ON1 vs Lightroom: Which Photo Editor is Best in 2023?

Adobe Lightroom is still the number one photo editing software, and ON1 Photo RAW is now its biggest competitor. Which program is best for you in 2023?

Trying to decide if ON1 is better than Lightroom? You’re not the only one. Adobe Lightroom is still the number one photo editing software, and ON1 Photo RAW is arguably its biggest competitor.

Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses, and as someone who’s used both on and off for years, I’m about to tell you exactly what you need to know to make your decision.

So, which program is best for photo editing: Lightroom versus ON1 Photo RAW?

Let’s take a closer look and find out.

ON1 vs Lightroom Classic Comparison: Our Recommendation

While ON1 Photo RAW is an excellent photo editing software that keeps on improving every year, Adobe Lightroom is still our number one choice. 

Lightroom offers a more intuitive workflow, a wider range of features, better batch-processing tools, and the invaluable ability to edit on phones, tablets and computers, with every edit kept backed up and in sync between devices.

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Lightroom Classic

  • Various built-in presets
  • Easy-to-use controls
  • Detailed masking tools
  • Ability to edit offline
  • Supports plug-ins and presets
  • Cross-device syncing
  • Industry-standard
  • Comes with Photoshop
  • File backup isn’t automatic
  • Subscription required
  • Can be laggy on underpowered computers
  • Confusing file management

Lightroom Classic offers a wide range of tools and features that are perfect for any photography project. 

Considered more robust than Lightroom CC (now known simply as Lightroom – i.e. the web-based app), Classic is the desktop version designed for local use on computers and laptops.

Whether you’re a photography amateur or a seasoned professional, Lightroom’s built-in one-click presets help save editing time. This means you won’t spend hours starting from scratch.

The controls are intuitive, which is great for beginners and professionals alike since most have slide functionality, so you can quickly make adjustments by simply moving the slider to the left or right.

And don’t stress if you get in too deep editing to remember what the initial photo looked like — simply click the Show Original button found on the toolbar to compare the before and after.

Lightroom features such as batch editing, smart previews, multiple export settings and the ability to use plugins make it the photo editing software of choice of pros who need to get through thousands of images each week.

Users can explore presets designed by their fellow photography community or take things to the next level by choosing the ones available through Premium Presets, which are created by industry experts to cover subjects ranging from culinary and construction to everything in between.

You can also download free presets or even make your own, which is a popular thing to do among professionals and amateurs alike.

New AI-powered masking tools allow for more intricate adjustments to help you edit a certain area of the photo while leaving the original parts you want intact, while Select Sky speeds up image editing even more by letting you alter images with a simple click.

You have the option to store files and folders on your computer at home or in the office to handle massive photo libraries. You also have flexibility in how they’re stored, whether it’s via an internal or external hard drive or a local server.

This means you can easily edit offline, and you won’t have to deal with fees if you want to expand storage. 

When you’re on the go, the web-based Lightroom app is ideal for syncing changes between your device and making backups to the cloud. Depending on the subscription you’ve chosen, several Terabytes of photos can be backed up safely.

Since Adobe changed to a subscription model, you’re no longer able to buy Lightroom. 

However, the Lightroom Photography Plan also includes Adobe Photoshop, an incredible graphics manipulation software with powerful tools for photographers and graphics designers, making the subscription pill a little easier to swallow.

ON1 Photo RAW

  • Accessible panels and tabs
  • Intuitive toolbar for easy use
  • Artificial intelligence for efficiency
  • Don’t need to import to edit
  • Extensive options can get clunky
  • Portrait AI is limited

Bringing an abundance of new options, tabs, and panels, ON1 Photo Raw is redefining the photo editing game.

For starters, you don’t have to deal with the headache of manually importing every photo just to begin editing because your photos appear as soon as you open ON1 Photo Raw.

Utilizing artificial intelligence, ON1 Photo Raw is designed to make the monotonous task of photography editing less of a time suck.

Ideal for new and advanced photographers, the abundance of menu options is great for those who want to hone every last detail, while the use of AI is perfect for those who are still new to the wild world of image editing.

