February 25, 2020 | 25655 Views | By Dylan Kotecki

8 Must Have Photo Effects and Filters to Enhance Your Photos

Photo effects and filters are easily my favorite feature in ON1 Photo RAW 2020. Aside from the fact they allow you to incorporate style and adjust photos quickly, they are also maskable and completely customizable. Photo editing using filters can open up entire worlds of color, mood, light, and detail for your photo edits. Here are some powerful filters and unique ways to use them to get the most style out of your photos.

Filters for Black & White Conversion

The Channel Mixer Filter

The Channel Mixer, one of the new filters in ON1 Photo RAW 2020, is a powerful filter for converting your photos to Black and White. Channel mixing, at its core, is a complex process that involves mixing and removing specific RGB Channels in your image. Because of this, I tend to stick to the preset styles in the filter; they are perfect for creating black and white photographs.

Inside the filter, using the More Menu, there is an abundance of different looks you can apply to your photos. The B&W ones will convert your photos to Black and White according to the color accent indicated. For example, the BW Green Filter will have brighter green tones. One of my favorites in the Channel Mixer is BW Infrared; it looks incredible on sunny day landscape shots and dark portraits.


The Classic Black and White Filter

Black and White may be an obvious choice, but some of its capabilities may not be. The Black and White (BW) Filter allows you to modify the brightness, the color shade (if you want one), the detail, the grain, and much more. When using the BW Filter, start with the Color Response Conversion method.

Color Response means you can control the brightness and darkness of specific colors using the corresponding sliders. So if you were to pull back on the Red Slider and you have red tones in your photo, the reds will lose exposure and darken. You can use these sliders to modify the black and white look and how it affects your colors. Once you’ve adjusted the color luminance, head down to the bottom of the filter, and there are three more slider areas to complete your image edit.

If you expand the Tone Menu, you’ll find similar sliders to your Tone & Color Pane in the Develop tab. You can modify the brightness, the shadows, and so on. I find myself using this area mainly for adding in contrast; it’s perfect for making your image more dramatic that way. You could also use the Blacks Slider to incorporate a faded look into your black and white, pull it to the right a bit.

Underneath Tone, we have Toner. Toner is Split-Toning for your black and white; this is where you can add a color cast to your shot. Toner is perfect for making vintage black and white looks like sepia or ambrotype. The preset menu is a great place to start adding on different color tones to your photograph. Some of my favorites are “Coffee 1”, “Gold,” and Black Tea 1″. There’s also a Preserve Black & Whites enabler; this will make sure your whites and blacks stay protected from any color that you apply to the shot.

Lastly, we have Film Grain. Film Grain is excellent for bringing a grainy look onto your shot to mimic noise from vintage film rolls. Choose a film style you want to emulate and then modify the sliders to your taste. I love the higher ISO films, try 3200 anything!

Filters that Help to Correct Color

Step Up Your Tri-Toning with Color Balance

The Color Balance filter, new in Photo RAW 2020, is an excellent filter for modifying the color in specific tonal ranges. Using the Color Balance filter, you can adjust which colors make up your Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. If you had an image with warm highlights, for example, you could improve the highlight color balance to cool them down and make the image more dramatic.

In the Color Balance filter, there are three ranges to choose from, which are your Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. You can decide which one to alter by selecting the corresponding tab. Now that you’ve chosen which tonal range to adjust, I would recommend modifying your Amount slider to about 50 or so; this will apply the color-toning to the desired area. Now that you can see the color is applied, you can now change the color of that range with the Hue Slider. To modify the color, pull the Hue Slider back and forth to reach your desired color. Working with the Amount and Hue slider, you can find the Color Balance look you are trying to achieve. After you’ve adjusted the color, you can incorporate exposure into that tonal range with the brightness slider; this is great for dimming down skies or pulling up dark, shadowy tones.

