In this comparison, we lay it all out for you. We discuss the pros and cons of these two popular programs, including:
- Editing features
- Photo organization capabilities
- Ease of use
By the time you’re done, you’ll know exactly which editing program is the better buy! Let’s dive right in.
Lightroom vs ON1: Overview
Lightroom Classic has been around for a while now, and the program has plenty of die-hard fans; when it was first released, it attracted a lot of attention, thanks to its user-friendly tools and helpful presets.
ON1 Photo RAW is the newer program of the two. It draws on Lightroom’s immense success while attempting to improve upon some of the latter program’s faults, making it an innovative, potentially appealing Lightroom alternative.
Here, we’ll run through a quick list of pros and cons for both programs before moving on to an in-depth look at their individual features.
Lightroom’s catalog system is very versatile and good for backing up your images. The library organization is similar to ON1, but it does have more sorting tools, like AI keywording and facial recognition.
There are more preset packages and third-party tools available in Lightroom compared to ON1, and it is also generally faster. You have the option to edit Lightroom images offline.
On the other hand, Lightroom doesn’t have adjustment layers (and ON1 does). Lightroom also doesn’t do focus stacking in panoramas and in HDR images, while ON1 offers these handy features.
ON1 Photo RAW
You don’t need to import photos into ON1 to edit them. Instead, as soon as you install the program, it will find all your photos; you can easily see them in the Albums section. ON1 also makes use of adjustment layers, and they are very similar to those in Photoshop. ON1 doesn’t have as many available preset packages as Lightroom, but the built-in options are very good.
ON1 just isn’t as fast as Lightroom for most tasks, and there is currently no offline editing feature. ON1 utilizes a database system instead of catalogs, which doesn’t offer as much versatility or security when backing up your images.
1. Photo organization capabilities
One of the main differences between Lightroom vs ON1 is in terms of how they store the edits you make to your images.
Lightroom’s catalog system can seem a bit confusing, but it’s basically just a single (catalog) file that saves all the edits you make to every image. It also saves keywords, ratings, and other changes.
Lightroom offers non-destructive photo editing, which means your original files are always kept safe and unaffected by user adjustments. This is a major benefit – after all, everyone makes mistakes, and there are times when your editing will go too far astray. Thanks to non-destructive editing, you can scrap your changes and start fresh with the original.
ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 uses a database system and creates a collection of files (not just one single file, as with Lightroom’s catalog). When you open ON1, all the photos on your computer will appear in the program so you don’t have to go searching for them. While this is nice, it picks up every single image on your computer, even files that you have downloaded from the internet – which can be an annoyance.
Also, like Lightroom, ON1 is a non-destructive photo editor.
One downside to ON1? You can’t back up the database within the software. You’ll need to put another system in place, such as backing up to an external hard drive or cloud.
2. Layout and ease of use
Both image editing programs are intuitive, but the layouts differ somewhat, and Lightroom is the more user-friendly of the two.
Importing images into Lightroom is a breeze: simply click on Import Photos and Video in the File menu. This menu is also where you can optimize your catalog, import develop profiles and presets, export images, manage plugins, and lots more.
Once uploaded, you can select your images for editing and click Develop. You are then taken to a screen with a relatively easy-to-understand layout. Presets are arranged on the left-hand side of the screen, while editing tools are found on the right:
Lightroom’s interface is clear and uncluttered, so even a beginner will find the layout easy to navigate. Personally, I’m a big fan of the simple and user-friendly layout – both for importing and editing.
ON1 Photo RAW
The ON1 Photo RAW layout is slightly more confusing. Because the program has so many editing features, the tools appear crammed onto one screen. As with Lightroom, presets are on the left-hand side and editing tools appear on the right. However, that’s where the similarities end.
As you can see in the photo above, the Mask, Text, Transform, and Crop tools are positioned near the presets instead of alongside the other editing tools. The presets are also shown as icons instead of text, which takes up even more room on the screen.
Overall, the effect is cluttered, and the editing interface is a lot to take in for a complete beginner.
3. Editing tools
Both programs have a good selection of editing tools, but ON1 has the edge here; it does the job of both Lightroom and Photoshop. Whereas Lightroom is designed for RAW conversions, adding presets, and basic editing prior to Photoshop work, ON1 Photo RAW is designed as an all-in-one, comprehensive editing program that lets you apply basic edits, but also create layers, add text, and more.
Lightroom is an excellent RAW converter, and the range of presets you can buy is incredible. It was Lightroom that first pioneered the concept of adding presets to images, and this has been adopted by almost every image editing program on the market.
