Moving to On1

Last week Adobe decided to try an “experiment” with their Creative Cloud Photography plan which amounted to doubling the price for the service. I said, “No.” I’m being squeezed to death by subscription services, and I only held on to Adobe because I felt that was an actual value to me. At $20 a month, it’s really only a value for Adobe. I’m out. Rather than keep using a tool I know I’m going to be dropping in a few months, I’m even going to pay the early termination fee 1 and leave Creative Cloud behind. I’ve grown to like Lightroom in the years since Apple killed off Aperture, and I’m a bit bummed I need to move my workflow again 2, but I just can’t afford it. It’s time to move on.

The application to which I’m migrating is On1 Photo Raw. I’ve been playing with it for about a week and I’ve grown to enjoy the layout and functionality of the app. It’s not as fast out of the box as Lightroom Classic, and certain tools need more refinement 3, but there’s a lot of power in this application that I’m looking forward to exploring. The layers tool alone can pull off some amazing composites without ever leaving the app. I’m still settling in, and will be for a while, but here’s my first thoughts on my new photography tool of choice.

First, take the time to run the Lightroom Migration tool! On1 Photo Raw does a terrific job bringing over catalogs, ratings, descriptions, titles, and even edits 4. It takes a while, mine ran for the better part of a day, but the results are nice. I’m now wishing I’d have kept better track of my Lightroom catalogs over the last few years 5. Pro tip about the migration tool, do not quit your Creative Cloud subscription before you do the migration. Why? Because the tool runs in Lightroom.

Second, catalog everything. But, do not try to catalog all your folders at the same time 6. One of the reasons importing photos into Lightroom takes so long is because every photo bought into the Library is cataloged at the time it’s added. This process adds metadata to the library and creates smart previews of the photos for faster loading 7. This is one of the reasons why browsing through photos in Lightroom Classic isn’t a lesson in torture. It’s not super fast, either, but it’s not a painful experience.

On1 Photo Raw doesn’t enforce this cataloging process on users, so photos can be opened from anywhere and manipulated in the application. But without a catalog to help speed up the process of opening an image, or even browsing through photos, can get agonizing. Once a folder is cataloged, however, browsing through photos becomes much more snappy 8. If you have a fast machine, and are running off an SSD, browsing uncatalogued folders might be faster. I don’t live there.

The downside with cataloging folders is the time it takes for this to happen. It’s lengthy 9. In one respect I understand why On1’s process takes so long. When Adobe imports a sizable number of photos the process can be a bit painful on a modest machine. As I move to On1 as my tool of choice I’m only cataloging my top-level folders one or two at a time – but in doing so I’m asking it to catalog a couple thousand photos at a time. That’s going to take a while. still, while the time this process takes understandable, it’s still much slower than Lightroom 10. My advice is, “Just take it slow.” Drop one or two top level photos in the cataloged folders pane a day and let the software do it’s thing. Cataloging doesn’t tax system resources, it just takes a long while 11.

Third, watch every YouTube video you can find about On1 Photo Raw. The videos I’ve viewed on the masking features alone are enough to make me drool. On1’s YouTube channel is particularly beneficial to watch.

And, really, that’s it. If you try out On1 Photo Raw have some patience to really explore the app. Allow it to catalog some folders so you can get a feel for what the app can do when it’s set up well. You may find you really like it! As the application has a thirty day free trial, you really have nothing to lose.


  1. Really Adobe, could you be any more like dealing with a cable company? 
  2. Three different applications in less than a decade is a bit much. 
  3. I’d love it if On1 Photo Raw would be able to read the lens correction data from my G7’s photos, its written in the file so it would be kinda nice to have. 
  4. That’s pretty amazing, actually. 
  5. I stopped caring about them in favor of focusing on folders. 
  6. That’s a bad idea. Trust me on that. 
  7. Among other things. 
  8. Opening for editing is also done faster, but it’s still not as fast as Lightroom. 
  9. So don’t drop a folder with a couple hundred RAW files in it and think the cataloging didn’t help, it takes On1 Photo Raw a while to finish the process. 
  10. I’m talking Lightroom Classic, as that’s a more “apples to apples” comparison. Lightroom CC is so well-optimized it’s absurd. It just leaves out some features on which I depend and makes me a hostage to Adobe’s cloud storage service. No thanks. 
  11. Emphasis on long. I do hope On1 finds a way to speed this process up. 

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