Maybe the Only Photo Processing Software You’ll Ever Need: We Review ON1 Photo Raw 2023


ON1 Photo Raw 2023’s is reaching a point where we don’t need other apps to process our photos. It indeed addressed some of our most significant developing and editing annoyances.

There are various bugbears that a lot of photographers have in common when it comes to software. The first is the number of programs we need to get the desired results. On my computer, besides Lightroom, Photoshop, and various Nik, and Topaz apps, I have a plethora of other tools that I sometimes call upon. That’s before I even mention the Photoshop plugins. That results in a time-consuming, complex workflow requiring multiple programs to sort your photos and achieve the desired results. Secondly, there is the cost of buying and updating all these programs.

The latest iteration of ON1 brings all the functionality of these into one program. Furthermore, it’s a fast program, taking a fraction of a moment to swap between modules. I wrote a full review of the last version of ON1 Photo Raw in a previous article, so I won’t repeat myself here by reviewing the full functionality. I will only briefly mention that it is much cheaper than Adobe’s offerings, does as good or a better job in many areas of image processing, and is available to buy outright (a perpetual license) and a subscription. Additionally, I know this is subjective, but I like the results of its raw processing far more than other raw development tools I try.

ON1’s Photo Catalog is a superb tool. It’s fast and reliable, with all the cataloging functionalities found in other apps. Akin to a combination of Lightroom and Bridge, you can create albums within the Browse module, similar to Lightroom’s Collections. In fact, you can import your Lightroom collections and development settings into ON1, as well as the raw adjustments. You can also use it as a file browser.

The Browse module has a new helpful feature. Now it has what ON1 calls Keyword AI. It looks at the image and automatically suggests keywords, saving time on typing or thinking up what keywords you should use.

On images I tried, it identified the subjects quickly and precisely, although it could not differentiate between a sunrise and a sunset; some humans struggle with that despite knowing that I live on the east coast. It also suggested a few incorrect keywords, but I didn’t select those for use. Over time, as ON1 feeds more images to the AI engine, this will become even more efficient.

ON1 was years ahead of Adobe with accurate edge detection for masking, and their rival is only just catching up; ON1’s “Perfect Brush” is far superior to Lightroom’s “Edge Detect.” But now, ON1 Photo Raw 2023 has surged ahead again, and its masking is far superior to anything else available on the market. It also uses AI technology to speed up more of the editing process.

The software claims to remove the “tedious methods of masking, layering, brushing or adjusting.” A click of the sky and the Super Select AI tool and that area is selected; a click of a person, and they are chosen instead. It seemed to work well. Only once or twice, with some unusual shots of a type that the AI had not yet learned, was the selection not perfect. However, that is rare and easily fixed by tweaking the mask with an additional click.

The AI selection function is good but not yet 100% flawless in its application. For example, when I selected areas of the sea of a long exposure shot, it missed patches, but that sort of thing will improve over time as the system learns. Saying that, it still performs far better than the other automatic selection tools I’ve used. Where it didn’t identify selections correctly the first time, any omission was fixed even more quickly than carrying out mask selection from scratch using the fabulous Perfect Brush.

I anticipate the AI will improve as time passes, and it learns from more images that the people at ON1 install into it; ON1 doesn’t use your data, although I would be happy to share mine. Nevertheless, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Affinity don’t touch this function.

Any selected part of a photo is easily adjusted by applying pre-set adjustment layers to it with a right mouse click. Hovering over the new “Adaptive Presets” gives a preview of all the adjustments that can be applied, which can be further modified after selection. That really speeds up the workflow.

Image enhancement also has a range of AI functionality, including upscaling, noise reduction, and sharpening, and a new recovery of out-of-focus areas in a Tack Sharp AI tool. I put this to the test, and it worked well with the photos I tried, although the default values were too strong for me, so I needed to reduce those manually.

What I Like About ON1 Photo Raw 2023 and What Could Be Improved

ON1 Photo Raw 2023 suits every level of photographer. The beginner can use single-click adjustments, whereas the expert can develop the image from there with as much control as one has adjusting layers in Photoshop. It is a boon for those who want to speed up their workflow. ON1 Photo Raw gives me far better results than Lightroom. Additionally, it quickly leaps back and forth between the Develop and other modules, far faster than going from Lightroom to Photoshop and back again. Applying layer adjustments is more intuitive than Photoshop too.

It’s stable software as well. Even on my older machine, it worked perfectly without slowing.

The new functionality speeds up the workflow further, negating the need for separate plugins such as Topaz Denoise and Sharpen AI.

There were a few minor glitches with the first release, as there often are with new, complex software. But an update has just addressed those. Also, the default settings for Denoise and Tack Sharp AI are a little too strong for my taste. But then again, so too are Adobe Camera Raw/Lightroom’s, which give inferior noise reduction and sharpening.

The following before and after image was out of focus, and there was a lot of motion blur. The Tack Sharp AI feature makes unusable photos usable.

For someone starting in photography or wanting to move away from the Adobe suite, ON1 Photo Raw is an obvious choice. For those who, like me, are inundated with multiple apps and a varied and complex workflow, it’s perfect.

I began by stating that maybe ON1 Photo Raw 2023 can be the only software you will ever need; it is. Its workflow differs from other apps and takes a little learning from scratch. But it is fast and covers all the functionality I ever want. It is by far the most complete image-processing software I’ve come across. As always, I have used some extreme examples to test this software, and it has coped well at recovering otherwise failed images. In the real world, the images won’t be so severely blurred or grainy, so the results are far better. I can thoroughly recommend ON Photo Raw 2023 as the most comprehensive and effective tool out there.

Of course, it won’t be the only software on my computer because I’ll be putting others through their paces for you, but it is impressive, and if I were to rely on one program, this would be it.

The video at the top from ON1 shows how some of the new features work.





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