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Photos makes it very difficult to find RAW+JPEG photos

I mostly shoot photos on my iPhone, because that's what I'm usually carrying. But when I want to go out and really take photos, I take my Fuji X-E3. The Fuji can take photos five different ways: At two levels of JPEG quality (fine and normal), those same two JPEG quality levels with an attached RAW version, and RAW only.

Most of the time, I shoot in the highest-quality JPEG format, which is more than good enough for my needs. But there are times, such as when shooting landscapes or flowers, when I want to have the original RAW file to edit, so I shoot in the RAW plus highest-quality JPEG mode.

The problem is that RAW images are huge—the Fuji's RAW files are over 50MB each, versus anywhere from 7MB to 14MB for a JPEG. Because of this, I try not to import the RAW+JPEG files into Photos. Instead, I import to a folder, then edit the RAW photo in a photo editor, output a final JPEG, and import that to Photos. (In very rare cases, I'll keep the RAW version, for a photo I may want to edit more in the future.)

Unfortunately, I wasn't so smart in the past, and I imported many RAW and RAW+JPEG photos to Photos—and I don't need the RAW versions at all. Some are pure RAW, and these I can easily find and fix (export, convert to JPEG, re-import). Unfortunately, most are in the RAW+JPEG format, and that's a problem: Once such photos are in Photos, there's absolutely no way to find them—which means there's no easy way to remove them.

A RAW photo can show—or not show—in Photos in three different ways:

The leftmost image is a RAW+JPEG photo, set to display the RAW version (as indicated by the "R" in the upper left corner). The center photo is another RAW+JPEG photo, but displaying the JPEG version. (You switch between the two versions using the Image > Use [RAW • JPEG] as Original menu item.) The rightmost image is a RAW photo, without a bundled JPEG.

When I realized I had a number of RAW+JPEG photos I didn't need, I thought "no problem, I'll just find them with a Smart Album…"

Looks like it worked—9600 photos found. As it turns out, though, this Smart Album only finds pure RAW photos—RAW+JPEG are excluded from the results. So much for that plan, at least in Catalina.

In Mojave's version of Photos, the Smart Album sort of works: The Smart Album will show RAW+JPEG photos, but only when the RAW version is viewed as the original (the leftmost image in the demo photos above).

Unfortunately, in Mojave's Photos app, the only way to switch between the RAW and JPEG is when you're in edit mode on a single photo…and trying to find and manually switch all the RAW+JPEG photos would be an incredibly time-consuming task.

If this were a normal hint, this is where I'd say "but I found this method that works." Unfortunately, this isn't a normal hint, because I have no idea how to proceed: There aren't any Smart Album choices that can help, because the options are too limited—if I could create one based on file size, then I hope the RAW+JPEG photos would be near the top, but that's not a choice.

For now, the best I've come up with is this: For each of the cameras I've owned over the years that could shoot in RAW+JPEG, I created a Smart Album based on Camera Model. When I have some free time, I browse each of those Smart Albums, looking for the "J" or "R" overlay, which lets me know it's a RAW+JPEG photo. When I find one, I export the unmodified originals (which retains the all-important metadata) and compare the JPEG to the RAW. I'll then either edit the RAW and export a new JPEG, or just keep the original JPEG, then import just the chosen JPEG back into Photos.

This would be so much easier if there were more options in Photos' Smart Albums, or if the RAW image in a RAW+JPEG photo were displayed in a "show me all the RAW photos" album. I'd love it if anyone out there has a viable solution to this issue.

14 thoughts on “Photos makes it very difficult to find RAW+JPEG photos”

    1. Joe:

      That video talks about copying RAW images out to use elsewhere, which is fine. But if I were to delete them there, I believe that would cause problems, because Photos uses a database, and removing the files that the database is looking for—without going through the Photos front-end to that database—is probably not a wise thing to do.

      So thanks for the link, but I don't think it'll help in this particular situation.


      1. Rob
        I would try to remove a few RAW files and then use the Photos Repair Tool to fix the library:
        It also depends how big of a problem this is for you. I find that storage is so cheap these days that I don't mind having a big library and I only shoot RAW. My thought is that RAW processing software is improving every year and I don't want to lose the original file no matter how big it is. Images that I shot in 2007 are much improved by current software compared to what was available then.
        Of course, I stopped including JPEGs with my RAW files a long time ago. Every RAW file includes an embedded JPEG I use free apps to extract those when I need a small JPEG file to share.

  1. Photos uses an SQLite database backend. It's designed to be used by CoreData, not by humans, so its schema leaves a lot to be desired for manual querying / manipulation.

  2. I struggled with this a few years ago, thinking that there had to be some way (scripting, smart albums, etc.) to find those RAW+JPG files. I would say that it surprises me that it's still a problem, but Lightroom Classic can't search for them either.

  3. Neil Laubenthal

    The real solution is not to use Photos...for any sort of more than instagram processing it is underpowered and has very limited management capabilities. 10 bucks a month gets you Lightroom Classic which I recommend, the web version of Lightroom which is underpowered but way better than Photos, and Photoshop. The combo makes editing your photos...and managing them so you can easily find that photo you know you took of grandma at Christmas but don’t j is when. You can use the alto fix option in LR so it’s no more trouble than Photos if you don’t want to learn all what it can do. Heck...even the non subscription Luminar is better at managing and fixing photos than Photos.

    1. Sadly for me, I dislike Adobe and don't use any of their software, so I'm unwilling to pay them for a subscription.

      I own Luminar 3, and tried using it for a while, but I found its interface overly complicated for my simple needs. Maybe I'll try the version 4 demo and see if I like it any better.


      1. Neil Laubenthal

        I hate the subscription model as well…but it's only 3 lattes a month and for better or worse it's the best management app out there. I also took a look at Luminar's asset management stuff but it was more confusing than Lightroom is. I also am not too fond of Adobe…no Acrobat or Reader is on any of my devices…but until something comes along that's better than LR I guess I'm stuck with it. There are other decent Photoshop equivalents or macOS and iOS…but LR doesn't really have any competition. There's Capture 1 but it's more expensive so I've not bothered really researching much into it.

    2. Forgot to add: The tight integration with iOS devices also makes it difficult to move away from Photos. I don't use the cloud, but do have photos on my devices, so I need to be able to easily sync albums to iOS' Photos app. I'm don't think any third-party apps let you do that directly, so I'd wind up using Photos anyway at some point.


  4. You can do a compound search in, so that your first search term could be RAW and then click the PLUS (+) symbol to add a second search term, in this case I would select "camera model includes" and then in the drop down menu select "FUJI".

    You can keep adding search terms until until you get a smart folder with exactly what you want

    1. Bob:

      Unfortunately, that's exactly what doesn't work—it's the first thing I tried, and what actually tipped me off to the issue. If a photo is a "raw+jpeg," then only one of those two photos seems to "exist" to Photos: Whichever one is set to show via the "Use [JPEG • RAW] as Original" menu item.

      If it's set to JPEG, no search of any kind will reveal the RAW. And if you were trying to find the JPEG, and RAW was set to be the original, then the JPEG will have vanished.


      1. Running into this exact same issue at the moment… very frustrating!
        I suppose someone's got to on paying for iCloud storage, larger iPhones/Macs & iPads…

  5. FYI this is fixed in Monterey! I just made a smart album of RAW photos. It contains all of the following types of photos from my library:

    • raw only photos
    • raw+jpeg, where the raw is set as original
    • raw+jpeg, where the jpeg is set as original

    1. Hooray! That's great news for when I finally upgrade my main machine—waiting on the Apple Silicon iMacs sometime next year.


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