Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

How to manage Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

Yesterday I looked at how Aperture handled RAW+JPEG pairs and today it’s the turn of Lightroom (now Lightroom Classic). At first glance it looks as if Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs work in much the same way, but there is in fact a significant difference: Aperture imports both and lets you choose which one to display; Lightroom only imports the RAW file and simply indicates that there is also a JPEG.

There are lots of times when it’s useful to be able to shoot RAW files and JPEGs at the same time, but with Lightroom it’s especially important to decide how you want it to handle them before you import them into your catalog.

01 Import preferences

Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

In Lightroom, you control this using the General tab of the Preferences dialog. There’s a checkbox half way down that’s so inconspicuous you could easily miss it: ‘Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos’. If you want your Lightroom catalog to store both images, you must make sure this box is checked.

02 Importing both JPEGs and RAW files

Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

If you do this, Lightroom will treat your JPEGs and RAW files as separate images and display both in your library. Here are the JPEG and RAW versions of a photo side-by-side. You can stack (group) them if you only want to see a single thumbnail.

03 So what if you don’t check the box?

Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

When your camera shoots RAW+JPEG images together, it will give the same filename to both, and only the file extension will be different. If you DON’T check the ‘Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos’ box, Lightroom will give priority to the RAW files and ignore the JPEGs when you import the images.

04 RAW+JPEG display

Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

Once the import is complete, Lightroom will display the pictures with a ‘RAW+JPEG’ suffix (these are Nikon RAW files, so it says ‘NEF+JPEG’, but it’s the same thing). Now you might imagine that there’s some way you can swap between them, just as you can in Aperture – but you can’t.

In fact, Lightroom is simply indicating that a JPEG version exists, but doesn’t give you access to it. Lightroom treats the JPEGs as ‘sidecar’ files which are physically associated with the RAW file but not directly editable. I find that very misleading, but maybe that’s just because I’m used to the way Aperture does it.

6 thoughts on “How to manage Lightroom RAW+JPEG pairs

  1. I’m glad that you shared this. I used to use Aperture, but the volume of files that I generate plus the fact that I prefer to work with referenced files seemed to be too much for the application. I recently gave up on Aperture and bought a Creative Cloud subscription. I also just acquired a new Nikon Df and evidently Adobe doesn’t read the raw files yet and I wondered why I couldn’t even look at my jpegs. I waited so long for this camera and now I’m waiting until I can use the files!

    1. Aperture works with referenced files perfectly well in my experience, so I’d be interested to know what problems you had.

      The Df is very new, as you know, and it may be a couple of weeks or longer before third-party vendors offer support. The Nikon ViewNX 2 application on the CD with your camera will read and convert the RAW files fine, though.

      You can look at your JPEGs using any application. The JPEG format is universal. I’d need to know more about your setup to know why you’re having trouble with them.

  2. Thanks for the article. It’s clear and really useful.
    Regarding your last paragraph, there’s a way to do it:
    1- First, import both kind of files (as you have described)
    2- Then, stack both files (so one of them is displayed). The good thing is that you can do this automatically: Photo > Stacking > Auto-stack by capture time > Set the time to zero
    3- Collapse all stacks to hide the JPG (or the Raws)
    Hope it helps.

  3. Hi there, Thanks for the article.
    Do you know any way to import both RAW and JPG in Lightoorm and give them both the same file name (except for the extension) This is what Nikon Transfer does and I find it more manageable.

  4. In addition to Antonio’s comments and tricks, and if you did not enable the ‘Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos’ option before importing your pics, you can use the ‘syncronise folder’ option (after having enabled the option) in the library mode.
    So by playing with the preference settings .. you can tailor management of JPG&RAW duplicate per folder or catalogue

  5. Thank you for the information. I found a way to separate jpg from raw. It needs some work expect if you realize that early enough (that was my case).
    Select of the image and do a right click (show in folder).
    Move the jpg files into another folder
    The into lightroom’s navigator, select your folder and do a right click (Synchronize folder)
    I had Scan for metadata updates and Remove missing photos from catalog (not sure which one is needed)
    Then click on Synchronize
    You will get the file info for raw file only now
    Then you can import your jpg files as separate files

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