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Bringing Out the Best in Your Images: On1 Photo Raw as a Photoshop Alternative

Updated: Feb 18

I've been using Adobe Photoshop for various clients since Photoshop 3. That is a long, long time in the world of software, my friends. I've used it for so long that I use shortcuts in my sleep, and whether it's because of familiarity or true innovations, I think many would agree that it and the creative suite it is a part of (Lightroom, Illustrator and so on) has become the standard in the world of graphic design and photo editing.

Up and Away into the Cloud?

However, when Adobe switched to software as a service model of payment or (SaaS), I drew a line in the sand. Yes, paying a monthly service fee means that anyone can jump in and give these wonderful products, and you are always guaranteed to the latest version. The downside? You never own this software. At the time of this post, if you need to use more than one Adobe Product (I use four), you have to buy the All Apps package for the "low, low" price of $52.99 a month. Is this practical for freelancers whose work comes and goes? For designers on limited or fixed income? I'd rather save up, buy once, and know I have that software next month if money is tight, or if the companies servers are down.

I don't want to wait until my old Adobe products cease to work properly (older versions will not display well on newer ultra high-resolution screens. My goal has been to find a software that you can buy, download and keep, has comparable features and can open old Photoshop files, should I need to access them again. Here's a piece of software I'd like to suggest you grab a trial of, even if you are just an amateur photographer wanting to bring out the best in the gobs of photographs you take during travel or family events.

On1 Photo Raw

Let me start by saying: no one has sponsored me (yet!) - I'm just sharing my two cents as a primarily self-taught, disabled artist. I want software that has power behind it, but doesn't have an atrocious learning curve to understand the basics.

On1 has been around quite a long time and was best known for its Perfect Resize tool. If you've ever been given a photo of a perfect moment, but the image was just too small, you know that you can easily resize the image to make it smaller, but if you tried to make it larger it gets all pixelated, blocky. Then and now, their On1 Photo Raw software is able to do a superior job of blowing up a small image, in some instances to the size of posters and billboards, should you need it!

At first glance, the interface might give you a bit of pause - it's busy! You start off in the browser view, which you can adjust a fair bit. If you have many images in subfolders, you can search for an image under File > Browse Directory.

On1 Photo Raw Browse Screen

I love doing doing subtle photo retouching, but in circumstances where I am working with a treasured photograph that's just too small, too dark or off color for using as a photo reference for an acrylic portrait commission, retouching work in addition to a resize. Let's pull back the curtain and look at an example, pulled from a stock image.

Ain't this kid a cutie patootie? On1 Photo Raw has the ability to do many things, like take care of red eye, whiten a smile, smooth skin - but seeing as this little one doesn't have teeth and already has skin as smooth as a baby's... you know... let's just see if we can fix up the color and lighting a bit, maybe give a little more light to the eyes.

When you Edit on the far right, a whole new series of options open up to you. You'll spot the ability to resize on the lower right, quick presets on the left and detail tools on the very far left. I love the retouch and face tools in particular, which will save you tons of time.

I've gone ahead and clicked on Presets, then Color Film to change it to simulate Fujifilm Astia 100. This balanced out the color and took out a bit of the redness, adding a softness. From there, on the right side, I could choose to manually adjust effects, tone, color, but for this example, I'm going to jump into Portrait, where I can select the eyes. All you need to do is click on the center of each eye, than click and hold the handles to match the shape of each eye.

Jeepers - I found those peepers!

Don't go crazy - we want to whiten the whites of the eye just a little, and add detail, but not so much that it causes an eerie glowing. No ones eyes or teeth are 100% white, and lighting is a factor as well. In the next shot, I've turned on preview compare mode, which you can find at the bottom. Yes! This is looking much better. Even zoomed out here, you can pick up the flecks of color in his right eye, and on the whole, he looks better lit.

Time to size things up! Now is a great time to click resize. At this point, we could crop the image and/or size the image to make common print and web sizes. My favorite features found in the lower right, is the ability to do tiling to print the image across many pages for poster or wall sized images from your standard letter sized paper, and Gallery Wrap, which is great if you want the image to be printed right onto a canvas - or in my case, to visualize how to paint those canvas edges when I create a custom acrylic portrait!

In this final shot, you'll see the result of cropping them image down to a web sized image jpeg better suited for online use. Viola!

This and many powerful tools in your hands in On1 Photo Raw for a flat $99 USD. At the time of this posting, you'll also get an automatic upgrade from the 2019 version to the 2020 version which will be coming out soon.

If you're looking for something comparable to Lightroom or Photoshop or you are looking to step up your photo editing from quick mobile apps or default image editor on your computer, you may want to give this a shot.

Do you have a favorite buy once image editing software you swear by? Share your thoughts with me!

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