Tag Archives: computer

Photo Backup: External Hard Drive

LaCie Hard Disks
Creative Commons License photo credit: pietel

In the last part of this series, we talked about internal hard drives as backup hardware. As promised, this time around, we’ll be exploring external hard drives for backing up your photos. Throughout these in-depth discussions of hardware solutions, I’ll try to keep the same format and flow so they’re easier to follow.

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TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — INTERNAL HARD DRIVE
NEXT — HAVE YOU EVER NEEDED TO USE YOUR PHOTO BACKUP?

I would expect that many of you are familiar with external drives, but we’ll go through their various aspects, strengths, and weaknesses as it relates to backing up photo archives.

THE BASICS

LaCie Hard Disks
Creative Commons License photo credit: pietel

An external hard drive is simply an internal drive that is housed in some type of case and connected to your computer via external data cables. Some external drives require auxiliary power, while others are powered by the data connection (such as some compact USB 2.0 drives). External drives serve as good backup hardware because of their storage capabilities and portability.

Like internal drives, external drives come in various shapes and sizes. Some are considered “compact” drives (typically housing a 2.5″ drive) while others are slightly larger (typically housing a standard 3.5″ drive). While the casing may look different between brands and models, most external drives have the same basic anatomy.

Also like internal drives, external drives may have several variations on the data connection interface — but these connections are different than those discussed on the internal drives. One typical connection type is USB, and most often USB 2.0. But external drives can also come with Firewire connections and even eSATA connections.

Again, my point is that you need to be aware of the capabilities of your computer(s) before purchasing an external hard drive. Maybe the one you’ve got your eye on is a Firewire drive, but your computer doesn’t have Firewire connections. This will result in you having to either return the hardware or purchase additional hardware in order to make it work.

BACKING UP

Gears gears cogs bits n pieces
Creative Commons License photo credit: Elsie esq.

Just like with the internal drives, external drives will give you a few options for methods of backing up your data. There are two basic camps of people who use external drives: connected all the time, and connected only when backing up files.

If you decide to leave your external drive permanently connected to your computer, it may be possible to use the drive as a mirror, or RAID 1 configuration. Sometimes the software included with the drive will allow you to do this, while other times you’ll have to use third party software. If you’re interested in doing this, check the manufacturer’s website for RAID documentation prior to purchasing the hardware. The advantage to this method is that it’s easy and you get real-time backups. The disadvantage is that the drive is constantly running and constantly attached to your computer.

The other mentality of external drive users (including myself) is to only attach the drive when backing up photos or other data. This method would require that some type of backup schedule be adhered to, otherwise your backups can quickly become out of date and nearly useless. The advantage of this method is that you can store your external drive separately from your computer in a safe or off-site location. The disadvantage is that your backups may not be completely up to date on any given day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Creative Commons License photo credit: d_vdm

STRENGTHS

External drives are fairly cheap, reliable, and portable. They don’t cost much more than internal hard drives, and they can have about the same life expectancy (possibly better if not constantly plugged in). But the real benefit of an external drive is the fact that it can be removed from the computer and stored elsewhere. Storing the drive in a fireproof safe or in an off-site location can add an extra layer of security to your backup solution.

WEAKNESSES

New boots and a fake lacoste polo
Creative Commons License photo credit: assbach

External hard drives are still hard drives and they’re prone to the same failures as internal hard drives. The disk may just give up one day without warning or reason. And if you decide to leave the drive connected to the computer at all times, it essentially has the same weaknesses as your computer (lightning strikes, fire, theft, etc.). External drives also tend to be a target for other failure modes, such as being dropped or knocked off the desk. Hard drives don’t like that.

CONCLUSIONS

External hard drives can be great backup solutions, and many people utilize them for doing just this. I, myself, use an external drive to store one copy of my photos and other vital documents. The great thing about them is that they can be truly separate from your computer between backups.

And as with any backup solution, I’d suggest keeping more than one. So an external backup drive is good, but it’s not complete by itself. The next section of this series will discuss the infamous RAID tower, including the Drobo.

