Adobe Creative Cloud vs Skylum Products – Price, HDR, Updates, Verdict

Skylum has shaken up the photo industry and is positioning itself as an inexpensive solution for Adobe’s Lightroom. Both software products have advantages and disadvantages, so it can be difficult to know which one will be the best option for you. In this guide, we will compare the two brands in this article: Adobe Creative Cloud vs Skylum Products. Can you replace Adobe products with Skylum products to do your photo work?

Table of Contents

Skylum Controls vs Adobe

Luminar employs the identical keyboard shortcuts as Lightroom, which makes it feel quite familiar to anybody also using Adobe’s hottest photo-editor.

Luminar feels a lot less “clunky” than Lightroom, so if you’re someone who doesn’t like getting bogged down by editing applications, this might be something for you.

Lightroom has been able to manage your photos from a catalog perspective for some time, but it wasn’t until 2018 that Skylum added the ability to use catalogs for your digital works with the release of Luminar 3 with Libraries.

Price of Skylum vs Adobe

The biggest difference between Skylum and Adobe pricing must be that Adobe is based on a subscription business model, while Skylum is software that you buy and own. Skylum also offers discounts when they come out with a newer version, which you can find below.

SkylumLuminar 4$67 $89 ONE TIME
SkylumAurora HDR 2019$99 ONE TIME
SkylumBundle$149 $188 ONE TIME
Skylum- Luminar 4Included in Bundle
Skylum- Luminar 3Included in Bundle
Skylum- Aurora HDR 2019Included in Bundle
BrandSoftwarePricePer Year
AdobePhotography Planimp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon Schwartz$9.99/mo$119.88
Adobe- Lightroom CC 2020Included in Plan-
Adobe- Lightroom ClassicIncluded in Plan-
Adobe- Photoshop CCIncluded in Plan-

If you’re someone who loves to be on the bleeding edge every year updating your software, then check out $119.88 plus taxes with Adobe OR $89- $169 with Skylum, provided you also want HDR features. Skylum really shines when you’re someone who doesn’t plan to upgrade every year. It’s really where you can save a lot of money.

Skylum still has an offer where you can purchase Luminar 3+4 with Aurora HDR 2019.

Students and teachers can subscribe to Creative Cloud with all apps for $19.99/mo for the first year, then $29.99 instead of $52.99/mo!

*The annual plan requires a 12-month commitment to Creative Cloud, even though you pay $9.99 a month. If you cancel early, early termination fee is likely.


BrandSoftwareHDRPanoramaHDR Panoramas
SkylumLuminar 4NoNoNo
SkylumLuminar 3NoNoNo
SkylumAurora HDR 2019YesNoNo
BrandSoftwareHDRPanoramaHDR Panoramas
AdobeLightroom CC 2020imp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon SchwartzYesYesYes
AdobeLightroom Classicimp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon SchwartzYesYesYes
AdobePhotoshop CCimp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon SchwartzYesYesYes

Skylum Software Updates vs Adobe

How often does each company update its software? Both seem to produce an update on average every 2-3 months, from my experience using both firsthand. With Skylum they still produce updates for Luminar 3, which is generous considering that Luminar 4 has just been released. We also see updates when new cameras come out so that you can edit all the new types of files they produce.

You could install the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 on your computer if you get into trouble with 2020, but if you decide to stop paying for the subscription, you will lose access to CC2019 and CC2020. With Luminar 4, you have bought it and can continue to use it indefinitely.

Skylum Release Dates

Luminar 4

  • March 2020 update (4.2)
    • NEW: AI Augmented Sky
    • Improvements to Portrait Tools
    • Improved Relight Scene in AI Sky Replacement
    • Preview Preset Multithreading – For multi-core systems, generation of previews received a boost, making for faster and more comfortable viewing and usage.
    • Third-party Plugin Implementation – Popular plugins can now be used. At this time, plugins for the Aurora HDR, DxO Nik Collection family, as well as the Topaz plugins collection, are supported.
    • Bug fixes.
  • July 2020 update (4.3)
    • NEW: Photo Search
    • NEW: 500px Integration
    • IMPROVED: Stability and Performance Improvements
    • IMPROVED: Faster Looks Experience
    • IMPROVED: Cropping
    • IMPROVED: AI Augmented Sky
    • IMPROVED: Custom Skies and Sky Objects
    • IMPROVED: Updated Camera Support
    • IMPROVED: New Masking Brush Workflow
    • IMPROVED: Localization/Language Improvements

