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From Adobe To ON1 And Back Again

A tortuous journey through the photo editing software jungle.

Lightroom Is Great !

Looking at my current Lightroom catalogue, my earliest digital images appear to be from 2005. That was from the time I had my first digital camera - the Canon Powershot A610. A very good little compact with a 6x optical zoom and capable of 5Mpx (!). Still have it today.

I wasn't using any Adobe products then. It was before the time of Adobe subscription services. If you wanted Photoshop it would have cost a hefty few hundred pounds. According to my purchase history I bought Lightroom 4 in 2013 for £60.57. By that time they had begun their monthly subscription plan but it wasn't until two years later that I took the plunge and bought the 20GB Photography Plan at £8.57 per month.

Over the years Adobe have made some fantastic improvements to Lightroom and it really became a no-brainer go-to piece of photo editing software. Unless you wanted to use layers or get really fancy, there was nothing to fault it.

Photoshop Is Hard

Although Photoshop was part of the Creative Cloud Plan, I hardly ever opened it and, when I didi, soon closed it again. It seemed too complicated and not at all intuitive to use. As someone who was a software developer in a previous life, I was committed to producing easy-to-use programs which were logical, well thought out and didn't intimidate the user. Photoshop seemed like the opposite of this to me. Maybe I would put in the effort to learn it one day !

ON1 To The Rescue

In 2015 ON1 was on the scene and I got a copy of ON1 Photo 10. By 2017 it was called ON1 Photo RAW. This was a really nice product with plenty of potential. It sat between Lightroom and Photoshop in terms of facilities. I still used Lightroom as my starting point and imported new images into it. I made all my initial image adjustments and then nipped into ON1. ON1 was a standalone product but was also usable as a Lightroom plugin, making it simple to flip between the two.

The brilliance of ON1 for me came in the Effects module. As well as presets there was the ability to edit the effects and each one came with a mask. This was a different approach to Photoshop layers but produced a similar end result as you could stack the effects and mask each one without any fuss. Blending modes were available between effects "layers". Easy, intuitive, flexible. Just the job in fact. Alright there were were slight annoyances and improvements to be made but, by and large, ON1 did make some big efforts in stepping up to the mark.

The Switch To ON1 Photo Raw

ON1 provided a migration tool which allowed you to basically take the contents of your Lightroom catalogue and bring all the images into ON1 Photo Raw complete with all the adjustments you made in Lightroom. I found it didn't always do a perfect job and it did take a long time but after working with Lightroom and ON1 side by side for about six months following that step, I decided to stop using Lightroom altogether. From that point on I used ON1 to import all new images and when my my Adobe subscription came up for renewal at the end of 2018 I decided not to renew it. In a sense there was no going back as there was no way to carry my ON1 adjustments back into Lightroom. It was a decision that had taken me six months to reach and I was stuck with it.

So What Went Wrong ?

ON1 has become bloated. Every new release since around the end of 2018 has resulted in some kind of speed degradation. I started to hear the fan in my iMac actually working for the first time since I bought it; trying hard to keep the processor cool because ON1 was making such high demands of it. Stack a few effects together and add masks and then start brushing on a mask. Then wait for the mouse (or tablet pen) to catch up with the brush stokes.

During 2019 I had cause to raise several tickets with the ON1 support desk because of seemingly basic faults. These were entirely separate from the performance issues. Like most support desks, they don't believe you at first because they assume everyone out there is a moron and is using their software in a way in which it was not designed to be used. So, after providing documentary evidence and my inside leg measurement, they would finally admit that there was indeed a real issue. They would inform the developers and it would be dealt with in a future update - or not !

One instance of this is a bug in the export process where it fails to add the correct colour profile when you select sRGB. If you look at the resulting file information after export it shows as "sRGB Built-In". this is useless if you intending to upload images to a photo competition entry system for example, where the software checks for the correct colour profile. To my knowledge this issue has still not been fixed, despite by protestations.

The Switch Back To Adobe

Fast forward to May 2020. I joined Nottingham and Notts. Photographic Society in January of this year and one thing that kept coming to the forefront was the use of Photoshop. I knew that I could do some of the things that other people were doing by using ON1 instead (and in a lot of cases quicker and easier) but when it comes to layers, ON1 can't cut the mustard. Yes it supports layers now but not to the same extent as Photoshop. You can't create a new blank layer or a fill layer for example. You can only create a new layer by importing a new image.

Add to this the performance degradation when working on masks attached to multiple effects and I was strongly swaying back towards the Adobe Photographer Subscription. At the end of May I made the jump and here I am. Of course all the image changes I made in ON stay in ON1 and if I want to work on an image in Lightroom/Photoshop I am really starting from scratch, but to be honest I'm not finding that too much of a problem. If I'm looking at an old image I very often find that I want to re-work it anyway.

I have finally decided to learn Photoshop. I've bought a book and have joined the NNPS Photoshop learning group. I watch numerous YouTube videos on the various techniques all the time and find it amazing how many different ways there are of achieving the same result. In the end it's usually down to personal preference but in general I tend to go for the simplest route. Why make things unnecessarily complicated ? I'm only at the very beginning of the Photoshop journey and I'm hoping not to get lost in the fog !

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