PRODUCTS

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Photo Backup: Internal Hard Drive

Hard Drive - 2 Flash/Brolly
Creative Commons License photo credit: geerlingguy

In the last big part of this series, we talked about working drives — the various options and their strengths and weaknesses. In the next few sections, I’ll be diving a little deeper while discussing various options for your backup hardware. Once we make it through the hardware, we’ll talk software. And finally, we’ll finish off with a discussion about strategy.

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TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — WORKING DRIVES
NEXT — EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE

Our options for backup hardware is much the same as the working drives, but we have a few other options too. To kick off this section, we’ll go over the use of internal hard drives as backup hardware.

The PC under the MiniMac
Creative Commons License photo credit: veeliam

THE BASICS

An internal hard drive is simply a hard drive housed within your computer case and attached to its power and data connections. All computers have at least one internal drive to run the operating system, but an internal backup drive is one separate from your main drive. Simply creating a copy of your data on the same hard drive won’t give you much data protection. On that same note, most computers have more than one power supply cable and hard drive data connection, so installing a second, third, or even fourth drive should be no problem.

Hard drives come in all different flavors. Common form factors include 3.5″ (commonly found in desktops) and 2.5″ (commonly found in laptops). Let me just interrupt the flow to state that this article is based on the assumption that you’re using a desktop computer with 3.5″ drives — laptops don’t usually have too much extra space for additional drives. Hard drives also come in a multitude of disk interfaces (or the shape of the data plug). The SATA interface is most common today, but some computer are still supporting the old ATA drives. SCSI (pronounced “scuzzy” if you’re a geek) is not terribly common, but some people still use them. And I’m sure that by the time I publish this article, the next best thing will have obsoleted the SATA drive.

So my point is this: make sure you know what type of drive you can plug into your computer. Don’t jump on that ATA drive because it’s cheap, only to find out that you can’t even plug it in. Also beware of differences within a particular interface — for example, we’ve got SATA 1.5 Gb/s, SATA 3.0 Gb/s, and now SATA 6.0 Gb/s is in the works. So again, figure out what you need before you buy.

BACKING UP

Internal hard drives can be used as backup drives a few different ways. The simplest method is to install the drive as a secondary drive, or extra storage space, and use some type of software backup utility to make a copy of your chosen data from your main drive. We’ll talk about software options later, but most operating systems (excluding Vista) give you the ability to make backups of specific files and directories.

Another method is to use the drive as a mirror, or RAID 1 configuration. A mirror is simply a disk that is a duplicate of another disk or portion of a disk (like your photos), usually updated in real-time. For this, you’ll either need a piece of software or hardware (like a RAID controller) to manage the mirror operations.

The last major method of internal drive backup I’ll talk about is a full-blown RAID 5 configuration. This method will require at least 3 separate internal drives and a RAID controller to work (though I believe that some distributions of Linux can do this via software). A RAID 5 setup utilizes these 3 or more drives as a single drive with the data split between them in a manner that allows one drive to fail and your data to remain in-tact (of course the failed drive has to be replaced though).

Lucha Libre
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

STRENGTHS

Internal hard drives are fast, cheap, and they stay out of your way. They won’t clutter up your desktop or get knocked off the printer stand because they’re bolted to the inside of your computer case. They also have fairly high capacities given the cost — 1TB drives are not so uncommon. Drop down to 500GB or so and you can pick one up for much less than $100.

WEAKNESSES

still fighting the burger wars
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sumit

Well… for starters, it’s sitting right next to your main drive. This means that you’re not protected against theft, fire, lightning strikes, computer viruses, and spontaneous combustion. If something happens to destroy your main drive, it’s probably going to destroy your back up drive. It does protect against a random hard drive failure though, which is more common than most other catastrophes. The other downside to the internal drive is that you can’t pack it up and move it around or store it off-site without lugging your whole computer along or ripping it apart.

CONCLUSIONS

Extra internal drives can be a very feasible backup solution. They’re certainly better than nothing, and you have a couple of options for how you set up the drive to interact with your other internal drives. If you do choose to go this route, I’d strongly suggest a secondary backup plan (which is something I’d suggest anyway). Just don’t get stuck in the notion that you need an external hard drive to backup your photos — which is what we’ll be talking about in the next article for this series.