If you’re not a sliders person, start playing with the different preset styles in the Color Balance Filter. Styles provide a subtle color adjustment, and if too strong, lower the opacity of the filter to blend them more naturally. If you’re like me and enjoy using the Blend Modes similar to that of the Split Tone Filter, you can access your blending options for each filter by clicking on the gear icon in the top right. Head into the Mode Menu to modify your Blend Mode. My two favorites are Multiply and Screen. Multiply will darken your Color Balance Filter so that it removes some of the exposure from your shot; perfect for overexposed photos. Screen will brighten your filter, an excellent helper for underexposed images.

Color Enhancer: The Tried & True Color Filter

The Color Enhancer filter is the perfect filter if you’re looking to get your hands dirty. There are a lot of options for adjusting color in this filter; you can modify the hue, saturation, and brightness of specific color ranges while also fine-tuning the overall vibrancy and temperature of your original photograph. The Color Enhancer Filter is essentially your Color Pane in Develop inside of a Filter. The great thing about using the Color Enhancer is you can selectively apply it with masks and blend modes, and you can also adjust the opacity to make sure it’s not overpowering your photograph.

Since you’re probably familiar with the top section of the Color Enhancer Filter with the Temperature, Tint, and Saturation Sliders we won’t spend too much time talking it. Just remember these sliders will adjust your colors equally and as a whole. The area to modify specific colors in your image is at the bottom of the filter in the Color Range area.

Color Range is a breeze to use, choose which color range you want to modify, and adjust the settings accordingly. For example, if you have a lot of reds in your photo and want to make them a bit orange and darken them, select the Red Color underneath Color Range and adjust the Hue and Brightness sliders. You can also modify specific colors by using the Color Enhancer’s Color Dropper Tool. Locate the Color Dropper Tool at the very bottom left corner of the Color Enhancer filter pane. To the right of it is a Menu you can use to change the adjustment. You can choose to modify Hue, Saturation, or Brightness. Once you’ve selected an adjustment and clicked the Color Dropper Tool, find the color you want to modify in your image and place the dropper on top of it. If you click and drag to the right and left, you can decrease or increase the adjustment you chose in the drop-down menu. So if I were to select “Adjust Saturation” and I placed my dropper on a blue color, clicked, and dragged to the right, I would increase the saturation of the blues in my photograph.

Another helpful section of the Color Enhancer Filter is Purity. Purity is directly underneath your Color section. The Purity Sliders allow you to protect your highlights or shadows from the color modification. If you want to leave your highlights or shadows “pure” from the filter, pull up on these sliders.

Filters for Stylizing

LUTs to the Rescue

LUTs, or Look Up Tables, are common style modifiers used mainly in the color correction of movies and films. Photographers have since adopted many of the looks for their images. They’re great for adding style very quickly. If you’ve watched a few of my tutorials or webinars, you’ve noticed I tend to add LUTs onto many of my photographs.

The LUTs filter itself only has two sliders. With LUTs, different ones do different things, so you first choose your look and then modify it from there. You can select LUTs by using the Category Menu, or you can open up the More Menu, and it will show you all of the preloaded LUTs that come with ON1 Photo RAW 2020. If you’re looking to import your own (there are so many free LUTs on the internet if you do a Google search or you can create your own with free software, also Google search), you can select Import and bring in your own custom LUTs into Photo RAW. Go into the Category Menu to find your custom imported ones.

A few of my favorites from the LUTs More Menu are Classic, Comfort, Keen, Simple Warm, and Thoreau. Classic and Comfort apply a mild style onto your photo, great for portraits and faces. Keen and Thoreau are a bit more untamed but are still more natural than a lot of the other LUTs. Simple Warm is my favorite for incorporating a mildly stylistic, mostly warm look onto images. I didn’t add LUTs to the Filters that apply Black and White, but there is a whole category in the LUTs Filter for BW styles, and there are some amazing ones in there.


