Luminar Neo Adds Generative Expand to Its Trio of New AI Tools

Skylum has completed its trilogy of new Generative AI tools with the addition of Generative Expand. The company has already released GenErase and GenSwap.

The company says this new GenErase tool “empowers users to break free from traditional aspect ratios and add a new dimension to their original compositions. With GenExpand, you can effortlessly extend the boundaries of your photos, whether you’re creating panoramic landscapes for vast mountain ranges, serene lakes, etc. or want to give your favorite images more breathing room to stand out against a beautifully balanced background.”

Adobe offers something similar in Photoshop, and before that, they had Content Aware fill that accomplished something similar, but without advanced AI, the result could often be unsatisfying because the technology repeated parts of images it found to complete the fill. 

In this example provided by Skylum, you can see a landscape expanded in width and the AI creates a believable topography expansion that matches well with the original photo.

In another example, the rocks are extended to make for a better more balanced image. The rocks added look realistic, and the lighting seems about right.

Now most photographers, myself included, would wonder why any photographer would shoot an original image that cramped and without context of the rest of the landscape, but there’s no doubt the technology works can provide a believable expansion of the image at first glance. More on that below.

Using GenExpand

I used my own images from a recent hike to see how GenExpand did. (I was using a beta provided by Skylum). After you have your original image you drag it into the GenExpand window in Luminar Neo. I should note that all the AI tools are in the catalog window, but will happily be moved to the edit window in 2024. 

Once it’s in, you expand the frame to indicate to the software what your new aspect ratio should be. You tap the Expand button, and in about 45 seconds, the image is generated. For it all to work, you must be internet connected because you’re making a request to servers; it doesn’t happen on your local computer.

I thought it looked pretty good, but a closeup look showed some seams. 

At image left, you can see the imperfect merge as a vertical line in the sky and some obvious loss of resolution in the landscape when the image is magnified.

To the right of the image, there is another line in the sky, and again, the terrain resolution does not match the original (to put it mildly).

Adobe has some similar issues in resolution using their AI tools, and people find workarounds such as doing AI sections in smaller chunks. Still, the final result is not going to be something that appeals to pros. And, while we are on the subject, many pros won’t want to use AI anyway without proper disclosure. 

In my testing, I tried expanding the image borders on both sides at the same time. I saw some improvement doing it in steps and got slightly better results, which Skylum recommends. Still, a close look a the image always shows some loss of resolution and/or artifacts in the sky. 

Summing Up

This technology seems interesting, but not very useable on higher resolution images. My image experiments were using a Sony a7 IV, and I saw these effects on multiple images mostly taken outdoors. Now, I’ll repeat I was on a beta, and the release version may be better. If this review needs a follow up, I’ll provide one. 

I also think part of this lower resolution problem is related to having potentially thousands of people hammering on rendering servers at the same time and companies limiting bandwidth. Still, that’s a problem for the people who offer the feature to solve. If I’m going to use this technology on occasion, I want the best possible image quality. 

I would expect and hope that as the technology gets better we’ll see better results. Luminar Neo is a capable image editor, and Skylum has their fair share of pioneering efforts. So, I don’t mean to overly criticize Skylum. I use Neo all the time in my landscape work, and it’s an excellent product. I appreciate their pushing the boundaries which they often do. I just don’t think GenExpand is a home run yet, but it will be useful to some photographers in less demanding use cases. In my examples, the images looked pretty good at 1x, but anyone looking closely will see the problems. 

Getting Luminar Neo

Skylum has a lot of plans and different discounts. By the time I commit to pricing in a review it will likely be out of date. It’s best to check the Skylum website, and the software can also be purchased at the Microsoft Store and the Apple macOS App Store.


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