PRODUCTS

Photo Backup: Working Drives

Working Drive Comparison Chart

A good photo backup strategy starts with your working hard drive(s) — that place you use to access and work on your photos. If you don’t have a clean system for keeping your original copies, your photo backups are going to be a nightmare — especially if you’ve got stuff strewn between several computers and various external hard drives (you know who you are).

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TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — HOW BIG IS YOUR PHOTO COLLECTION?
NEXT — INTERNAL HARD DRIVE

There are several basic options for working drives, and they all have their pros and cons. You may not be ready to completely change your game plan right now, but this could be something to think about the next time you upgrade your computer (or run out of disk space).

MAIN INTERNAL DRIVE

Computers require a hard drive to operate and that hard drive usually has some extra space on it for your personal documents. When you journey into photography, this main drive is usually where the photos get stored.

PROS — performance, simplicity, cost. Today’s computers have plenty of hard drive space, usually sporting between 200 and 500 GB of capacity. Unless you’re shooting with a pro-level camera (and doing lots of it), this hard drive space will probably last a while. Internal drives are great for speed too — with the latest SATA 3.0 drives clocking in at 3 Gbit/s (or 375 MB/s) communication rates.

CONS — scalability, security, portability. If you keep shooting, you will run out of space at some point. Plus it’s a pain to transfer photos when you decide to get a new computer. You also have to consider that you’re sharing space with your operating system — that disk is constantly working overtime just to keep your computer running. More use of a drive can mean a quicker unexpected death.

SEPARATE INTERNAL DRIVE

IDE Drives - P9153453
Creative Commons License photo credit: isdky

Most computers have the space and connections to accommodate multiple hard drives. One drive can be used for your OS and your standard documents, and the other drive(s) can be used just for photos.

PROS — performance, scalability. Internal drives are way cheap and they come in many sizes to suit your needs. Since they’re connected straight to your motherboard, you’ll be enjoying quick performance while organizing and processing photos. If your photo drive fills up, you can get another one. And when you switch computers, you’ll probably be able to just transfer the drives over without issues.

CONS — cost, difficulty, portability. I said they’re cheap, but they still cost more than nothing. There’s also a constant shift in technology that tends to obsolete hardware like hard drives. Then again, it’s a good idea to get fresh drives every few years. You just have to make sure that you’re getting the right type of hard drive to go with your motherboard — and you have to pull the computer apart to install it.

PRODUCTS — 500GB, 1TB, and 1.5TB Drives.

EXTERNAL DRIVE

An external drive is just an internal drive with a plastic box around it. They are typically connected to the computer via USB or Firewire, and juiced up with an external power supply.

PROS — simplicity, portability, scalability. Most external drives are pretty easy to set up and use — just plug it in and use it. They’re also nice in the fact that they can be moved from one computer to another in very little time (handy for those who use a desktop and laptop). It’s pretty simple to expand your photo collection with external drives too — just get another one and plug it in.

CONS — performance, cost, fragility. External drives cost more than internal drives because they have a convenience factor and they’re covered in extra hardware. They’re also free-standing units, which means that they can get bumped and knocked off the desk or shelf. External drives also tend to be slower than internal drives when reading and writing data.

PRODUCTS — 500GB and 1TB Drives.

RAID TOWER

RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks) is a type of technology that uses two or more hard drives to achieve better performance and/or reliability. Similar to an external hard drive, RAID towers are just a box with multiple drives inside (but they have a brain too).

PROS — security, scalability, accessibility. The great thing about a RAID tower is that it protects itself against most hard drive failures. If one drive fails, pull it out, put a fresh one in, and let it rebuild your data. You can also upgrade your drives for additional space as the need arises. Most towers are also geared to attach to a network, so you can access them from several computers through a router.

CONS — cost, performance. These boxes are not at all cheap — because they’re much more complex than a simple external drive enclosure. Some are like little computers on their own. Recent towers have gotten faster with data transfer rates, but an internal SATA 3.0 (375 MB/s) drive is still going to outperform anything external — even if it has multiple USB 2.0 (60 MB/s) ports, Firewire 800 (100 MB/s), or eSATA (120 MB/s) connections.