When modifying the LUTs, you can adjust the Contrast and Saturation sliders to bring in detail and color. I tend to avoid these two sliders and change the filter opacity if I want to tone down the LUT. Another fun way to adjust LUTs is to use a Blend Mode. With the LUTs Filter, try using a Luminosity or Color Blend Mode. Luminosity will blend the filter in with the brightness and luminance of the shot, avoiding the color altogether. I like to use this method because I’m essentially creating preset styled looks that I can alter with the opacity slider, and they don’t adjust my color saturation or vibrancy at all. The Color Blend Mode will blend your LUTs filter in with the color of your shot and protect the luminance and brightness in your shot. Use color if you want to modify the colors in your image while preserving the contrast and exposure.

Incorporating Light With The Sun Flare Filter

The Sun Flare Filter is all new to Photo RAW 2020 and allows you to put a realistic sun flare overlay onto your image. The Sun Flares in this filter were all created by Matt Kloskowski so that you have realistic looking flares incorporated into your edit. You can apply sun stars, sun flares, and even bokeh. Using the Texture Menu, you can choose which style of sun flare you would like. I tend to use the first four on that menu the most. Sun Flare 2 is a great one for portraits because it has an element of bokeh in it, but the default one used in the filter is perfect for a subtle, yet powerful flare.

Once you’ve chosen your Sun Flare Texture, you can modify the different sliders in your filter. The Amount slider will adjust how heavy the Sun Flare is on your image while the Tone & Color sliders work similarly to the sliders found in the Develop Tab. You can use these to adjust the brightness, saturation, and color hue. Below the Tone & Color, you can use these modifiers to transform and move your Sun Flare. The icon underneath Transform allows you to click and drag the Flare around your scene so that you can place it anyway you would like. If you pull up on the Transform slider, it will increase the size of your Flare. Also, in the Transform section of the Sun Flare Filter, there are a few icons that will allow you to rotate and flip your Flare. You can use these to adjust how your Flare is placed on your image.

One of the best things about the Sun Flare filter is the Sunshine filter is built right into it. If you pull up on the amount slider in the Sunshine section, it will increase the brightness of your highlights and mid-tones and will darken your shadows and blacks, making it easy to emulate a sunlit look on your image. Now that you’ve modified your Sun Flare make sure that it’s not covering up important details.

Whenever I use the Sunflare filter, I try to mask it out from areas where it’s overlapping onto subjects or essential objects in the frame. For example, if you placed a Sun Flare on a portrait, it’s going to cover the model’s face with light. Use the Masking Brush (B) to brush away the filter from the face and body; this will make it look more natural and give your subject a “backlit” look. Use the same principles when you’re adding Sun Flare to landscapes, if you are focusing on a subject like a tree or a car, make sure you modify the Flare accordingly.

Curves are Going to Be Your Style’s Best Friend

The Curves filter is the filter I use most inside Photo RAW. Curves enable you to modify specific tonalities in your image. You can also adjust the Curves of the red, green, and blue channels, which will allow you to remove or add these colors into tonal ranges such as mid-tones or highlights. The Tone Curve is a simple tool for editing your images. The bottom left point is your blacks, and the top right point is your whites. The area in between makes up the other tonal ranges, such as mid-tones and shadows. If you click anywhere on the line, it will create a point that you can move to adjust the corresponding tonal area. For example, if you clicked on the middle of the curve (technically, it’s a line at first) and pulled up, it would boost the brightness of your mid-tones. If you want to protect tonal ranges, drop a point, and drag it back to its original state.

I tend to use “S” curves in the Curves Filter. Emulating an “S” in the tone curve will darken shadow tones, which will create contrast and brighten highlight and mid-tones, creating a cinematic mood in the shot. To create an “S” curve, drop a point in your shadow tones (the area between the blacks and the middle of the line) and pull it down. Next, create a point in the space between your mid-tones and your whites (your highlights and some mid-tones, remember it’s curving your adjustment). When we drag this point up, it will brighten these tones and stylize the photo. If there is too much contrast, pull your shadow point up a bit, and if you’re getting too hot of highlights, pull your mid-tone/highlight point down.

