With the 2022 upgrade, ON1 Photo RAW moves a step closer to the competition. At first glance, not much has changed. The photo editing workspace looks much the same as it did in the 2021 version. But look again. There are a few key changes to explore. Some are small changes that increase usability. But there are a couple of significant upgrades. ON1 Photo RAW now has new AI-based technologies like Sky Swap AI and NoNoise AI. The sky replacement tool comparable to Photoshop and their new denoise AI will make everyone sit up and take notice.
Whether you are considering changing to ON1 Photo RAW or upgrading to the new version, this review will help you decide. Is ON1 Photo RAW 2022 the right photo editing program for you?
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What is ON1 Photo RAW?
ON1 Photo RAW is a photo editing program comparable to Adobe Lightroom. It has a full digital asset management system (DAM) to help you organise images. You can add and adjust keywords and metadata. The labelling options let you find your favourite photos in a flash. The editing workspace is easy to navigate. Panels group frequent edits, and sliders tweak individual adjustments.
But ON1 Photo RAW is not just a Lightroom imitator. This photo editing program includes pixel-changing options only found in Photoshop. With a few clicks, you can add sun flares or bokeh effects. Or use layers and blending modes to add a texture. You can even edit facial features to make a more pleasing portrait. All this, without opening another program.
For photographers, ON1 Photo RAW is more than Lightroom and all the best bits of Photoshop. See our review ‘ON1 Photo Raw 2021 Review (Is it Better than Lightroom?)’ to find out how ON1 did in a head-to-head comparison. The verdict was close. Now, with the 2022 version, the decision just got more difficult. Let’s look to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.
Browse Workspace: Digital Asset Management (DAM)
ON1 Photo RAW has a fully conceptualised DAM (digital asset management) system. The Browse workspace lets you edit metadata and cull through your images. The rating systems are like those found in Lightroom with colours, ratings, and likes. The workspace looks the same as in 2021, but there are a few minor but useful improvements in the new version.
For a start, you have more thumbnail view options. Change the user interface to see the features you want to see. You can choose to declutter the workspace, showing only the elements you need to see. Go to the View drop-down menu and select View > Thumbnail View Options. You can change the size and the shape of the thumbnails. But you also have a whole host of labelling options. Do you want to see ratings and labels or the capture date? Do you want the labels on the left or the right? Do you always want to see the labels or only when you mouse over an image? This change may seem small. But it declutters the workspace and makes all the difference when organising thousands of photos.
Another small but major change in the new version is the ability to batch title images. Select a set of images and go to the Edit drop-down menu. Click Edit > Rename File. Using what ON1 Photo RAW calls ‘tokens’, you can create a unique naming sequence. Your titles can include numbers, dates, and various metadata content. You can even include ratings in your title. This is a vast improvement over the 2021 version, where you had few renaming choices.
In the new version, there are additional options in the File drop-down menu. You can send an image directly to a specific area of the Edit workspace. For instance, you can send the image directly to the Resize tool or Portrait AI. In the right-hand column, there are quick links to combine HDR, panorama, and focus stacks. Also, you now have the option to combine images into a time-lapse.
The changes in the Browse workspace are small but speak directly to the needs of photographers. One other change deserves mention. It may seem small, but actually quite significant. ON1 Photo RAW 2022 now includes a catalogue backup.
Lightroom and ON1 Photo RAW function differently when it comes to cataloguing. Both are non-destructive photo editing programs that write information into sidecar files. Lightroom collects all your edits into one catalogue file. The program reminds you to back up this file periodically. ON1 creates separate sidecar files for each image. They sit next to the image rather than in one central location.
There are pros and cons to each system. The Lightroom catalogue is centralised and easily can be backed up. But this one file can become large and take up a lot of memory in one place. In ON1, the sidecar files distribute size, but there is not one central catalogue keeping track of your edits. ON1 Photo RAW 2022 has changed this.
Under the File drop-down menu, there is now a Back Up Data option. The program backs up edits, metadata, albums, presets, and extras. Like Lightroom, the backup does not include a second copy of the image files themselves. If anything goes wrong with the sidecar files, you have a backup ready to go.
Edit Workspace: Photo Editing
The user interface of the Edit workspace has not changed much in the new version. In the right-hand column, the Layers section sits under the history and histogram (Levels) windows. The basic photo editing tools are in the Develop tab. These are divided into panels with individual tools controlled by sliders.
The basic photo edits are essentially the same between ON1 Photo RAW 2021 and 2022. The most obvious change is the inclusion of a Sky tab. This opens the new sky replacement tool. Let’s look closer at this new sky replacement tool as well as the NoNoise AI tool tucked under the Develop tab.
Develop NoNoise AI
A few things have changed in the ON1 Photo RAW 2022 Develop tab. The Details panel is now labelled Noise & Sharpening. This new panel hides a powerful tool: NoNoise AI.
In the Noise & Sharpening panel, the sliders have been reorganised. Also, there is a new NoNoise AI button next to Classic denoise. You have the option of choosing the denoise tool included in the 2021 or 2017 version of the program. But the new NoNoise AI tool is all you will need.
Click, and the tool gets to work analysing your image and removing the noise. The AI is quick to render and looks pretty good right away. A before and after preview shows you what has changed. You can adjust luminance, enhance detail and colour. The results easily compete with the top denoise programs and plugins available. See our review of the ‘Best Noise Reduction Software 2021′.