PRODUCTS — Drobo tower and Buffalo’s 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB towers.

NETWORK DRIVE

flight deck (2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: david ॐ

There probably aren’t too many people who would need this option, but it can be handy in a professional environment. A network drive is basically just a hard drive (or set of hard drives) that live in a dedicated file-server.

PROS — accessibility, security, scalability. When networked, these drives can be accessed from multiple other computers, and even across the web if you have the technical know-how. Good for a studio environment where many computers are used and workstations are upgraded regularly.

CONS — cost, difficulty, portability. In addition to the drives, you’ll be paying for the extra computer hardware and the network equipment. Then you have to be knowledgeable on the fine art of networking computers. Plus you’ll have another computer that needs upkeep on the software and hardware.

IN CONCLUSION

A good photo backup strategy starts with your working hard drive space. There are many options available to give you the performance and flexibility you need. The main things you need to consider are cost, performance, simplicity, scalability, security, portability, and accessibility. The most important thing is to find a solution that works for you, and be prepared to change your mind about your current setup as you get pulled into the hobby/career of photography.

What are you using for your main working drive? Are there any options that I’ve left out?

Your Complete Guide To Adobe Bridge

Your Complete Guide to Adobe Bridge

Over the course of seven articles, we’ve covered many features of Adobe’s file management software: Bridge. The links to each article are listed below, along with short descriptions of the content contained. And don’t forget to bookmark this page so you can refer back to the series later!

Even better, why don’t you download the eBook version of this series? Download Your Complete Guide to Adobe Bridge [PDF-30pg-3.3MB].

Oh, and one more thing… I found a nice collection of videos that cover various aspects of Adobe Bridge. So even if you’ve read through the articles, be sure to check them out again and watch the video I’ve embedded at the bottom of each post.

Adobe Bridge: Introductions

PART 1 of this series covers basic introductions to the software and the concept of using Adobe Bridge as a photo management tool. We explain what the software is, what it can do for you, why it’s better than other software, and some basic computer requirements for running the application. If you’re totally new to this software or if you’ve never even tried it, start here and get your bearings.

Adobe Bridge: Workspace

PART 2 of this series covers the concept of workspace within Adobe Bridge. We take a look at some default workspaces, the parts that make them up, and how you can use those parts to define your own custom workspace. Having a solid understanding of your worspace will present you with an increased comfort level with the software, thus increasing your productivity and effectiveness.

Adobe Bridge: Importing

PART 3 of this series goes into importing photos from your camera and a few features of Adobe Bridge that are associated with this action. Each of the options within the import dialog are covered in detail, and we look at metadata templates and how they can be used to automatically apply extra information to your photos.

Adobe Bridge: File Preparation

PART 4 of the series talks about preparing our photos after import and before processing. We go over some basic workflow topics such as deleting photos, applying location metadata, basic keywording, and batch renaming of the files. Though not all of these steps are critical for every photographer, they are presented as a method of good practice.

Adobe Bridge: File Processing

PART 5 in the series introduces the notion of bulk processing photos. Not intended to be an in-depth guide on the Adobe Camera Raw software, we walk through some of the basic adjustments that you’ll need to make your photos look better than when they came out of the camera. We also look at a method for applying image adjustments without even opening the files in ACR.

Adobe Bridge: Organizing

PART 6 covers more detailed methods of organizing your photo collection. We look at some of the tools available in Adobe Bridge such as the star system, labels, and search functions. And as an extension of search capabilities, we talk about how to create collections and a few possible ways to use them for organizing and maintaining your archive.

Adobe Bridge: Tips and Tricks

PART 7, the final installment of this series, lays out various tools and tricks not covered in the previous 6 discussions. We look at a few different ways of applying keywords, a more detailed discussion of the keyword panel, a good use for copy & paste functionality with ACR settings, batch processing with Photoshop via Bridge, and using stacks for those larger photo shoots.

