How to Extract the Preview Image from RAW Files?

If you have RAW photos and want to extract the embedded preview images, several free and paid tools are available to help you do this. In this article, we'll review each option's pros and cons.

RAW File Visual with images flying through in the background

Understanding Preview Images

In the world of photography, RAW files are highly valued for their flexibility and unprocessed nature. This untouched data offers the highest level of quality and flexibility to edit and enhance the image. However, RAW files are large and not universally supported, and it's often necessary to extract JPG images from these RAW photos for easier sharing and viewing.

When most cameras save a RAW file, they generate a preview JPG and embed it into the image file. It's that JPG you see when you preview photos on the back screen of your camera. It is also used as the preview for MacOS, Windows, and many imaging apps to speed things up because processing and rendering the actual RAW information takes time and processor power.

Why Extract the Embedded Preview?

There are several reasons why extracting embedded JPGs from a RAW photo can be helpful:

  1. You want the camera's built-in processing characteristics on the JPG preview, which are not applied to the underlying RAW photo.

  2. You can speed up culling or processing by reading an existing JPG faster than generating a new one from RAW data.

  3. You can quickly share some smaller JPEG files without using RAW processing software.

  4. The RAW image data is corrupted and unusable, but the preview image may still be recoverable.

Free Tools

Screenshot of the Picflow RAW Converter


Picflow built a free online RAW converter that includes a feature to extract embedded preview images. It works with the most common RAW formats and supports batch-extracting for multiple RAW files. The whole process takes a few milliseconds for each image. When a RAW format has a small or no preview image, Picflow will convert it into a JPG for you. This means that Picflow is the quickest tool available for extracting embedded JPEGs. Best of all, it is completely free, requires no software installation, and it all happens within your browser, which means that there is no need to upload anything to a server.

Try Picflow RAW Tools


Fulvio Senore developed "ERawP" (that stands for Extra Raw Preview). It's a free cross-platform software with Mac, Windows, and Linux versions. The app is straightforward and does just one job. To use it, choose the directory of the original images and set the folder where you'd like to save the extracted JPGs. The only downside is that you need to install additional software on your system and that it has some issues with less common RAW formats.

Try ERawP

Paid Software

Screenshot of PhotoMechanic Software


The best paid option is PhotoMechanic. The app is known for its lightning-fast speed, partly due to its efficient handling of embedded JPG previews. However, PhotoMechanic isn't free and may only be practical if you already use it. The app has a built-in feature for extracting JPG previews, which you can access under the "Tools" menu.

Try PhotoMechanic


This tool has no direct way of extracting JPG preview but it opens RAW files quickly and renders them on the fly. Unlike other tools that just display embedded JPEGs, this FastRawViewer renders the RAW file exactly as a converter would.

Try FastRawViewer


The extraction of JPG previews from RAW photos can be accomplished through various free and paid tools, each boasting unique features and capabilities. While Picflow stands out for its quick, free, and user-friendly service that requires no installation, ERawP offers a downloadable alternative for those willing to navigate its compatibility quirks. On the paid front, PhotoMechanic delivers a premium, fast experience for existing users, and FastRawViewer offers on-the-fly RAW rendering, though it lacks a direct extraction feature.

Choosing the right tool depends on individual needs, the volume of photos, and specific use cases. The need for speed, efficiency, or detailed rendering can all influence this choice. Ultimately, the extraction of embedded JPG previews from RAW photos simplifies the sharing and viewing experience.