Sky Swap AI
In ON1 Photo RAW, you always could replace skies. The process used layers, and there were sky files in the program ready to use. But the process was not obvious. It was like replacing skies in Photoshop before the sky replacement tool. You would add a sky layer and use the Mask AI tool to help you identify the sky. There were no colour or light blending options. ON1 Photo RAW 2022 brings the sky replacement feature out of the shadows. Let’s look closer at the new Sky Swap AI tool found under the Sky tab.
Click the Sky tab, and the Sky Swap AI panel appears with a competed mask, ready to drop in your favourite sky. There are plenty of skies included in the program. There are nine different categories, including night, sunset, storm, and aurora. Within each category, there are many sky options. If you do not find a sky you like, you can always import your own.
In the sky replacement panel are sliders controlling the sky’s size and position. Also, you control the lighting and colours of the sky and foreground. You can also reflect the sky, an option not available in Photoshop.
The mask is quick, but the sky detection algorithm has some problems. It works best on images that have a distinct horizon without intersecting elements. Photoshop’s sky replacement tool makes some similar errors when masking.
If the mask is not immediately successful, you can manually adjust it. First, lower the opacity of the sky. Then open the Mask tool in the left-hand column or double click the mask in the sky replacement panel. You can use ON1’s powerful Mask AI tool. Add a few quick markers to show areas you want to keep and those you want masked. The program uses line and contrast to create a logical mask.
In ON1 Photo RAW 2022, you also have a Mask Sky option under the Mask drop-down menu. You also have the line mask tool to help define edges. The line mask tool is like the Photoshop polygonal lasso tool. Click on points along the edge of a subject you want to mask. Pull the pins to curve lines. This makes masking around curves and edges more precise.
The inclusion of the lighting and colour elements is a vast improvement over the sky replacement process in the 2021 version. ON1 Photo RAW 2022 leapfrogs over Photoshop with its wide array of skies, plus the reflection option. Compare a before and after version of a cityscape using a night sky template from ON1. Note the reflection and the lighting changes.
ON1 Photo RAW already includes several image compositing tools. Like Lightroom, you can create an HDR image from bracketed photos or a panorama. But you can also merge images into a focus stack. Now, you can create a time-lapse video. Click the Time tool found in the right-hand column to open the time-lapse window. Here, you have size, quality, and speed options. The results are quick to process. The video is saved directly into your folder and catalogued. There is no round-tripping of hundreds of files into Photoshop.
In ON1 Photo RAW 2022, the Export window also got an overhaul. A Metadata panel replaces the tiling and gallery wrap options. In this panel, you decide what metadata to export with your image. You can name your photos with the new renaming options discussed earlier. Also, you have more choices in sharpening, resizing, and other export options. When the export is complete, you can choose to open the photo directly in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Export presets are not new to the 2022 version. But they are more prominent with the important details clearly visible. Also, you can access the Export presets directly from the File drop-down menu.
Overall, ON1 Photo RAW 2022 took everything we could throw at it. But there were a few issues.
In our 2021 review, we mentioned that the program was slow at times and could crash. The process of sorting through a lot of images is still slow in the 2022 version. There was often a frustrating delay in moving to and resolving the next image. This happened even with the fast RAW previews turned on. Also, during testing, the program crashed many times. The program shut down nearly a dozen times while culling through a few days’ worth of images. In the end, culling was completed in the 2021 version. The previous version used much less energy and was noticeably faster.
Also, the program was not always responsive in an intuitive way. Clicking tabs or carrots to open drop-down menus did not always result in the menu opening.
One feature that was not available for testing was the Photoshop plugin host capability. Marketing for the 2022 update says that ON1 will host Photoshop plugins. The plugins are available even if you stop subscribing to Adobe’s Photoshop. There may be a simple step missing from the instructions. But ON1 was not able to access the many installed Photoshop plugins on the test computer.
The slow culling and crashing marred the experience. It detracted from some of the improved features of this program.
ON1 Photo RAW Pricing
ON1 Photo RAW’s pricing is a bit confusing on the surface. You can buy the ON1 Photo RAW 2022 program outright. If you own a previous version, you can pay a reduced rate for the upgrade. This is attractive for photographers who do not like Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription model. Buy the program once, and it is yours to use as long as you want.
But ON1 Photo RAW also offers a subscription plan. With this, you get cloud storage and program updates. Add an annual membership to ON1 Plus. You now have access to courses and guides to help with your photography and photo editing.
If you are not ready to give up on Lightroom or Photoshop, ON1 makes many of their AI tools available as stand-alone programs or plugins. You can buy NoNoise AI, Effects, the Resize tool, Portrait AI, and the HDR compositing tools individually or as a professional plugin bundle. It is more cost-effective to use these tools inside ON1 Photo RAW 2022, but it is up to you. ON1 offers free trials for the Photo RAW and each of the plugins.
There are a lot of little bonuses with ON1 Photo RAW. You can buy more presets and effects packages or wait for loyalty rewards monthly extras. These give you something new to try that may spark creativity and motivation. ON1 is a community as much as it is a program.
ON1 Photo RAW 2022 has some useful upgrades and a few nice surprises. The most notable additions are the Sky Swap AI, NoNoise AI, and the Time-Lapse creation tool.
If you already own ON1 Photo RAW 2021, the most changes will be subtle. But buying the upgrade may be worth it if you use the new AI tools. At times, the program seems rough around the edges. But the AI tools in ON1 Photo RAW 2022 are fast and maybe just what you need to create your best images.
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