When people start photography, or even after they have been doing it for a while, they find a time when they want to start learning how to do some processing on their computer. Then they are faced with a heap of options. There are so many choices and trying to work out which one to choose can be hard. One option that is becoming very popular is ON1 Photo Raw 2018.

You can buy the software outright, so you don’t need to worry about any monthly subscription costs like others are offering. It is easy to learn and you will find that ON1 can likely do everything you need to do. One of the best aspects is the community of photographers around the program as well.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - textured image

Having fun with layers and the textures.

Here is a beginner’s guide to help you find your way through ON1 Photo RAW 2018 and give you the confidence to start working on your photos. You can download the program from their website.

There is a 30-day free trial available to see if you like it before buying, which of course you will. You can also just pay for it which isn’t very expensive either. Finally, if you do purchase it you will have the peace of mind knowing it is backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.

Browse Module

This is where you start when you open the program. Here you can find all your folders that contain your images. This is where you should start exploring what is possible inside ON1 Photo RAW. You can’t break anything and it is good to see what is available.

Hover over all the menu items along the top of the main window. You will see File, Edit, Album, etc., each of those has different options. While you may not use many of them at first, it is always good to know what is there. It will help you understand what is available and if you watch the many ON1 videos you will understand what they are saying and how easy it is to learn.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

In the Browse module. Hover along the top to see what is in each of the menus.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - photo of a marina

An image with only basic adjustments made to it using ON1 Photo RAW 2018.

The most important thing to do is to find where your photos are located. Then click on Browse and look below. You may have to go searching, but just use the same process that you would if you were looking for them on your computer.

Again, it’s simple. Just point Browse to where your photos are located for them to appear. You don’t have to import photos to start working. You can add folders, subfolders, albums and smart albums (collections) so that they are easier to find in the future as well.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

In Browse, you can see all your folders and subfolders.

Now it is time to pick a photo. Once you have one selected, double-click on it, press Enter, or you can just go to the side panel on the right, go to Develop, and your image will open there. Watch the short video below on the Browse module.

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In this module, you can start to make changes to your images. This is where you can begin the process of creating the image that you had in your head when you took it. This is also where the first steps in raw processing will occur if you are shooting raw files.

Overall Settings

In Develop you can make many of the most common adjustments. Most images need something, whether that is changing the exposure, or perhaps bringing out the shadows, and you can do it all in the Develop module. If you’re just starting out with editing, the Tone and Color Mode is a good place to begin. From there you can make many adjustments to your image that will help make it look a lot better.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Overall Settings is where you can make most of the adjustments you will need to do.

You should play with all the sliders to see what they each can do. Don’t worry about going too far, nothing is fixed, and you can undo everything. In the photography industry, we call that non-destructive editing. You aren’t doing anything to your image that is permanent.

When using the sliders you don’t have to click on the actual pointer, just click anywhere you want and the pointer will catch up to you. You can slide along underneath it as well.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

You will make the changes by using the sliders in the appropriate panels.

Go to the Extremes

Another reason for going too far is that it can help you work out where you need to be with your image. Take the slider to the max, and then you bring it back to where you think it should be. As you do this, you will start to understand what each slider is for and how you can use it. Don’t forget to try it in both directions.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Take the sliders to the extreme, see how far you can go. Don’t forget to bring them back.

Resetting or Undoing

If you want to go back to where you were at the start simply go to the top of the section (where the heading is) for example, Tone and Color. On the right, you will see a half-circle with an arrow. Click on that and everything will be reset.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

Press the icon in the top right of the adjustments window to reset everything you have done.

For individual sliders, if you would like to reset just one, double-click on the name of the slider.

You can see in this section you can also change the white balance, vibrancy, and saturation. You can add structure to the image, though this should always be applied with caution. Many people think it will help sharpen their image, but if the image is not sharp already structure will not do that. What it does do, is give your sharp lines more definition.

ON1 Photo RAW 2018

This is the section where you can change the color aspects of your images, like White Balance.

There are a couple of other settings used for portraits. If you are doing photos with people you should try them out and see how they work with your images.

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Lens Corrections

Most lenses affect your images and it is in the Lens Correction area of ON1 Photo RAW that you can correct that. Most of the time the software can detect your lens is, but if you use an unusual lens then you may have to add its profile or tell the program which lens was used. You don’t have to do this, but if you are using a wide-angle lens then it can be good to apply this setting.

Lens Correction is where you can fix the distortion that your lens can cause.


The Details section is where you can reduce noise in your photos and do some sharpening. Both need to be used with caution. Overdoing it can cause unwanted halos and give your images a weird harsh texture.