So if you haven’t been following along with the series, start digging in! And if you have been following, are there any major points that I missed or need to clarify? Any other questions about the software or my workflow?

Your Guide to Adobe Bridge: Useful Tips and Tricks

Adobe Bridge Guide Tips and Tricks

In the last part of this series, we went over Organizing your photos with Adobe Bridge. That marked kind of an endpoint for my basic workflow, but I still had a few Bridge features that I wanted to talk about and expand upon.

This article will cover the Bridge keywording features, more productive ways to process RAW files, taking care of dust bunnies, hooking into Photoshop’s batch processing feature, and clearing up some visual archive clutter with stacks. This article also marks the near end for the whole series, and the final article will recap everything we’ve talked about.

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IN-DEPTH KEYWORDING

Back in the File Preparation article, I briefly mentioned keywording, but I didn’t talk a whole lot about how to do it. Keywording can be done in one of two ways with Adobe Bridge: typing semicolon-separated keywords into the Metadata Panel or clicking the check-boxes in the Keyword Panel. I use both methods depending on the situation.

Adobe Bridge Keywording Via the Metadata Panel

Keywording via the Metadata Panel is generally faster than searching through lists of keywords that you have archived. The problem with using this method is that it can’t be used when you have multiple images selected that already contain different keyword values. In the “Keywords” box you’ll see “(Multiple Values)” rather than the keywords. If you type anything in that box, you replace whatever information was there with the new information. So this method of keywording is good for groups of images with no previous keywords or single images regardless of their keyword situation.

Keywording via the Keyword Panel is a little slower than typing things by hand. The nice thing about it, though, is that it can handle adding keywords to multiple files with pre-existing keywords (even if they’re different from each other). The other great thing about the Keyword Panel is that it serves as a keyword archive and it sort of reminds you to use keywords that you may have otherwise missed. I’ll typically use this method of keywording for the more detailed work after the images have already had a first coat of keywords.

Adobe Bridge Keyword Archive

USING THE KEYWORD PANEL

Organizing the keyword archive is fairly simple, but it’s not a completely automated process. When you keyword things by hand in the Metadata Panel, Bridge makes a note of this and places these keywords and phrases in your Keyword Panel under “Other Keywords”. These keywords can be moved around and stuffed into other categories for permanent archiving.

To create a new category, simply click on the plus sign at the bottom of the panel for a “New Keyword”. This inserts a top level keyword that can be used as a category or grouping for other keywords. Once you have some top level keywords, you can add “New Sub Keywords” by selecting they keyword you want it under and clicking the plus sign with an arrow next to it. Sub Keywords can even have their own Sub Keywords, as shown in the screen shot for my “film” category.

Moving and organizing existing keywords is simply a drag-n-drop operation. Keywords can also be renamed and deleted. The easiest way to build up your keyword archive is to do it as you go. Don’t bother spending hours plugging in keywords that you think you’ll use later — make good use of your time and do it while you’re actually keywording photos. And one last tip for the Keyword Paneltry to keep your keyword groups filled with less than 10 or 15 keywords. Any more than that and you can probably create some new sub-groups. Too many keywords in one list only makes it more difficult to find them.

Do your keyword archiving correctly and adding those words and phrases will be a snap. You’ll be amazed at how many keywords you would have forgotten if you hadn’t run down your list and started diving into your categories and sub categories.

COPY AND PASTE ACR SETTINGS

As I mentioned in the File Processing article of this series, you can process multiple images inside of ACR to speed things up. Well, we can do the same thing without even bringing the images into ACR or Photoshop. If you have a group of photos with nearly identical lighting conditions and exposure, you can process one file and apply those settings to the other files from Bridge (I also mentioned this as an afterthought in the article).

To review: after you process your file, select the thumbnail inside of Bridge and copy the “Development Settings” via the right click menu, edit menu, or press Ctrl+Alt+C. Then select the images you want to apply the settings to and use the menus or press Ctrl+Alt+V to bring up the dialog that lets you choose which settings to paste over.

Adobe Bridge Spot Removal

One of those settings is for “Spot Removal”. A neat trick you can do if you have a bunch of images with nasty spots on them, is to remove the spots on one image (via ACR’s healing tool) and do a copy & paste to the other images for only the spot removal. Now you don’t have to click every spot in every image.

