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.
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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
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
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?
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
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.
05 Fixing the problem
If you do inadvertently choose the wrong import setting, there is a workaround. First, you’ll need to go to the General tab in the Preferences dialog and check that ‘Treat JPEG files next to raw files as separate photos’ box…
06 Re-import your photos
Now you need to click the Import button again and navigate back to the folder containing the images. Lightroom will check the contents of the folder against the images already in its library and highlight only the ones it hasn’t imported yet. In this case, it’ll show all the JPEG versions you meant to import the first time around…
07 Back to normal… almost
When the import is complete, you’ll have both the JPEGs and the RAW files, just as if you’d opted to import them both the first time around. The only difference is that the RAW versions will still display ‘RAW+JPEG’, so just remember this doesn’t really mean anything and that they are just RAW files.
All this is a bit irritating. It would be much simpler if Lightroom imported both automatically and found some way to ‘hide’ the JPEGs behind the RAW files or vice versa, just like Aperture. As it is, if you make a mistake with the import settings, you face some tedious unravelling later on.
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