As with the other sections, you should play around with all the sliders to see what they each do. Some will seem to make a difference, while others will look like they’ve done nothing. To really see what they do try enlarging the image to 100 or 200 percent. Some of them only work on individual pixels.

Details is the area where you can sharpen your image and reduce the noise in it.

Along the top of Details, you can see a default, low, high, and other options. These are like presets that you can use, or you can set your own and save it.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide - pink flower

Using Detail to help reduce noise and sharpen the image.

Show More

Under Overall Settings, you will see a button that says Show More, click it. More adjustments will then be shown. If you select one a new window will appear under the others. Scroll down so you can make the necessary changes. Like many of the other settings try them all to see what you can do.

Under Overall Settings, you will see Show More. You will be given more options for adjustments to your image.

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Local Adjustments

If you would like to make adjustments to particular areas of your image only, then this is the place for you to do so. Local Adjustments allows you to target parts of your images as opposed to global edits that apply to the entire image.

Local Adjustments is next to the Overall Settings tab.

If you decide that you want to make a certain part of the image darker or lighter (or add vibrance or detail) then choose Add Layer and a brush will come up. The brush has feathering which you can change to suit your image. The solid circle in the middle is how big the solid part will be and the dotted line around the outside is how far the feathering will go. To change that you can do it along the top, click on Feather, and move left or right to change the size.

The brush comes with feathering and it is good to know how to adjust it.

Along the top is where you change the brush settings.

Choose a setting that will make a big a difference for your image, like lighten or darken. Brush it over the area you want to change, this is how to make your selection. This is a good way to figure out and select the area that you want to edit or adjust.

In Local Adjustments, you can make the selection of the part of the image you want to work on.

Once you have the area you want to adjust selected, you can change the settings however you want. Undo the lighten or darken, go to the adjustments in that window and make the changes you really want. You can add as many layers as you want to make lots of changes to different parts of your image.

Experiment with this. Have a go at all of them to see how they work. It is a good way to learn what is possible. When you are done testing, you can delete any unwanted layers. Click the cross in the top right corner of each one.

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Tools in the Develop Module

On the left side of the program, there are some tools. Some of them you can use straight away, other tools you can only use within the Local Adjustments tab.

Straightening Your Image

One of the questions that I get asked the most is “Why are all my images crooked?” It is such a common problem and something everyone does. Part of my answer is that it is so common, that most editing software has very easy ways to correct it. ON1 Photo Raw is no different.

The first tool in the left-side panel is the Crop Tool. Click on it and then look at the top panel across the image where you will see a small level. Click on that.

To make your image level you need to click on the crop tool first, and then look for the level icon along the top.

Pick a straight line to use in your image, like the horizon, or a tall building. Click on one end of your straight line, then hold and drag down to the other end. Keep the line along the straight edge and then click at the other end. You will see the image straighten, then just press enter to apply and crop it. The image should now be level.

Click along a straight line to make the image level.

Sometimes it can take a few times to do this, so if it doesn’t look level then just undo and repeat.

The image is now level or straightened.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide

Making an image straight and level.

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Removing things from your image

It is in the section, that you will find the tools you need to remove unwanted items from your images. The Healing Brush, the Eraser, and the Clone Stamp are all here. Again, you should play around with them to see how they each work and the effect they will have.

The tools you will use to remove unwanted things in your images.

Use Ctrl/Cmd+Z to undo what you have done.

The first two options, Erase and Heal are like brushes so you can apply them to the items you want to remove.

The third one is called Fix, but you need to take a sample of the image to copy over the unwanted thing. You can do this by looking for an area that can be copied and then apply Fix to that area. Once you have selected the area press Alt or Option and a circle with a cross will appear, click on that area. Now you can release the Alt or Option key and then click on what you want to get rid of.

Using those tools to remove a duck from this image.

It might take a few attempts, so don’t be discouraged. Just make sure that what you are replacing the area with something that will match.


There are a number of presets that you can apply to your image. These are great when you first start as they can really show you what is possible with the program. You can add a preset, but each time you add a new one it will cancel out the previous one. If you want to stack presets on top of each other, simply right-click on the preset thumbnail preview, and choose Insert Preset.

On the right-side, you will see a number of new windows appear with all the adjustments that were made to help get that effect. If you study them you will start to understand how ON1 Photo RAW works and what you can apply to your own images.

ON1 Photo RAW comes with a series of presets.