Aurora HDR 2019

  • October 2019 update (
  • User Interface / Performance
    • NEW: Tone-mapping technology for bracketed images with the Quantum HDR Engine
    • NEW: Tone-mapping technology for single images with the Quantum HDR Engine
  • Editing
    • NEW: HDR Smart Structure for realistic and artifact-free structure
    • NEW: All new Aurora HDR Looks to enhance and stylize images
    • NEW: LUT Mapping filter for creative color and tone adjustments
    • NEW: Eleven integrated LUTs to use with the LUT Mapping filter
    • IMPROVED: HDR Details Boost filter that allows for high-resolution tuning while adjusting
    • IMPROVED: Adjustable Gradient filter with new controls for Shadows and Highlights
  • Open / Plugin / Export 
    • NEW: Photoshop plugins support
    • NEW: Photolemur plugin support
    • NEW: Plugins menu for both Mac® and Windows® users

Luminar 3

  • June 2019 update (3.1.1)
    • Update brings usability and speed improvements
  • August 2019 update (3.1.3)

Adobe Release Dates


  • November 2019 release (version 21.0)
    • NEW: Cloud documents
    • IMPROVED: Improvements to presets
    • NEW: New Object Selection tool
    • IMPROVED: Consistent transform behavior
    • IMPROVED: Properties panel
    • NEW: Convert Smart Object to layers
    • IMPROVED: Enhanced Transform Warp
    • IMPROVED: Stylistic sets for OpenType fonts
    • IMPROVED: Enhanced Content-Aware Fill
    • IMPROVED: 32-bit adjustment layers for Brightness/Contrast and Curves
    • NEW: What’s new screen within the app
    • NEW: Animated GIF support
    • IMPROVED: New Document dialog performance
    • IMPROVED: Lens Blur performance
    • IMPROVED: Documents tab improvement
    • NEW: Smart Object and Layer Comp tracking
    • NEW: World-Ready Layout text engine option
    • NEW: Preference setting to auto-show the home screen
    • Adobe Asset Link
  • New Shortcuts
    • Paint and erase with the same brush
    • Zoom to a layer’s contents
    • Rotate brush
  • February 2020 release (version 21.1)
    • IMPROVED: Enhanced Content-Aware Fill
    • IMPROVED: Improved Lens Blur quality
    • IMPROVED: Performance
    • Fixed customer-reported issues
  • March 2020 release (version 21.1.1)
  • September 2020 release (version 21.2)
    • Update provides fix for a critical customer-reported issue.


  • February 2020 release (desktop version 3.2, iOS version 5.2, Android version 5.2)
  • August 2020 release (desktop version 3.4, iOS version 5.4.2, Android version 5.4)
  • Top new features
    • NEW: Share inspirational edits
    • NEW: Local Hue adjustment
    • NEW: Create edit versions
    • NEW: Customize default settings for raw photos
    • NEW: Add text watermarks to photos on desktop
    • NEW: Easily send photos to Photoshop on the iPad (iPad only)
    • NEW: Support for new cameras and lenses
    • Other enhancements

Lightroom Classic

  • February 2020 release (version 9.2)
  • June 2020 release (version 9.3)
  • Top new features
    • NEW: Performance Improvements
    • NEW: UI Improvements
    • NEW: Local Hue Adjustment
    • NEW: ISO Adaptive Presets
    • NEW: Centered Crop Overlay
    • NEW: Defaults presets
    • NEW: Support for new cameras and lenses
    • Other enhancements

Photoshop on the iPad

  • February 2020 release (version 1.2)
  • June 2020 release (version 1.5)
    • Update page included a information on how to edit your Lightroom photos in Photoshop on the iPad.
  • July 2020 release (version 1.6)
    • Update provides fixes for customer-reported issues.

Adobe has been busy releasing new updates to its new app, Photoshop on iPad. We’ve seen monthly updates. June has been a good month for subscribers to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Skylum License vs Adobe License

AdobeLightroom CC 2020imp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon Schwartz2 Devices1 DevicePC OR MAC
AdobeLightroom Classicimp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon Schwartz2 Devices1 DevicePC OR MAC
AdobePhotoshop CCimp?type(inv)g(22793574)a(3061660) | Graydon Schwartz2 Devices1 DevicePC OR MAC
SkylumLuminar 41 Devices1 DevicesPC OR MAC
SkylumAurora HDR 20195 Devices5 DevicesPC OR MAC
SkylumLuminar AI (Pre-Order)1 Device1 DevicePC OR MAC

Going forward, Skylum has reduced the number of seats or computers per license, which could be considered a downgrade but actually it’s nothing! They have tweaked your licensing structure a little. They have reduced the price to accommodate this change, and you always have the option of adding additional seats when you make your initial purchase at the lowest price or add them later. Additionally, you could have it activated at work, and when you get home, deactivate your work computer and log in at home. Presto!

How to Expand Luminar 4 Licenses

luminar 4 change license quantity | Graydon Schwartz
Adobe Creative Cloud vs Skylum Products - Price, HDR, Updates, Verdict 13

You can add an extra seat to your Luminar 4 license at the time of purchase for $22. Look for the blue “Change License Quantity” button on the page to increase the number of computers you can use with your license.