BATCH WITH PHOTOSHOP

One thing I absolutely love about Bridge is the ability to batch process photos with Photoshop Actions without manually opening those images in Photoshop and running the actions. If I process a photo with ACR and it doesn’t need to be opened in Photoshop, I don’t open it in Photoshop. But if I want to post that photo to Flickr at a smaller size, correct color space, etc., I have to use Photoshop.

But since I created a few actions for resizing my Flickr photos, I can carry out that task as a batch process. Just select one or more photos that you want to batch, go to your “Tools” menu, navigate down to the “Photoshop” menu, and select “Batch…” to bring up a dialog box. In fact, it’s the same dialog box that you can access from Photoshop itself.

The “Batch” dialog gives you options for the photo source, destination, and errors. Explaining every option in this dialog would constitute an article of its own, so I won’t mention everything about it. When I’m working with Bridge, my source will be set to “Bridge” — this just uses your previous selections for the batch. I also suppress open file dialogs and color profile warnings to ensure that the batch can run uninterrupted. These things can be dealt with in your Photoshop preferences. For my destination, I leave it as “none” when I’m just resizing for Flickr since my action saves the downsized file.

USING STACKS

Adobe Bridge Stacks

Do you ever end up with hundreds of photos from a single shoot that end up in a single folder? Are any of those photos basically the same as some others? If you don’t want to get rid of those similar photos, you can at least condense your archive visually. Stacks are kind of like miniature folders, but without the folders.

To create a stack, select the similar images and press Ctrl+G to “Group as Stack” or use your “Stack” menu or right click menu. This brings all the selected photos together and frees up some space on your screen. The stack can be expanded, condensed again, or ungrouped (check the Stack menu for the shortcuts).

I don’t typically use them unless I have a lot of photos in a single folder. They’re handy if you like to go crazy with the rapid fire, because a lot of bulk comes from all those slightly different photos.

WHAT’S NEXT?

That’s pretty much all I’ve got in me at this point. The last article in this series will be a recap, or course outline, for everything we’ve covered. I’ve only been using Bridge for a few months now, so I’m sure there are other features, methods, and tricks that I haven’t touched on. There’s always a possibility for a follow-up article sometime down the road.

If you guys are interested, I could possibly start another series on Adobe Camera RAW. I’ve been using it heavily for a little while now, and I’m getting to the point where I’m comfortable with the basic stuff for working with color and black & white photos. It’s really not that scary! And it uses the same RAW processing tools at Lightroom.

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Here’s a video I found that goes well with the content discussed in this article.

Your Guide to Adobe Bridge: Organizing

Adobe Bridge: Organizing

In the last part of this series, we went over File Processing with Adobe Bridge. So now that the images have been skimmed and processed on a very basic level, it’s now time to start picking out the good ones and organizing.

Before I spend any more time keywording or adding titles and descriptions, I thin out the herd so I’m not wasting time on photos that will never be used for anything. To do this, Adobe Bridge offers several tools such as stars and labels. Bridge also offers tools for finding images, so we’ll cover searching and creating collections.

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STAR SYSTEM

Adobe Bridge Star System

Adobe Bridge offers the ability to star your photos based on a five point scale. This gives you six levels of separation to use however you like. I personally don’t use the stars because my own organizing scheme works fine without them, but you may find a use for them. Once you add stars to a photo you’ll have the option of filtering your files by this rating system.

I say that I don’t use the stars, but I actually utilize them as a temporary means of choosing files. If I have several photos of a very similar scene, I typically want to choose just one of them. So I add stars to photos in the group based on technical and artistic merits. This helps me narrow down my selection to just a few photos that can be compared side by side. After I choose the winner, all the stars are removed.

LABEL SYSTEM

Labels are similar to stars, but they’re not so centered around a ranking scale. I use labels heavily because they can be filtered easily and the colors associated with them make it very convenient to spot labeled photos and folders. In addition, the label system can be customized to match your needs. Labels can be applied via the right-click menu or by pressing “Ctrl+(6-9)” while one or more items are selected.