Run your mouse pointer over the Lightroom preset list (even if you haven’t purchased presets, Lightroom comes with plenty of built-in options), and your image will change accordingly. You’ll see a a preview of the preset in action, which is a great time-saver (especially if you have hundreds of presets to consider). ON1 Photo RAW doesn’t have this functionality; you must apply a preset to the image to see how it looks.
Over on the right-hand side, you have the main editing tools, starting with a histogram. Underneath this, you’ll find the Crop tool, the Graduated Filter, the Adjustment Brush, etc. Next are the essential adjustments like exposure, white balance, and contrast. Scroll even farther and you’ll find more advanced tools: color grading, lens corrections, sharpening, and more.
That’s about it for editing, but along the top menu bar you also have the option to print, upload images to the web, create a slideshow, or design a photo book. I don’t often print from Lightroom, as I find it easier (and more color accurate) to do this in Photoshop, but there are plenty of templates to choose from.
ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 Photo RAW matches all of Lightroom’s editing features – except the range of specialist print options. This means you can print a photo, but there’s no option to design slideshows or photo books. ON1 also doesn’t have a color grading tool like Lightroom.
That said, ON1 does have layers and easy-to-apply effects like polarizers. ON1’s masking and retouching features aren’t as good as Photoshop’s, so professionals will struggle to gain the necessary fine control when editing, but beginners and enthusiasts should find the editing tools varied and useful.
Unlike Lightroom, ON1 has a very good, easy-to-use text tool with a variety of fonts available. Another great feature in ON1 is Portrait AI, which automatically evaluates images using artificial intelligence and applies adjustments to create the best possible result.
Which program is faster, Lightroom or ON1? All image editing programs are power-hungry, and it does depend on your computer. But in my experience, Lightroom is more responsive and faster than ON1, which can lag and freeze up.
Lightroom is available only as a Creative Cloud subscription. Prices start from $9.99 USD per month for Lightroom and Photoshop with 20 GB of storage. However, the best value for money is the Photography Plan, which costs $19.99 USD per month. Here, you get Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Lightroom CC with 1 TB of online storage space, which lets you back up and sync around 20,000 RAW files or 200,000 JPEGs on your desktop and mobile devices.
ON1 Photo RAW, on the other hand, can be purchased outright, though you can also go the subscription route. For a one-time purchase, you’ll pay $99.99 USD. If you’d prefer to subscribe to ON1 Photo RAW, plans start at $7.99 per month with 200 GB of storage, and go up to $179.99 yearly with 1 TB of storage.
Lightroom vs ON1: Which program is best?
Now that you’ve read a bit about Lightroom vs ON1 and seen the features, layout, and pricing, hopefully you have a better sense of which program will work best for you.
In my opinion, Lightroom is particularly suited to beginners because of the user-friendly interface. It’s also great for those who want to add presets and upload images to social media or create photo books and prints.
Ultimately, Lightroom is one of the best RAW converters out there, and if you need more advanced editing options than Lightroom alone can provide, you can purchase an Adobe plan that includes Photoshop. That way, you can do your initial RAW conversion and editing in Lightroom, then switch your images over to Photoshop for removing objects, masking, layers, composites, and blending modes.
ON1 Photo RAW is an all-in-one image editor, meaning you can go from start to finish in the single program. It will suit photographers who like to use cutting-edge technology like the Portrait AI feature, which can save time when you have a lot of images to process.
ON1 will also suit those who want to take advantage of the available presets, texture packs, and LUTs. The text tool is a great addition to ON1, too.
The only real issue with ON1 is the cramped and cluttered layout, but the program is still usable and is liked by plenty of beginners.
If you’re still on the fence, you can try out ON1 Photo RAW for 14 days. Lightroom also has a 7-day trial option – so try both and see which works best for you!
Lightroom vs ON1 FAQs
Yes, by using the Migration Assistant. This is intended for a one-off migration, not a constant syncing of your Lightroom images to ON1.
Sort of. The mobile version of Lightroom works well on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. And it’s free to download and use (though to access certain app features, you’ll need a Lightroom subscription).
Yes, you can download and use the ON1 Photo RAW app for both iOS and Android devices. The app itself is free, but if you are a registered user of ON1 Photo RAW, you’ll get access to more advanced mobile editing features.
Yes, you can! There are two main ways to use ON1 with Lightroom: via the Plug-In Extras command in the File menu, and via the Edit In command in the Photo menu.