Lightroom versus On1 RAW 2021

Wondering why I haven’t shared my 51st birthday waterfall pics yet? This is why. I can’t do anything with my RAW photos without making more of a mess. If you’re not into photography this is one post you can just skip.

Summed up in one line “I like almost everything better about Lightroom except renting it, but I’m trying to switch to On1“. I’m aware that my initial opinion is likely biased because I don’t want to learn another program. I’ve had different On1 offerings since it was On One somewhere back around 2015, but fell into using Lightroom and Photoshop more often with On1 as a plug-in instead of a stand-alone. Many of their programs can be used either way. And, to be fair I use programs until they won’t work any longer. So either one, On1 Raw 2021 or Lightroom subscription would both have a slight learning curve. I just prefer to concentrate on shooting than sitting in the office working!

ON1 Photo RAW - The Ultimate Photo Editor - New Version 2022 Pre-Order

This is NOT something I wanted to mess with but LR6.14 started just go black and shut down on sync or import. I had not added any new software or hardware. The only thing I could think of was maybe Dell or Windows did an update and messed up my graphics card working with LR so I tried turning off the GPU acceleration but it still shuts itself off on import. I beat my head against it for a week or so not being able to edit my photos and decided to reinstall from the 6.0 disk. I forgot it had been updated to 6.14. Now, it still shuts down AND won’t read my RAW files- even ones I had previously worked on in 6.14. To top it off Adobe just can’t find it in themselves to leave the 6.14 update or even Lightroom 6 any longer. I understand not continuing to give new updates but when they went to subscription-only they really screwed those who bought the perpetual software. Kinda makes me wish I was happy with just cell phone jpg photos.

I know I’m not renting LRc but I downloaded the 7-day trial in hopes it would stay open long enough for me to use On1’s new migrate that is supposed to copy/mirror your LR develop settings to On1. I read one place that it’d migrate only from LR6.1. They responded to an email and said you could use the new subscription versions.

The migration to on1 was there in LRc, so I verified all DNG’s, found all missing photos, and spent some time cleaning it up so it had less to migrate. I saw some other photographers before and afters and it did a fair job, not great but better than nothing. At this time RAW2021.5 can’t import any presets. If you applied a LR preset other than working on a photo in basic develop mode, those don’t transfer, nor does any of your import/export settings, watermarks, or develop presets.

On1 RAW 2021, did not import my raw settings from LRc after leaving my computer alone and letting it run, which took about a day for 61k photos. The progress bar was going and when it was done, I looked at a LR edited RAW file in On1 none of sliders were moved and it was just like it came out of the camera. On1 on left (after migrate) and LR on R.

Something else odd, in LR my RAW files didn’t show the ring on the outside from my circular polarizer straight OTTC and On1 does. I’d think SOTC would look the same at least in size of what was captured.

On1 told me to delete certain files in AppData that LRc spent days migrating and try again. Did that for a second time from LRc. Still no edits migrated and now my 7 day LRc trial is expired. I was able to get LR6.14 back from a backup I didn’t know I had. This is when I realized Carbonite does not back up video files! I did the same steps they said I needed to do the 1st, delete files from On1 in AppData, Verify all DNG, find missing photos, sync again. The 3rd time was not the charm. Still no edits migrated.

I deleted the files they told me to delete. I uninstalled On1 RAW2021. I went to LR and made a new small catalog with only edited photos. No psd, no video, no unedited jpgs. I reinstalled On1 and tried to migrate for the 4th and final time. At this point, I pretty much feel all my non exported edits are gone, even though On1 asked me to upload some stuff for them to look into it. I’m really kicking myself for not always exporting every time I spend hours working on my photos. Assuming I could always do it later was the wrong approach…. regardless of backing up my LR6 catalog.

On1 got back to me that they could not replicate the issue and offered me a refund. I am done with Adobe and even though migrate didn’t work for me they still offered help and offered the refund. Standing behind a product you sell is A+ in my book so I’m sticking with them (in fact asked to be an affiliate) but instead of making the switch abruptly, I’ll start slowly and try to get my 6000 or so edited but not saved photos moved to a folder and work on those. I will likely still use LR to compare and cull but I plan to start using On1 to edit.

I have almost 61,000 photos just in “Pictures” yet when On1 migrate started it said it was exporting 6058 photos. When I made my smaller catalog it was around 6000 pics.

Now if migrate ever works, the winner would be On1 RAW for actually working with another software company. On1 says it will import basic keywords, and ratings from LR and mirror duplicate as basic develop settings. Without a doubt, On1 is the winner in customer service. One, they listen and offer a perpetual license or rented subscription and two, their customer service actually responds to emails and doesn’t just try to upsell you like Adobe.

Even though you don’t have to upgrade every time they offer something they usually only offer a few updates before it’s time to purchase a newer version if you want the latest but that is not unique.

While working on this post though, I did get this email.