You can access the tone curve for your RGB Channels by selecting the corresponding tab above the tone curve. When you are modifying the red, green, and blue tone curves, the Curves Filter will either add (pulling up) or remove (pulling down) the chosen color from the tonal ranges that you drop points on in the curve. So if you were to drop a point in the mid-tone area of the Red tone curve and pull down, the filter would remove the color red from your mid-tones and whatever tonal ranges accompany the modified curve.

The Vintage Filter

The Vintage filter is a classic filter in Photo RAW and has been around for some time. It’s a tried and true filter that adds aged looks that mimic papers and colors used in the mid-to-late 20th Century. Using the Vintage filter is relatively simple; pick a color in the Color Menu, and then modify the different sliders beneath. The Amount slider will adjust how strong the filter is on your shot while saturation is going to be your color control. Beneath that is Film Grain, similar to that of the Black and White Filter yet, it doesn’t allow you to choose Film Style.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Ah, the Vintage Filter. The most clicked-on Filter to add a dated look onto your shot, yet not so often do I keep it on the photograph.” The Vintage Filter is a little absurd at times; it fuses some bold looks and colors onto your shot. Here’s a tip that will change the way you use the Vintage Filter; use blending modes with it.

The gear icon in the right corner of the Filter will take you into the Blending Options with the Mode Menu. Try using Color or Soft Light and lowering the opacity of the Filter. The Color Blend Mode is fantastic with the Vintage Filter because it applies the intense, vintage look strictly to your color saturation, so it’s not modifying the luminance or contrast. I liken it to turning the Vintage Filter into a cinematic color grading machine. Try adjusting the saturation slider to hone in your desired look.

Using the Soft Light Blend Mode will blend the Filter in with your photograph by creating contrast in it; this will eliminate the intense “fade” that some of the colors bring with them. “Earth” with a Soft Light Blend Mode will liven up any landscape photo! Just be sure to adjust the opacity.


13 comments on “8 Must Have Photo Effects and Filters to Enhance Your Photos”

  1. On February 28, 2020 at 7:26 am David Mark wrote:

    Thank you soooooo much for this – I will now be confident enough to actually use the various filters!

  2. On February 28, 2020 at 8:15 am David Ellis wrote:

    I for one really appreciate the tutorials. they are really useful and they are entertaining.
    Thanks again.

  3. On February 28, 2020 at 11:49 am Graeme Prichard wrote:

    Thanks again to the ON1 team. Just another great tutorial. Every time I read one the creative juice tap is turned on.

  4. On February 28, 2020 at 12:32 pm Neil wrote:

    Excellent tutorial, haven’t used the filters until now.

  5. On February 28, 2020 at 4:06 pm jbpdxor@gmail.com wrote:

    Thank you.
    I just created 2 B&W for each lens I compared. So many options to be creative. Now if Only I can remember.

  6. On February 29, 2020 at 3:00 am Frank Richter wrote:

    Thank you. I love its simplicity. I appreciate the lesson. Now it’s time to experiment.

  7. On March 2, 2020 at 9:41 am Dylan Kotecki wrote:

    Thanks for reading, everyone! I’m glad it’s helping the creativity a bit. The best thing to do with Filters is just to play around and tinker until you find a look you like. Have fun shooting and editing!

  8. On March 3, 2020 at 5:10 am Stephen wrote:

    I work principally in B&W so this write and the series you are currently doing on all the filters have helped open my eyes to other possibilities of conversion to B&W with end results that I think will be most interesting and expressive. Thank you!!

  9. On March 4, 2020 at 5:11 am Ralph Robbins wrote:

    I tried Lightroom and PS, but decided to switch to ON1 because everything is contained in one program, less complicated and with great support. But since I’m still new at shooting and developing in RAW, it seems daunting. I’m sure I’ll get it over time. I guess I just have to view each video a few times and then trial and error. Any other suggestions for speeding up the learning curve?

  10. On March 4, 2020 at 6:21 pm Domingos Rodrigues wrote:

    Thank you very much for this tutorial. I actually learned something today about this blend mode. Really appreciate the effort.

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