As all the adjustments are there from the preset, you can also make your own changes to fine-tune the preset to your liking You might find parts of it are not exactly how you would like them.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 - A Beginner’s Guide

The preset Firenza was added to this image.

When you go to Develop you can see all the presets on the left. Click on the different folders and quite a few of them will come up. You can see them applied to your image in small preview versions.

There are many different presets that you can use. You can see a small version (thumbnail) of each as a preview of how it will look applied to your image.

However, if you would like to see them a lot bigger then all you need to do is click the square in the top right corner of the window with the presets. It has four small squares inside a larger one.

Click on the four dots in the upper left corner to get bigger previews of the presets.

This will give a grid view and you can see how each one will look applied to your image. This is a much easier way to plan and choose which one to use.

The larger previews.

If you would like to see even bigger versions then simply click Ctrl or Cmd and the plus key. You can really see how the preset will look on your image. To exit, press Escape or the arrow in the top left corner.

Applying the preset to your image.

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Moving on to Effects

One of the first things you will notice in the Effects Module is that there are more tools available. There are brushes and gradients that have masks attached to them. The mask will make it easier to make changes and corrections later on if you decide you don’t like them. Masks are good to use, but you do need to get used to them. It takes a bit of practice.

When you go to the Effects Mode you get a lot more tools to start using. Many come with masks.

Presets and Filters

Over where the presets were in the Develop mode, you will now find a series of Filters that can be applied to your image. As you did with the previous module, you can click on one, then the four preview thumbnails of the filters for that set on your image.

In Effects, you also get to use special filters to apply to your images.

You can also select the filters on the right under Overall Settings. If you know which one you want to choose then you can just select it there. When you do make the selection you will see that a new window will open up. In there you can adjust the filter as you want it. You can change the opacity, along with other settings that are used to make the filter. You don’t have to accept everything the filter gives you, feel free to tweak the options to your liking.

Click on the four dots again to get larger previews.

Over on the right under Overall Settings and Local Adjustments, there is a button called Add Filter, click it to see a list of the ones available.

Once again, you should try them all and see how they work. Try adding several filters to the same image. If you don’t like it you can press Ctrl/Cmd+Z to remove it. Otherwise, click the cross in the top right corner.

For each filter there are windows where you can make adjustments to the filters you have applied.

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Working with Layers

Layers can be scary, but once you know what they are and how to use them you will see a lot more opportunities open up for your image.

The Layers Module has a lot more tools and adjustments you can use. Plus it also gives you the added bonus of being able to apply other images and work with layers.

You can change the sky if you aren’t happy with what is there in your shot. ON1 makes this very easy with the masking brush. You can make it so that you only mask particular colors, for example, so you can remove just that one and show the image that is below.

To replace your sky or to add textures you have to be able to work with layers and learn about blending them. It can be very hard to grasp at the beginning, but if you keep experimenting you will figure it out.

Here you can see the effect of several textures added and blended to completely change the look of the image.

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Resizing Images

This is where you can resize your images depending on what you are going to do with them. For most of us, that is probably going to mean doing images for Social Media. However, there are a lot of other options available so you can prepare your images for printing or whatever you need.

If you want big prints, Resize uses Genuine Fractals® technology to enlarge your images.

Resize is where you can get your image ready for social media or printing.

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The ON1 RAW Community

If you really want to go to this level then consider watching the many videos available on their YouTube channel or on their website under product training. ON1 also has a great community (called ON1 Plus Pro, which is $149 annually, regular price) and always includes the latest edition of ON1 Photo RAW as a perpetual license. Or you can buy the lower priced standard membership, ON1 Plus, for just $49.99 per year without the upgrade to the next version of ON1 Photo RAW. ON1 Photo RAW 2018 is available for $119.99 for new customers and an upgrade price of $99.99 for previous owners.

The entire community is always happy to help you learn. The membership also includes different coaches, themes, and topics each month to teach to the Plus community. Some of the names coming to ON1 Plus this year include Matt Kloskowski, Tamara Lackey, Don Komarechka, Colin Smith, Hudson Henry, Colby Brown, James Brandon, Jim Welninski, and Dan Harlacher the Product Director.

You will find many videos that take you through the more complicated parts of the program step by step. Dan has a great voice and is a great instructor. They are all really good.

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Editing Your Photos

Whether you are a beginner or more advanced user, ON1 Photo RAW will have what you need. It isn’t a hard program to learn, especially with all the added support that ON1 offers. If you are a very beginner then it is the perfect place to start and grow into.

Disclaimer: ON1 is a dPS advertising partner.

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Leanne Cole


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