ON1 Photo Raw HDR automatically aligns photos while combining intricate shadow and highlight details from a variety of exposures to help you achieve the sharpest photos with an easy-to-use slider.

You’ll also enjoy advanced control with options to correct your lens and chromatic distortions. And you can quickly revise your settings later without a hassle.

Extensive editing tools give you total control over subtle movements you’d see in running water or cloud captures with live de-ghosting functionality.

And the increased customization offered by ON1 Photo Raw lets you easily layer other HDR images and various exposures so you can showcase images with a natural or surrealistic look.

An advanced noise-reduction feature makes it easy to eliminate image noise so you can achieve professional-grade photo clarity. And filters for search criteria such as shutter speeds, lens, and camera make it easy to locate the exact image you’re looking for.

Keyword AI uses state-of-the-art metadata and semantics to deliver the best possible keyword suggestions. It received tremendous praise for easily identifying people, objects, and locations, though some users noted issues with the ON1 Photo Raw Portrait AI, which requires more manual placement than expected, particularly with facial features.

1. Photo Organisation/File Management

ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo Raw offers exceptional photo storage and file management because, as noted earlier, you don’t have to import photos to begin editing and storing. Using a database file, ON1 Photo Raw’s Browse feature functions just like a file browser to help you easily locate files and images.

This means ON1 Photo Raw essentially presents your photo collection upon opening the program, so it’s fairly intuitive and less daunting to find a single photo compared to other programs. Thankfully, ON1 Photo Raw is equipped with a ton of features that cater to those who appreciate a well-organized catalog as well as those who struggle to organize albums on their own.

Other innovative features include timeline albums, which conveniently organize your photos sequentially based on day, month, and year. Built-in options for cataloging mean photos are easier than ever to organize at the click of a button, and you can add colour, keywords, and rating labels to make them even easier to find.

Multiple viewing options enhance the user experience even more by letting you see image folders in intricate detail or at a glance via thumbnail. This allows you to easily view entire photo libraries, favorite photos, or portfolios with minimal effort.

However, ON1 Photo Raw is not intended for backup, so you’ll have to find a method that prevents you from losing significant data and you may face some challenges if you need to move locations or a file gets corrupted. So please keep in mind that ON1 Photo Raw isn’t built for offline editing or backup, although you can save edits via sidecar files.  

Lightroom Classic

Because it’s designed for use with a computer (as opposed to the Lightroom app), Lightroom Classic also offers exceptional photo storage and file management.

Even though you have to import photos individually to Lightroom Classic’s catalog before you’re able to edit, including the photos already on your hard drive, you’ll be able to start backing up your files and arranging your hard drive to your preference to help make managing multiple catalogs a breeze.

And you’ll not only have the peace of mind that your images are backed up if something gets corrupted, but you’ll also have the ability to copy and screenshot them as needed.

Local storage provides increased capacity you can’t get on your mobile device, so if you’re storing files and folders on an external hard drive, you’ll experience quicker uploads compared to Cloud-based storage designs.

Another benefit of local storage is that you don’t need to be connected to the internet, so you can access photos even when Hulu and Netflix aren’t available to distract you.

This allows you to edit offline for added convenience, though Lightroom was designed under the assumption that users already knew how to carefully back up their photos, so you won’t really receive any direction on how to do this.

It’s also important to note that files stored locally are more likely to become victims of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes.

2. Precision

ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo Raw has a convenient point-and-click design that allows for precise editing of subjects and settings. Quick, raw processing provides the ideal colour, tone, and clarity to maintain the integrity of your photos and their unique details.

Instead of having to watch tutorials to master old-school manual editing, you can simply click the spot on the photo you want to edit due to integrated semantic masking, which lets you divide up your photo into individual areas for precise editing in that space without affecting the rest of the photo.

Once you right-click, an extensive menu of options will appear, allowing you to alter everything from skin and sun flare to glow and grunge. 

Portrait photographers can also take advantage of ON1 Photo Raw’s automatic and manual face-tuning capabilities.  Users can even merge panorama and HDR for nearly limitless editing options that make tedious masking, brushing, and layering a thing of the past.

