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When you're shooting in RAW-only mode (not RAW+JPG), most (all?) cameras also generate a JPEG preview using the current style settings. This is what you see momentarily when you first import the image into Lightroom, and also what you see on the camera's LCD. (Try switching the picture style to B&W and you'll see this very clearly: B&W on the camera's LCD and briefly in Lightroom before it's overwritten with a colour image.)

My question is, is there any way to save that preview from the camera as a separate JPEG file?

(I know that shooting RAW+JPG in the first place is the best way to achieve this, but I was thinking particularly of the problem posed in this question.)

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Technically, this is completely possible - the JPEG preview is embedded in the RAW file, so it's just a matter of getting the right bits out. I don't have any particular software recommendations for doing this though (which is why this is a comment, not an answer). –  Philip Kendall Apr 29 '13 at 14:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The command-line utility dcraw can do this, using the dcraw -e flag. However, it apparently has issues with large images in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (see the FAQ on that page).

IrfanView displays the embedded JPEG when opening some forms of RAW. If it's able to open your type, you can simply open the RAW and do a "Save as --> JPEG".

This forum user wrote a command-line Perl script called icat, which he claims can extract the JPEG preview using jcat -j

The command-line utility bitmaprip is built specifically for this. However, it only supports some types of RAW.

FileJuicer will extract the embedded JPEGs by default, but it is Mac OSX only.

Some people have claimed that FastStone Viewer has this ability.


Lots of people online recommend Instant JPEG from RAW. However, this will actually convert the RAW to a JPEG, not extract the embedded JPEG like you are looking for.

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That's a brilliant answer - thanks! I just downloaded dcraw and it worked exactly as you said. (It took me a few minutes to find a 64-bit Windows version but it's here). –  Mark Whitaker Apr 29 '13 at 17:29

Use DCRaw:

$ dcraw -e MyFile.NEF

You will get a MyFile.thumb.jpg. It should work just the same with Canon files.

More on Dcraw: http://www.cybercom.net/~dcoffin/dcraw/dcraw.1.html

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You can also look into using exiftool (also a command-line utility) to extract the embedded JPEG from your RAW image.

EXIFTOOL - http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/~phil/exiftool/

This is the line I have in a batch file to run in Command Prompt (Windows):

exiftool.exe -if $jpgfromraw -b -jpgfromraw -w extracted-JPG\%%d%%f_%%ue.jpg -execute -if $previewimage -b -previewimage -w extracted-JPG\%%d%%f_%%ue.jpg -execute -tagsfromfile @ "-DateTimeOriginal>FileModifyDate" -srcfile extracted-JPG\%%d%%f_%%ue.jpg -overwrite_original  -common_args --ext JPG .

So far this has worked for RAW files from Canon dSLRs and point-n-shoots, as well as Nikon and Sony. YMMV.

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Nice to know about I suppose, but dcraw -e wins every time on simplicity. –  Mark Whitaker May 2 '13 at 19:02

"Lots of people online recommend Instant JPEG from RAW. However, this will actually convert the RAW to a JPEG, not extract the embedded JPEG like you are looking for."

I disagree. On my Mac, this app extracts the embedded jpeg in the raw almost instantly. The downside is that it does not work with Mavericks.

For PC, you can extract de embedded jpg with BreezeBrowser.

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use Preview.app in OS X to open the raw file. Select Export to save the JPG.

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But that will surely save the contents of the RAW file and convert to JPG, not save the embedded in-camera JPG to a file? –  MikeW Dec 31 '13 at 9:10

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