Lightroom Classic: Unable to render some photos sent via WhatsApp despite other apps being able to open them

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  • Updated 1 year ago
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I've been seeing increasing numbers of JPEGs from WhatsApp that cannot be successfully imported in to Lightroom.  The tile on the import dialog says "Preview not available for this file", and once imported it stays grey.  There are work arounds, such as opening the file in macOS's and resaving it as JPEG, PNG or TIFF, but this is less than ideal.

I know, WhatsApp is possibly the worst thing that can happen to a photo what with resizing, over compression and metadata stripping, but it's extremely popular and convenient, and a poor memory shot is better than no shot at all.

This doesn't happen with all photos from WhatsApp, but just those sent by certain people.  The problem's been getting worse as the year's gone along, and I think it's more common (only?) with people who send from an Android handset.  Looks like a bug or lack of resilience in Lightroom's JPEG decoder.
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Posted 2 years ago

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Photo of Sunil Bhaskaran

Sunil Bhaskaran, Official Rep

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Could you please let us know the Lightroom Classic version you use?
I am also writing you off list to get some more details.

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Simon Chen, Principal Computer Scientist

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There was a fix to read the non-standard JPEGs generated by WhatsApp in LrClassic 7.4. Make sure that you have updated Lr to the more recent version.

If the issue persists, please share a downloadable link to a few of the sample JPEGs. The team will investigate. Thanks.
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Hi - thanks for the replies.  I did share some images with Sunil, but it sounds like you might already have fixed this in a future version.  I'm actually on LR 6.14, and that's a rather expensive upgrade to get this fix!

Since I posted this I've discovered the Mac's "sips" command, which I can use to work around this in a scripted workflow, albeit with slightly more quality lost if I stick with JPEG.  It's pretty cool because it gives me the same solution for my new iPhone 8's HEIC files (at least the simple photos I've tried), and it appears to preserve the camera's metadata.

I can use an exiftool and an inverted grep search for JPEGs containing "Exif Byte Order" (the WhatsApps images don't have this) and convert them JPEG to JPEG (best/100% JPEG quality in this example):
sips --setProperty format jpeg --setProperty formatOptions 100 RTFU1800.JPG --out RTFU1800.JPG.jpeg

It's basically the same command for HEIC files.  And if I have a photo that I really want to convert losslessly, it's the following command.  This makes iPhone photos take more space than my Canon 80D's CR2 RAWs though:
sips --setProperty format tiff IMG_5519.HEIC --out IMG_5519.tiff
Given that I think the HEIC files are using DCI-P3 colorimetry (with wide colour gamut), I'd love to be sure that this conversion is preserving that.  Unfortunately the tools at my disposable that I know will do that won't preserve the camera's metadata.
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Hello Malc

Great idea with SIPS to fix the problem with WhatsApp images in LR 6.14. 

I wrapped your code in an automator script that also preserves the creation and modification date.

The script accepts a list of file filenames that are processed (this list can be generated in LR as a side effect of creating smart-previews or maybe previews in general). Here an example of the list (make sure you have empty line at the end)