Lightroom Classic

Featuring a high-performing exposure brush, Lightroom allows users to achieve near-perfect results without having to do a ton of sliding. By simply activating the overlay mask and using the auto-mask feature, you can achieve the meticulous detail you want in gorgeous landscape photography without over-brushing. 

Another remarkable feature offered only by Lightroom is the range mask. Delivering a dynamic duo of colour and luminance, you can enjoy more control over what you mask and what you don’t.

This classic version of Lightroom is also designed to work with a variety of plug-ins, which can help expedite workflow and give you access to even more edit options.

3. Usability

ON1 Photo RAW

One of the main benefits of ON1 Photo Raw is the wide menu of options available at your fingertips with a single click.

While experienced photographers love the plethora of options, some beginners find it confusing and complex at first, but later adapt and enjoy all the bells and whistles.

ON1 Photo Raw’s intuitive layout displays presets on the left and tools for editing on the right for easy navigation.

And identifiable icons for the more frequently used functions such as Text, Crop, Transform, and Mask are all located on the left for quick jumps from preset selection to standard editing options.

Although there are hundreds of editing options available with ON1 Photo Raw, some users find the layout clunky and overwhelming.

Lightroom Classic

Like ON1 Photo Raw, Lightroom’s layout also has presets on the left and editing tools on the right for intuitive usability. You can easily import images, optimize your library, create presets, oversee plug-ins, and export images via the File menu.

Lightroom’s clean, classic layout showcases an appropriate number of options, which means beginners won’t feel clumsy or intimidated navigating. And because you’re not inundated with editing options, load times and response times tend to be quicker.

However, in today’s modern digital world, many users rely on their phones for editing and viewing on the go. Unfortunately, Lightroom limits usability to laptops and desktops.

Which Program is the Best Photo Editor?

Both ON1 Photo Raw and Lightroom Classic are exceptional photo editors. Their drawbacks really just depend on your individual applications, experience level, and workflow.

When fine-tuning the intricate details of trees and mountains for landscape photography, the polarizer effects offered by ON1 Photo Raw make it the clear winner in creating a strong sense of location.

And because ON1 leverages artificial intelligence, you can easily locate the photos you need while also avoiding the incessant burden of importing each image prior to editing.  

ON1 Photo Raw is also a nearly perfect solution for A-Z edits, whereas Lightroom sometimes requires assistance from a plug-in or Photoshop.

But for those new to the photo-editing game, ON1 Photo Raw can feel like a lot to take in, though the immense range of options is perfect for experienced photographers seeking detailed edits, the program can take time to get accustomed to.

Lightroom Classic may be classified as more user-friendly because you’re not flooded with as many options, so it’s great for beginner and lifestyle photographers seeking to create real-life moments even if you do have to take the time to import individual images first.

The main downfall of Lightroom, though, is that a subscription is required for use – check the latest price of Lightroom here.

Final Words

There’s no denying that the ground-breaking traits of both ON1 Photo Raw and Lightroom elevate the world of photo editing. Both make it relatively easy for users to adjust image sizes, hues, contrast, blur, and sharpness, which is the foundation for any solid image-focused software.

ON1 Photo Raw is sort of the Rolls Royce of photo editing— bringing a distinctly powerful presence to the sea of image editing software. Equipped with all the extras, you can navigate photo editing in luxury.

Lightroom Classic is aptly named as the more user-friendly, traditional version with a simplistic, straightforward layout that’s perfect for even the most novice photographers. It’s the Honda Civic that’s dependable, easy to use, and gets you where you need to go without a challenge, despite lacking some of the bells and whistles of ON1 Photo Raw.

Both programs serve a purpose — accommodating a variety of different users and workflows. Depending on your editing style, expertise, and preference, both ON1 Photo Raw and Lightroom will expedite and enhance your photo editing experience.

Shotkit Writer, Product Tester & Instagram Manager

Jeff Collier is an experienced film photographer who enjoys experimenting with modern digital photography equipment, software and apps. He’s also an ex-world champion triathlete and avid cyclist, clocking hundreds of km each week in the beautiful Tweed Valley of northern NSW, Australia.

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