunch.

Structure – Fujifilm X-T2 XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR 16mm 1/2400 sec F8.0 ISO 200. Photoshop with the Luminar Neptune plugin

The Nik software needs to be replaced, it’s not going anywhere and will soon be no more than a boat anchor. If you are using image enhancing software you need to try the different Suites and settle on one that makes sense for you.  And don’t just try to duplicate things from the old dead plugin, experiment and see what you can do with the latest and greatest. Both MacPhun and ON1 have trial periods so you can test both of them.  I liked the Nik plugins and because of the link to MacPhun1 thru common developers I went that path. Your path may be different and don’t get bogged down in how to exactly duplicate old tech, it’s time to experiment and maybe get something a bit more you.

1I still have an issue with company names that are misspellings but that is again a personal issue.

Image shot with: