Luminance: Another Contender for Best Image Editing App

There are a whole host of image editing applications open to iPad owners. These range from the rudimentary to some comparatively advanced and surprisingly capable apps which can offer much of the basic functionality of their larger desktop siblings. Subsplash’s Luminance definitely falls into the latter category, and successfully provides iPad users with an intuitive platform from which one can edit images, with easy cropping and rotation, in addition to filters and more.

However, strong though it appears on paper, Luminance certainly has some stiff competition in the iOS App Store in the shape of great apps like Snapseed and Adobe Photoshop Express. So, how does Luminance stack up against these competitors? Read on to find out more.

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Getting Started

Original Polaroid shot, without filter

Original Polaroid shot, without filter.

Luminance and other similar iOS image editing apps are often judged by casual users on their selection of built-in image filters, as these enable even the amateur like myself to create striking images with ease, so with this in mind I loaded a pre-existing image I had from my iPad’s Photo Library of my dog playing on a local beach.

Luminance ships with an impressive selection of filters

Luminance ships with an impressive selection of filters.

As you can see in the screenshot above, Luminance has a strong supply of filters and these range from the subtle and tasteful to the more dramatic (and occasionally rather garish) examples. While not every single filter may appeal, one can see how each could be potentially useful in the correct environment and with an eye more skilled than this writer’s own. I particularly appreciated Luminance’s striking grainy black and white filters, while old expired film was also accurately emulated too.

Taken as a whole, the filter selection is excellent and offers a wide scope for altering images easily, while still giving results which please the eye. I’m not going to be giving up Instagram any time soon but Luminance still holds its own in the retro-graphics department.

Taking Control

Saturation, hue and other such sliders can be controlled easily in Luminance

Saturation, hue and other such sliders can be controlled easily in Luminance.

While Luminance’s filters impressed, they are only one element of what goes into an iPad image editing app. Happily, the developers have delivered an intuitive and intelligent series of sliders, levels and options to enable one to dig in and take finer control over Saturation, Hue, Brightness, Contrast and more. The sliders are responsive and enable finer details to be managed.

Though the more typical slider method of control which we see in Luminance may not be as novel, nor perhaps as intuitive as is seen in Snapseed, what they lose in originality they gain in offering an interface which convinces the user that they’re in the right place to get work done.

Indeed, this impression is cemented by the ability to use Luminance to make non-destructive crops and rotations of your image, in addition to promised upcoming features like the maintaining of EXIF data.

Clearly, Luminance wishes to cater to both beginners and the advanced power user and this I feel it achieves admirably.

Standing Out From the Crowd

As the iOS platform matures and the market at large adjusts to the still slightly novel idea of creating serious, high quality content on a portable device like an iPad, we’re seeing various developers create software which walks the fine line between offering increasingly advanced features, yet still retaining the intuitiveness and intimacy which editing images on the iPad seems to demand. Thus, as mentioned above, Luminance faces some keen competition from apps like the innovative Snapseed and Adobe Photoshop Express.

While there’s definitely room enough in most user’s lives for all three apps, Luminance sets itself apart from Photoshop Express and Snapseed by offering a few key advantages over its rivals, such as a superior management of layers and Luminance’s unlimited undo feature, the latter proving very handy indeed and serving to push one into experimenting without the worry of data lost.

Luminance also offers an interface and set of controls which are easy to get to grips with but are reminiscent of a more standard desktop computer image-editing application – whether this appeals will depend on ones own experience and personal taste, but I found I liked the professional UI.


When reviewing Luminance I really would have liked to stick my neck out and offer a firm opinion as to whether the app is wholly better than its leading competitors, but on use this proved very difficult – Luminance and Snapseed are just too close, with each having their strong points, pushing Adobe Photoshop Express into a not too distant third.

However, I can at least state with confidence that Luminance is well made, visually attractive and feature rich, in addition to offering great value for money and a UI which seems to lend the novice user the confidence to get work done. While we may not be able to jettison the Mac and Photoshop desktop setup for all our image editing tasks quite yet, Luminance is yet another step into that direction and a testament to how far we’ve already come.


Luminance is more than just another iPad image editing app and its well considered features, intuitive design and flexible interface place it amongst the best such apps currently available for the platform.