ON1 Photo Raw Is Here

In Photography by Matt K17 Comments

If you’ve been following the photo editing news, you may have heard that ON1 announced it was working on a fast, streamlined raw photo editor earlier this year. Well, it’s here!

I’ve been part of designing this from the ground up and I’m really excited to see it. I may not work there anymore, but they’re still a great company, and very dedicated to making great software. There’s a really talented group of creators behind ON1 Photo Raw. I still work and communicate with them all the time, and I’m excited to see it make its debut.

What Is Photo Raw?

It’s basically a modern raw editor (which works fine on JPEGs too), built to handle the large raw files from today’s cameras. The idea behind it is a little different from what you may be used to. Basically it’s a browser. Just like your Finder window on a Mac (or your Explorer window on a PC). You’re in charge of getting your photos onto the computer and organizing them in whatever folders and drives you see fit.

Then you just “browse” to those folders/drives in ON1 Browse to see your photos. When you’re ready to edit a photo, you go into the Develop app and it’s got all of the raw editing tools you’re used to (Exposure, sharpening, noise reduction, crop, brushes and gradients). Just like Lightroom, there’s no official saving of your edits. You just move on to the next photo and everything is automatically being saved in the background.

It’s called “instruction based” editing because the edits are never actually applied to the photos – but rather a preview of the photos that you’re viewing while you edit (instructions are added to a database). Just like Lightroom or Capture One. They’re stored in a database, and those “instructions” are only “baked” into the photo when you decide to export a copy of that photo to a sharable format. This means it’s all non-destructive – meaning you’ve never permanently changed your photos. There’s a Reset button and all you have to do it click it to get back to your original photo (except for ON1 Layers or when using ON1 as a plug-in to Lightroom).

So, for viewing purposes on your computer, the “instructions” are applied quickly to your view whenever you’re browsing your photos. For sharing purposes, they’re baked into the photo whenever you decide you want to export it and share some format with other people (like a JPEG).

What About the Other ON1 Apps?

The big update in this year’s release for ON1 is the addition of native raw editing. So you won’t really see any changes to Layers, Resize, or PhotoVia. But ON1 Effects (which is probably the most popular) sees a big benefit from the update. Because ON1 had to go in and basically rebuild the software from the ground up to accommodate non-destructive editing, the way filters are added changes. If you use ON1 Develop and then jump to Effects, those effect filters are also non-destructive. So you can apply Develop settings, go over to Effects and when you get back to Develop, all of your settings are still there (and re-editable). And, you can even go back to Effects, and all of your filters there are re-editable too. It really is non-destructive between those 2 apps.

How About Plug-Ins?

This one was big for me. My workflow won’t be changing much. I still use Lightroom and Photoshop. But I’ve always used ON1 as a plug-in (along with tens of thousands of others). So it was really important to me that they kept the plug-in door open for other apps.

Which of course they did. And they were able to do it so that Lightroom and Photoshop users (as well as Nik, Topaz, and others) won’t really see a change. We can still jump to ON1 just like we always have. Or start in ON1, and jump to other apps if you need.

Plus, because of the underlying changes ON1 made, Effects also got a big speed boost. This was probably the biggest area of improvement for me. As a Lightroom/Photoshop user, Effects has always been my go-to app for adding the “style” to my photos. With the new Effects my LR > ON1 > LR workflow is a lot faster and smoother for me.

Side Note: I did a video a few weeks ago that demos this workflow in case you’re interested. Here’s the link.

Where to Get It?

ON1 has a launch special going on now. You can upgrade from $79 and the full version if you’re new is $99. My suggestion is the same with any software though – if you’re not sure, download the free 30-day trial and try it out first.

ON1 Plus

Probably the best way to get ON1 is to join ON1 Plus. It’s a learning community where you get education and the software for one price. I’ve been a “coach” there in 2016. Starting next year, there will be multiple coaches throughout the year. I’ll be jumping in as a guest coach for 4 months. My first one is in February where I’ll be covering integration with other apps like Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as Layer workflows (those times when raw edits aren’t enough). But each guest coach brings something new each month, so I think it’ll be really cool for people to get introduced to a lot of different areas of photography and editing styles.

Well, thanks for stopping by today. I hope you’re having a great pre-Christmas week. Have a good one!



  1. TomWickstrom

    Can ON1 Photo Raw edits be applied as a Smart Filter Layer in the same manner as a Camera Raw Filter layer in Photoshop CC??

  2. Jamil Abbasy

    I just started trying out ON1 Photo Raw and watched some of your great tutorial videos. I can’t seem to find where the history panel is in the develop mode. Is there one? Is there a way to easily go back several editing steps like we do in Lightroom?


  3. Greg

    On1 Photo Raw is still a long way away from being ready for “Prime Time”. I really had great hopes for this application but even using a Quad Core i7 32GB DDR4 and a couple fast SSDs this program is still clunky, just as 10.5 was.

    It was released with 47 known issues and at least two more that I brought to On1s attention. I hope through all the upcoming updates and as this program evolves, maybe in a few months it will start to come into it’s own, but as of this date, I would still consider it a beta program.

  4. Dave

    Photo Raw is not carrying over my custom presets from Photo 10. I’ve been in contact via email with tech support and they say the presets will not carry over, even though the FAQ says it will.

    Has anyone else experienced this issue of not being able to carry over older presets? Any solution?

  5. Kerry Voelker

    I just read that you do not work at ON1 anymore – so I apologize for leaving my original post for you, as you are not involved with that organization anymore.

  6. DaveS

    In Photo 10, Detail was found in the Enhance module and was global, i.e., it changed the entire image. In Photo Raw it appears in Local Adjustments and you need to brush in the areas of the image you want changed. Is there a way to make Detail global so the entire image is changed?

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Hi Dave – the Detail section in Develop (you get to it by clicking Show More), should apply detail to the entire photo.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Hi Dave. Tough to spell out here. If you check out the ON1 site there should be a good number of tutorials and videos that walk you through everything.

  7. Tony Leinster

    For me the lack of history is huge. I want to be able to step back straight to a point of my choosing, not have to go through multiple “undo”s, I also like to see exactly what adjustments I have applied so that I can fine tune them if necessary.As a long time Adobe user this one thing would stop me investing in ON 1

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