I recently bought a canon m100. I shoot both raw + jpeg but they look exactly the same. The only difference is the file size. Aren't raw photos supposed to have less contrast etc? I've tried to view my raw photos through different softwares but still they look the same. Is this normal?


2 Answers 2


This is normal. The software you are using is showing you the JPEG preview embedded in the RAW file, which in every case I know of the same as the JPEG generated with RAW + JPEG settings. (Depending on the preview, the resolution may be reduced and compression higher, but you won't notice this in a quick on-screen comparison.)

For more on what a RAW file is exactly, see What does an unprocessed RAW file look like? and other questions under .

  • \$\begingroup\$ so if I choose to shoot only in RAW, I will be able to eliminate the JPEG preview? \$\endgroup\$
    – NoahS
    Oct 20, 2019 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, if you shoot only in RAW, a JPEG preview will still be generated, using tone curves and other options the same as would be applied if you were also saving a separate JPEG. If you don't care about the camera's processing, you can ignore it, but if the result is something you want, note that exactly replicating the camera's processing in popular RAW processing software like Lightroom or Darktable is actually somewhat difficult. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Oct 20, 2019 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm It can be rather difficult but does not have to be so, depending on the particular camera and the raw conversion software being used. The raw conversion software from most camera manufacturers will seamlessly open a raw image file using the same settings used to generate the in camera JPEG preview. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 20, 2019 at 23:43

Because when you look at an image on your screen you are almost certainly not looking at a literal depiction of the information contained in a raw image file, you are looking at one of near countless possible interpretations of the information contained in the raw file. Many of these interpretations are equally valid as a "correct" way to process the information contained in the raw image file. There's no such thing as "THE raw file" that can be displayed on a screen, there are only interpretations of the information contained in a raw image file.

In most cases, what you see is one of two things:

  • The JPEG preview image generated in camera based on the settings in the camera current at the time the image was captured, which is appended to the raw file. Most thumbnail previews or image viewers such as Windows "Photos" viewer application will display the JPEG preview image embedded in the file. Other than file size and possible compression amounts, this will be pretty much identical to an in camera produced JPEG.
  • The default interpretation of the raw image file's information by the application used to open the image. Lightroom, for example, will apply its own default settings as packaged, the default settings selected/modified by the user, or the JPEG preview image - depending on the user settings selected. On the other hand, raw processing software provided by camera manufacturers, such as Canon's Digital Photo Professional, will usually open the raw file using the same settings that were applied in camera, and the results will be indistinguishable from a camera generated JPEG.

Even if you are looking at an attempt to depict an "unaltered" raw file, there is no current display technology available that can display all of the information contained in a 12 or 14 bit raw file that utilizes the entire range of brightness levels that can be captured by the sensors in modern digital cameras.

For more about what raw files are, and perhaps more importantly what they are not, please see the following questions that explain how digital camera sensors mimic the way our eyes/brains perceive color that in a sense does not actually exist the way we often assume it does:

RAW files store 3 colors per pixel, or only one?
Why are Red, Green, and Blue the primary colors of light?
What does an unprocessed RAW file look like?
Why can software correct white balance more accurately for RAW files than it can with JPEGs?


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