Special note: In the release of ON1 Photo RAW 2019 we added the ability for customers to transfer their photos with raw processing and editing settings from Lightroom’s Develop module (including crop, retouching, and local adjustments) to ON1 Photo RAW 2019. That’s correct! The photos are also migrated non-destructively so they can be re-edited in ON1 Photo RAW 2019. Learn more about the Lightroom® Migration here.
I see lots of questions from Adobe® Lightroom® users who use ON1 Photo RAW for Effects; but find themselves using other features in ON1 Photo RAW more and more. There seems to be an increase in the number of people curious about switching from Lightroom to ON1 Photo RAW. So I put together this top ten list to help explain how ON1 Photo RAW was similar to Lightroom and how it is different. So if are considering switching from Lightroom, please read on. Lets get started!
Not yet using ON1 Photo RAW and thinking about switching from Lightroom? Try it free for 30 days »
- Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW are non-destructive photo editors. That means when you edit a photo in either Lightroom or ON1, the edits are stored as instructions rather than changing the file on disk. This makes them both fast and safe for editing photos. They both support raw photos from hundreds of cameras as well as most of the file formats that photographers care about like JPG, TIF and PSD.
- Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW have robust file management tools for browsing, finding and managing your photos. In short, they share many of the same fundamental concepts all non-destructive raw processors have.
- Browsing vs. Catalogs – The first big difference you encounter between Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW is when you start is locating your photos. In Lightroom you must import or catalog all of your photos from the beginning, a reason some people want to switch from Lightroom right away. The import process is cataloging metadata and processing preview versions of each photo, so it may take some time. ON1 Photo RAW uses a browser based system to let you navigate to any drive or folder where your photos live to view and edit them instantly. So there is no need to import. This is great when you come back from a shoot and have hundreds or thousands of photos you want to view. Now just because there is no long cataloging process, it doesn’t mean that there is no database. For each folder that you browse, the metadata for each photo is extracted and stored in a database along with a cache of previews of the photos so you can search and browse them even faster in the future. ON1 Photo RAW’s cataloged folders take this a step farther. By marking a drive or folder as a cataloged folder, we keep an eye on it all the time and look for new, changed or removed photos. This way you don’t get the dreaded “missing photo” problems of Lightroom and other database only apps. In the background, we also extract all the metadata and create previews so you can search across your entire cataloged folder and view the photos instantly. Lightroom has he concept of a catalog file. This is the document or database that stores all of your settings for the photos you have worked on. You may need to create multiples of these catalogs in some cases and have to open them separately and keep track of where they live. ON1 Photo RAW uses a single database to store everything so there is no need to create multiples or keep track of them.
- Viewing and Organizing Photos – Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW start in a Browse module and it is where you find, view and manage your photos. Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW only show you the photos and supported file types and hide things like documents that may be in the same folders. Both offer the ability to show a filmstrip and a larger view you can zoom-in on. In ON1 Photo RAW the compare mode lets you compare and zoom multiple photos at once. It is very similar to the compare and survey view of Lightroom combined into one mode. Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW offer quick ways to tag your photos for sorting with stars, colors or a like/dislike flagging system. Metadata about your photos can viewed and edited in both apps in a similar way. Both support XMP, EXIF and IPTC metadata and both subscribe to the Metadata Working Groups specification on handling metadata. Both offer ways to store lists of photos. Lightroom calls them collections, where ON1 Photo RAW calls them albums. Both offer a way to store search criteria. Lightroom calls them smart collections, where we call them smart albums. Lightroom does offer a couple of other organizational tools like stacks and virtual copies not currently included in ON1 Photo RAW. These features and concepts are being developed for ON1 Photo RAW at this very moment.
- At the core of any non-destructive photo editing, is the basic raw processing. This includes basic adjustments like exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, white balance, etc. Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW provide similar basic adjustments with mostly the same names. You will notice the different ranges and results of these sliders between Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW and this is largely because each app uses completely different raw processing engine. For example, ON1 Photo RAW has a little more contrast by default than Lightroom. Beyond the basic Tone and Color adjustments, both apps offer a range of other adjustments like lens correction, noise reduction, black and white, split tone, curves, etc. Lightroom presents all of it’s available options as a long list of panes. In ON1 Photo RAW, you start with the essential panes and click on the Show More button to add the enhancements your photo needs.
- Both apps offer great tools for cropping, retouching and local adjustments. I think the local adjustments in ON1 Photo RAW are a little easier to understand and are bit more flexible. They use a layer-stack approach so it is easy to see all of the local adjustments you have added. Each layer has a regular mask that can be edited with any of the masking tools. This lets you combine a gradient and brush at the same time. Or even use a luminosity mask
- Both apps let you copy/paste or sync your edits across multiple photos. And both let you save presets. Presets are a little different in ON1 Photo RAW. First it comes with many more presets. Second you can preview your presets next to each other for each comparison. Saving a preset is less daunting as well, there is no dialog with hundred checkboxes to configure.
- Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW use similar keyboard shortcuts, so you don’t have to relearn old habits when you change apps. Check out the ON1 Photo RAW shortcuts here.
- Beyond the Basics – Lightroom has panorama and HDR merge features, both of these will be coming to ON1 Photo RAW soon. For me, the biggest difference between Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW comes down to two big features only found in ON1 Photo RAW – Effects and Layers. They go way beyond the basic tone and color controls. ON1 Effects has 23 filters which include textures, borders, glows, skin smoother, lens blur, dynamic contrast and vintage to name a few. You can stack and configure as many of these filters as you want to create your own unique look. Each filter has masking and blending options built-in to so you can easily target a filter to just the right area or tonal range. Remember, this is all happening right on your raw data, non-destructively. ON1 Layers is also a difference maker. It gives you a lot of the power of Photoshop® right in your raw editor. You can combine multiple photos together, which is perfect for replacing skies, blending exposures or swapping heads.
- Getting Your Photo Out – Being non-destructive editors, you need to export a photo to share it. Both Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW offer a powerful export feature where you can resize, choose the file type, watermark, sharpening, location, and naming options. ON1 Photo RAW uses the powerful Genuine Fractals® algorithm for resizing so it maintains all the detail of the original, no matter what size you export. With all that power comes a lot of controls you may also need to configure. If you simply want a photo of the same size, ON1 Photo RAW’s quick export makes it really easy to export the current photo without having to go through the controls in the export dialog. Lightroom offers advanced slideshow, printing and web gallery output options. Currently ON1 Photo RAW users complete their workflows with other dedicated apps or websites for these features. Basic printing can be accomplished via the print dialog. Both apps also make it easy to send copies of your photos to other external applications like Photoshop.
Ready to Make the Switch from Lightroom to ON1 Photo RAW?
If you are ready to make the switch (or thinking about it) to ON1 Photo RAW, remember this. You don’t subscribe to ON1 Photo RAW. When you purchase it, you own it forever. You can also install ON1 Photo RAW on up to five computers at a time (both Mac and Windows). OR try it free for 30 days. No risk, right? Also make sure to check out the ON1 Photo RAW Feature List.
Lastly, we have developed a built-in Lightroom migration assistant to help simplify the process of switching from Lightroom to ON1 Photo RAW. Look for a write up to this process very soon.