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  • Austin James Jackson

On1 Photo RAW 2020 Review

On1 Photo RAW

For years, I've tested Photoshop and Lightroom alternatives without any success stories. I've always felt like other programs just simply don't have nearly the power of Photoshop, which allows me to do many advanced effects during my editing process. I'll be honest, when On1 reached out to me to test out their software, I thought it would be just like the others. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that was not the case.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid by On1 to write this post. This post does include affiliate links, and I get a very small percentage of the sale if you opt to purchase the On1 software. I still use Photoshop for most of my photos, as this is the industry standard at this time and it is the program that most of my students are interested in learning. However, I find On1 to be a great alternative to a photographer that isn't interested in following the "industry standard". I believe that I could replicate any Photoshop effect in On1, and if I didn't teach Photoshop and Lightroom to many students every year, I'd likely opt in for editing solely in On1.

To buy On1 Photo RAW now, visit this link.

Develop Module in On1 Photo RAW 2020.
Using the Develop Module in On1 Photo RAW 2020.

My Thoughts on On1 Photo RAW 2020:

If you don't care to read all of the details, this sums up my thoughts on the software.

On1 Photo RAW 2020 is an incredibly well thought out and designed program. It is VERY easy to use, and I think even a brand new photographer would be able to figure out how to use things, much easier than in other photo editing software. I believe this program is 99% of anything Photoshop could ever be for landscape photographers, and for that reason, I'd recommend it to any photographer who doesn't care about using the current "industry standard". Their $49.99 one-time price is what photographers have been wanting for years. The fact that you actually own the program makes it so you aren't locked in to a monthly price.

If you've been thinking about trying out an alternative to Lightroom, give On1 a try. I truly think the ease of use makes it great for all skill levels of photographers.

Price: $99.99 ($49.99 Sale Price)

The On1 Software is different from other products in that you pay once for the software, and then you become the owner. Lightroom and Photoshop are a monthly payment and you never truly own the program. This is one of the huge benefits to On1 Photo Raw. Also, even when On1 releases new software, they continue to update older software for multiple years, meaning you won't need to upgrade every year.

Ease of Use:

On1 Photo RAW 2020 is incredibly easy to use. Many people struggle with Photoshop because the program wasn't designed specifically for photographers. Photoshop has hundreds of tools for designers, videographers, animators, and more, making it complicated to find exactly what you're looking for. On1 Photo Raw 2020 is designed for just photographers, meaning all of the tools you are given will come in handy at some point.

Things are really nicely laid out in the program, and their cataloging feature is very nice. However, if all of your photos are nicely cataloged in Lightroom, you aren't required to use an On1 Catalog. On1 allows you to simply browse folders of photos, select the one you'd like to edit, and open it up. Versatility is really nice, especially if you want to ease into the On1 Software slowly.


Probably my favorite feature about On1 is their "Effects". Since On1 was designed specifically for photographers, they paid attention to many things photographers were doing in Photoshop (usually in a work-around way in Photoshop), and made those adjustments available as effects. For landscape photographers, some of my favorite effects are "Sunshine", "Dynamic Contrast", and "Glow". These effects span most any kind of adjustment you'd want to make to your photo, including things like sharpening and even applying a vignette. They also brought in some effects like Curves and Levels, which work the same as they do in Photoshop. I put the software to the test on many images, and couldn't find anything that I felt was left out.

on1 effects
The list of effects to choose from. Each one includes an example before and after image as well as a description.

Best of all, these effects can be toggled on and off, and everything is done non-destructively. That means that if you decide you don't like a tweak you made, you can easily get rid of it. In Photoshop, unless you were careful to edit non-destructively, it can be a huge pain to go back. You can also apply a layer mask on any of these effects, as well as adjust the blend modes and opacity.

Applying one of my favorite effects, called "Sunshine".

Local Adjustments:

As you'd expect, On1 also has a module that allows you to apply local adjustments. I like using this section for last minute tweaks on my photos, such as fixing bright spots or adding a touch of saturation to a certain area. The local adjustments work pretty much the same way they do in Lightroom.

Local adjustments in On1 Photo RAW 2020
Local adjustments to finish off my photo in On1 Photo RAW 2020

Layer Masks:

On1 has built in luminosity masking, which is so helpful and a feature I wish other programs had. I use luminosity masks in all of my photos in order to apply certain effects to very specific parts of my images. The luminosity masks are extremely easy to use and customize, which is so helpful if you're new to luminosity masks.

To aid you in creating layer masks, On1 has a tool called the "Perfect Brush". This brush uses an algorithm to sense edges, making it easier for you to mask out an edge easily. It works much better than the Photoshop equivalent (Quick Selection Tool) and worked surprisingly well when I used it to mask out a sky where it met the trees, which would normally be incredibly painful to do in Photoshop.

Additional Software:

On1 also includes a few other pieces of software with their $49.99 price. Most notably, they include On1 Resize, On1 HDR, and On1 Focus to blend focus stacked photos.

On1 Resize is an amazing program for resizing your images and sharpening for print. I've been using a much older version of resize for years now for print sharpening, and the updated version is even better. If you know how to sharpen for print, you'll probably be fine using Photoshop, but On1 Resize makes the print resizing and sharpening much easier. Considering it's included in the low price already, it's a steal.

On1 Focus works pretty well for blending focus stacked photos. It didn't do a perfect job, but it did a better job than any other software I've used to blend focus stacks. Also, I tried focus stacking an exposure that was incredibly detailed with flowers, grass, and mountains. With a photo that is a bit simpler, I'd imagine it would have no problems doing it for you.

Using On1 as a Plugin for Photoshop:

If you're like me and choose not to give up Photoshop completely, On1 makes it really easy to use it's software as a plugin for Photoshop, the same way you'd use the Nik Collection or any other plugin you have. Using the On1 Effects Plugin grants you access to all of the same effects you'd have in the On1 program, and it eliminates the need to buy the Nik Collection,

On1 Plus ($79.99/Year):

I'm all about helping people become better at landscape photography, which is why I love On1 Plus so much. On1 Plus is a yearly subscription that gets you access to tons of premium tutorials from professional photographers of all disciplines both in the On1 Software and in the field. New tutorials are constantly being released, so you'll find that this a great way to continue to add to your knowledge of landscape photography.

On1 360 ($59.99/Year/200GB):

On1 just released their new On1 360 service this past week. The service allows you to sync photos between devices, including tablets, computers, and phones. While I personally am not one that edits on my phone, I love having the ability to browse through my favorite shots when I want to show someone a photo. This is also great if you want to apply small tweaks to your photos, or sort through photos that you'll then refine later on the computer.

Perhaps one of coolest features is the in-app camera. The app allows you to have a completely manual control phone camera, meaning you can change the shutter speed, ISO, and more settings on your camera (depending on the limits of the camera on your phone).


If you're on the fence about grabbing another program, this is the one you need! The program is worth the $50 even if you only use it as a plugin to Photoshop. Other alternatives are much more expensive, and not as easy to use. If you have any questions about the software, I'm happy to answer them down below in the comments!