In a world where Adobe caters to professional photographers and designers with generative AI models, Skylum, formerly known as Macphun, is democratizing the use of generative AI for a broader audience, including hobbyist photographers. Luminar Neo, their photo-editing software, has introduced a suite of generative AI features for its Mac and Windows desktop apps. These features enable users to effortlessly remove unwanted objects from their images, expand image canvases, and seamlessly replace or add specific elements to their photos.
These tools bear a resemblance to features like Google Photos’ Magic Editor and Magic Eraser, or Adobe’s Generative Fill tool. However, Luminar Neo distinguishes itself by offering two distinct tools, GenErase and GenSwap, instead of one. What’s more, it eliminates the need for a text prompt field. Users can select an area on the image they want to remove and simply click “Erase.” Unlike Adobe’s Generative Fill, Luminar Neo doesn’t offer multiple result options to choose from; users need to click “Erase” again to obtain a different outcome.
Skylum, originally founded in 2008 as Macphun by Paul Muzok and Dima Sytnik, game developers and amateur photographers, started by focusing on iOS applications. Their photography journey began with the launch of FX Photo Studio Pro in 2010, which garnered over 50 million downloads. Over the years, they developed several image-editing apps for Mac, such as Snapheal, Intensify, Tonality, Noiseless, Aurora HDR, which they later merged into Creative Kit. Their journey led to the creation of Luminar in 2016, and in 2018, they rebranded as Skylum, focusing exclusively on the Luminar project.
Luminar’s vision was to create user-friendly desktop photo editing software for complex tasks. The latest iteration, Luminar Neo, released in 2022, primarily caters to hobbyist photographers, although some professionals also use it, often as a plug-in for Lightroom or Photoshop.
Recognizing the potential of generative AI models in image editing, the Skylum team decided to incorporate this technology into their product. Their plan involves releasing one generative AI tool each month throughout 2023, starting with GenErase on October 26.
Ivan Kutanin, Skylum’s CEO based in Ukraine, explained in an email interview with TechCrunch that all three generative features for this year are based on the same technology but offer different results and use cases for end-users. The models rely on Stable Diffusion and Skylum’s Upscale AI model, which work in a single pipeline, enhancing the resolution and quality of generated images. Currently, they offer resolutions of up to 1536×1536, surpassing Photoshop’s 1024×1024 resolution.
Notably, the processing takes place in the cloud, necessitating an internet connection for the app to function. However, the company does not store either the input or output images to safeguard customer privacy.
Skylum’s key differentiator is the user-friendliness of its software. Kutanin emphasized that Luminar Neo boasts around 40 complex AI models in its architecture, making it powerful, but it’s most renowned for its ease of use, catering to beginners and photography enthusiasts.
Luminar Neo offers a range of pricing tiers for new and existing users. Starting October 28, the options include $14.95 per month, $119 per year, or $179 for two years. A lifetime pass is available for $299, which includes a “Creative Journey Pass” with time-limited access to the new generative AI features until August 16, 2024. After this date, users will need to purchase a new Creative Journey Pass or switch to a subscription.
For existing users, the upgrade is more cost-effective, with the one-year plan starting at $79 for the first year and $99 per year thereafter, also after October 28. Additional discounts are available if purchased before October 28.
Notably, Skylum has never sought external funding and has been profitable for several years, boasting a team of over 120 individuals.