First Impressions of ON1 Photo RAW 2019 by John Clark

The new look of the Photo RAW 2019 Edit module showing layers and the panes of the workflow

TL;DR: It’s a different workflow from prior versions and has some great new features. I like it. 

The development team at ON1 took on a major challenge to develop a new non-destructive photo editor, and with the launch of Photo RAW 2017 two years ago they set out to show the photography world that there can be strong alternatives for post-processing software. 

Now, three versions later, Adobe should be looking over their shoulder as ON1 Photo RAW 2019 is, for many photographers, the real Lightroom® alternative they have been waiting for.

I’ve been able to work with PR 2019 for a few weeks now thanks to early access to a Beta version of the program, and today the final release was made available to the public. Here are some of my initial thoughts on the program and things I like about the latest version.

The Workflow is Different: Those who have used prior versions of PR will notice that 2019 has a totally new user interface and this requires a new workflow. No longer do you have to switch between modules like Develop and Effects; instead they are all combined as tabs in the Edit pane and it’s easier to quickly move between Develop, Effects, Portrait (a brand new module!) and Local Adjustments. 

It takes a few moments to figure out where things are now located and how to access them, but you’ll quickly learn the workflow and appreciate the thought the software team put into creating this new layout.

Auto-Align of Layers: Sure, this was available before in the HDR module. But with 2019 you can use this to align multiple images and then use the masking brush to paint in just selected areas from different exposures. This will give photographers a lot more ability to paint in specific areas from different exposures to really work the light.

Inside the new Focus Stacking module. Image courtesy of ON1.

Focus Stacking: Macro photographers, and those wanting hyper-depth of field for landscapes, will welcome this new feature. You can even move a slider to adjust exactly the depth of field and focus of the stacked images! I’ve not done a lot of focus stacking so far, but this new addition makes me want to break out the macro lens in search of subjects to play around with it. In fact, I think I’ll try it out it for my landscape photos as well. 

4. New Features: Each build of PR has added new several features, and 2019 is no different. Photographers specializing in people will love the new Portrait module that automatically detects faces and allows precise control over skin smoothing, sharpening and brightening the eyes, and whitening the teeth. 

The ability to manage keywords is one very welcome new addition. I have quite a few typos in my keywords that I can finally delete, or edit as needed. Those used to mock me each time they would show up and now I can finally say Sayonara to those fat finger mistakes!

There is also a new Film Grain filter in effects that makes it easier to mimic the grain and style of several types of film (remember that?).

And for the first time a Text Tool has been included which will be welcomed by those photographers creating greeting cards, posters, or simply wanting to add a text copyright to your images. You can add multiple blocks of text, and of course change the font, alignment, color, size, and opacity of each.

One promised feature to be released during a mid-cycle 2019 update is a new Artificial Intelligence Masking Tool, and I cannot wait to see how this works! As described, the AI technology detects the subject matter and automatically creates a mask. This could be a game-changer when trying to make selections in challenging subjects, such as around leaves in a tree, grasses, hair and other finely-detailed areas.

I made the switch to ON1 PR as my full-time editor, and love the simplicity of adding and moving images around. Not having to be restricted to the catalog system of Lightroom is a real blessing, and for those photographers wanting to also make the switch here’s a bit of good news – PR 2019 now has new AI-powered algorithms to give people the ability to transfer Lightroom-edited photos, keep the non-destructive settings, and move them into ON1 Photo RAW 2019.

To close, PR 2019 is a major step forward in the development of the program and definitely worth consideration for photographers looking beyond the Adobe ecosystem for a stand-alone program. But even if you still choose to use Lightroom Classic CC as your primary file manager and editor, PR 2019 works as a plug-in for that program as well as Photoshop.

If you are interested in seeing PR 2019 for yourself and how it could work with your images, download a free trial copy. You’ll get 30 days to experience the full program and come to your own conclusions.

Got any questions about ON1 Photo RAW 2019 that I can answer? Drop them in the comments below!

  

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.