Lightroom, well all Adobe photo software, has more user help videos, because more people use it. Or use to anyway. I’m sure there are plenty of people who feel the same way about subscriptions as I do.

If you’ve looked into leaving Lightroom for On1 you’ve already read over and over how one is a catalog and one is a database and how much time culling without importing is supposed to save you. This serves zero upside for me. Until my LR messed up and sync/import won’t work. I don’t care that it takes a minute to import the last photoshoot, to work on my photos. The trade-off of a slower program, and not really knowing if your On1 watched catalogs can be removed without possibly losing your photos is too big a trade-off. I get browse is looking at your files or your drive, but I totally understand how LR catalogs work.

I don’t like all the .on1 sidecar XMP type files beside every single photos that has been cataloged when you look in windows explorer (even after temporally turning off ‘show hidden files). You can turn that (keeping sidecars with file) off but then you don’t really have one folder to back up since On1 doesn’t have a catalog or tell you what folder your edit are stored in. That is NOT good for backing up! I read one place you could remove a catalog, then somewhere else that you’d lose your photos in that catalog, not just the edits to it. I understand LR. Since both are non-destructive you have to export your work anyway and I like how LR gives you the choice (with one click) to remove or delete from a drive. On1 you have to search for you x’d photos first the delete. For backing up I like Lightroom better, mostly because I don’t like the sidecar files cluttering up my file explorer and On1 doesn’t tell you exactly where your edits are stored. I use Carbonite as an external and offsite backup. With Lightroom, you can back up your catalogs (and of course your photos wherever they may be stored) and know you have the edits if you backed up the catalog. Even if you do use the sidecar files with On1 some of the edit info is still stored somewhere in On1 so you’d have to back up an entire folder, I’m guessing in Appdate>On1 but it’s not as simple as knowing where you store your Lightroom catalog. Winner here for now, is Lightroom.

Speaking of searching… winner is Lightroom with its multi-choice filter bar. I didn’t think Lightroom offered enough search choices when they didn’t have sort or search by size but they still offer more, combinable and easier choices to run a search than On1. I did buy a LR add-on plug-in called Any Search that adds a lot of helpful search options. On1 does have a sort by file size!

On1 is slow and I keep seeing non-responding! I do like their delete duplicate feature until it came time to delete. Unlike LR6 one button ‘delete rejected photos’ and boom one click and they’re gone (from HD or LR your choice). It took several minutes just to delete a handful of pics from On1, plus you have to filter the x’d ones first. Winner for speed all around is Lightroom.

Export options winner is Lightroom although I heard On1 was going to be updating soon.

Winner for comparing / culling is LIghtroom It takes me longer to compare and cull because there is no “make select” button to advance you to the next 2 photos to compare to and when you have to continually pick your two photos and redo the zoom level you were at instead of just choosing between 2 and moving on. I can only see the sharpness of 2 photos zoomed in at a time. If you wanted to choose from multiple photos and zoom all the same (think survey mode in LR without the zoom) then On1 is great for looking at lots of photos at once, but who can see sharpness and details like that? On1 did reply ” we will send this as a suggested enhancement to our product dev team.”

Winner for more than basic edits is On1. I think I’ll like the focus stacking ability and the real layers (with layer blend modes), and mask more like Photoshop offers. I think On1 perfect brush does a little better job than LR auto mask brush. On1 clone/heal brush is nice and more like Photoshop than the Lightroom 6.14 offering where you have to pick where it clones from. On1 will also do text and has different custom brushes too but for cover design, I’m sticking to Photoshop (as long it will work). Lightroom has colorize and tone editing but On1 has a color replacer too. On1 effects are nice too especially the way instead of hovering over a preset and looking in the view to see what your photo would like with it applied it gives you all the effects in nice size previews just by clicking on the effect. Now, On1 had more effects presets but over the years I’ve bought lots of LR presets that won’t move to On1. On1 has dehaze/haze that LR6.14 didn’t have. I did see it in LRc during my 7-day trial. On1 has a tethered shooting option for Canon and Nikon. I wish ON1 would spend a little more time on cataloging, comparing and culling ability before diving into offering more than basic develop settings. On1 Browse supports cloud storage services from Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. If LR did that I wasn’t aware. On1 mentioned v2022 is a massive upgrade “full of new editing technologies” with Sky Swap AI, a remastered Export, improvements to Browse and a new time-laspe feature, enhanced masking, full integration of NoNoise into Photo Raw and more.

Lots of stuff is the same between both software, even if it’s called something different.
Albums/Collections, Develop/Edit, Flat/heart, virtiual/versions.

On1 has a history panel now but if you close and come back it’s empty, unlike LR that keeps your work in history, but On1 has layers.

If you want to choose On1, now is a great time with RAW2022

I found these sites helpful:

I know there are a plethora of photo editing software choices but I thought I’d share my thoughts between the On1 Photo RAW and Lightroom. Who knows, maybe some of you are in the same situation.

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