How to Expand Luminar AI Licenses

luminar ai change license quantity | Graydon Schwartz
Adobe Creative Cloud vs Skylum Products - Price, HDR, Updates, Verdict 14

As for Luminar AI pre-ordering it is an additional $15 to add a computer (2 seats total) at the time of purchase. I do not see the option to order more than 2 total at this time. There is a slider button on this page for raising your initial licenses.

Combining AI Sky Replacement with AI Augmented Sky

I grabbed a photo from Unsplash and created this scene with the new sky in less than a minute!

How it works:

  1. Download Unsplash Image by Stefan Lehner on Unsplash:
  2. Select the AI Sky Replacement Filter from the filters catalog
    (Creative Tab => AI Sky Replacement)
    • Select ‘Galaxy 2‘ from the drop down menu. Tweak as needed:
    • Horizon Blending: 20 (default)
    • Horizon Position: 0 (default)
    • Relight Scene: 20 (default)
    • Sky Global: 30 (default)
  3. Select the AI Augmented Sky filter from the filters catalog
    (Creative Tab => AI Augmented Sky)
    • Amount: 100 (default)
    • Warmth: 0 (default)
    • Relight: 20 (default)

By using the default settings for these two powerful tools, I was able to create the following image in a very short time! I am satisfied with how well it turned out. 🙂

stefan lehner jQSNiYd6oUM unsplash 1 | Graydon Schwartz
Adobe Creative Cloud vs Skylum Products - Price, HDR, Updates, Verdict 15

It is so intelligent that it knows exactly where the sky begins and ends. It identifies the angle of the sky and applies the new sky by automatically masking it to make it appear realistic.

Luminar X Membership

I want to give a more detailed description, but Luminar X Membership is something special. I understand that I want to do everything manually, but sometimes I stare into the abyss… I mean, stare into the photo and feel stuck. What should I try with this cut? With their Luminar X Membership you get monthly looks, sky textures and video tutorials delivered. Digital of course.

You can try out these new looks, created by other photographers like Trey Ratcliff, Elia Locardi, and help develop more creativity by seeing your image in a new way. From there, you can turn on your image editing to make it your own while using the look as creative fuel.

Luminar X Membership: Sign up here.

Note: Luminar X Membership costs $5/month (billed annually) and DOES NOT include the software. It’s an membership that enhances your photo editing with Luminar 4 and Luminar AI.

Sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud: Sign up here.

Unfortunately, I don’t offer a discount code to save you money on your subscription, but Adobe has discounts for students and teachers that can save you $33 / per month for it’s All App plan. $19.99 / per month for the first year for all their Creative Cloud apps!

Skylum Downloads

Upgrade from Luminar 3? Buy Luminar 4.

New to Luminar? Buy Luminar 4 or try it out first (free download).

To get the best possible price for Luminar 4, please use the promotional code (GRAYDON) at checkout for $10 off your purchase or use my link above.

Aurora HDR 2019: Buy here.

Luminar AI Pre-Order: Buy here.

Download Luminar 4

You can download Luminar for Windows or Mac computers on the Luminar website. For the best price use promo code / coupon code GRAYDON at checkout for $10 off your purchase.

Verdict – Final Thoughts

Can you replace Adobe products with Skylum products to get your job done? No, but it’s not a bad thing. I’ll explain how I use these products together.

I still have use cases where I need Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Premiere, so I continue to choose to use Adobe products in conjunction with Skylum products and find myself creating High Dynamic Range images with Aurora HDR because it kicks butt at that!

HDR is another use case scenario where you need a different tool when using only Luminar. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Photoshop or Lightroom, but in my use cases they seem to work best because plug-ins are available.

For those who just want to do basic edits, retouch faces and simply add aurora, Luminar 4 is a powerful package that makes many tasks easier than Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

IMG 20191219 141134 birds | Graydon Schwartz
Luminar 4 AI Augmented Sky

Skylum software has been on the way to being an alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud for a while. Last year they changed direction to focus on creating more powerful AI-tools. I also think Adobe Lightroom Classic 2020 is still my best option for importing and organizing photographs, so I’m using it in conjunction with Aurora HDR, Luminar 4 and soon Luminar AI! 🙂

This is my honest account of these image editing packages. It’s really hard to replace Adobe’s core products with replacements. I even tried to replace Adobe Photoshop with Affinity Photo and was disappointed that many of the powerful tools just can’t keep up with what Adobe does, and still had to load Photoshop. I hope you enjoyed my work with these two amazing software companies and look forward to sharing more as I continue to grow as a photographer myself.

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below and I will personally respond.

By Graydon Schwartz

Find out more about Graydon on the About Me page.

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