Adobe Bridge Labels

The default labels offered in CS3 are No Label, Select, Second, Approved, Review, and To Do. These may be fine for your particular workflow, but I’ve customized the text of my labels to make them more recognizable. This can be done through the “Edit >> Preferences… >> Labels” dialog. I use To Do (need to be processed), In Process (started but not finished), Complete (finished processing), Revisit (reprocess later), and For Sale (anything on the market).

I only apply labels to the photos I’m going to process on a deeper level, so very few of them actually get a label. I also label my folders with red, yellow, or green based on what I have going on inside. Red folders have not been processed at all. Yellow folders have some photos started. Green folders are complete and need no attention at the moment. And Blue folders were complete but need more attention now. So while looking at my folders, it’s easy to see what needs working on and what doesn’t. Once inside of the folder, it’s a simple matter of selecting the “To Do” or “In Process” filter to see what needs work. The filter is also handy for bringing up the completed photos in case I’m looking for new material to sell.

SEARCH FEATURES

Filters are fine if you’re working in a single folder of photos, but sometimes you need to expand your reach to a set of folders encompassing multiple photo shoots, months, or years. Finding what you’re looking for is no problem if you’ve done your job with adding keywords, labels, and other metadata.

Most of us are familiar with search and find functions commonly found in software. Bridge is no exception, but the tool is much more powerful than most. Before you start your search, be sure to navigate to the location you want to search under (this will make your job easier). To open the “Find Dialog” just press Ctrl+F or find the item under the “Edit” menu. Here’s what we see:

Adobe Bridge Find Dialog

Adobe Bridge Search Results

The Source option will be pre-filled with your current location, but you can also choose other common locations or browse for a specific directory. Criteria can be added or removed to suit your needs, and there are a vast number of metadata options that can be used for the search. In my example, I’m searching for a “beach” photo that I need “To Do”. There are several other options for the Results that dictate how the search behaves. When you’re ready to search, hit the “Find” button.

USING COLLECTIONS

If you find yourself conducting the same search over and over again, a collection is what you need. Collections are like saved searches, but can be carried out from any location with the same criteria. The results are similar to albums in other organization software, but it’s not quite a drag-n-drop operation.

For example, I’d like to be able to find all of my “To Do” photos without having to look in each folder and filter things down. By creating a collection with the criteria for the label “To Do”, I can run the collection for a set of photo shoots, an entire year, or the whole archive. You can also create collections to search for specific keywords or other items in the metadata.

To start a collection, follow the instructions for a regular search. But instead of hitting “Find” we’re going to hit “Save As Collection”, which will bring up a save file dialog box. Choose a location for your collection, give it a name, and save it — I store mine in a top level directory called “Collections” within my photo archive. Also in that save dialog, you’ll see a couple of other options down near the bottom. I typically select the “Start Search From Current Folder” option so I can execute the collection from any location.

Adobe Bridge Save Collection

To run a collection search from any directory, you’ll need to also add that collection to your “Favorites” so you can access it while browsing your folders. When you get to the level that you want to search from, just run the collection by double clicking it and the search will begin from your current location. Some collections I’ve put together include one for each of my labels and one for seeking images that I’ve posted on various websites (I keyword them with things like “Flickr” and “ImageKind” after I’ve posted them online).

Features such as searches and collections only work well when you’ve put the effort into your photos up-front. Keywording, labeling, starring, and adding other metadata is a key process that has substantial benefits down the road.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m sure we could drag this thing out for many more weeks, but I think we’ve covered a majority of the key points with the software. In the next part of the series, I’ll talk about various tips, tools, and techniques for using Adobe Bridge efficiently and effectively.

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Here’s a video I found that goes well with the content discussed in this article.

Your Guide to Adobe Bridge: File Processing

Adobe Bridge: File Processing

Last time we talked about preparing our files to be processed. So now it’s finally time to start doing some photo editing! In this article, we’ll be focusing on the first round of processing using Adobe Camera RAW software.

Be aware that I’m using my own RAW workflow as an example for our series of articles. There are some differences between RAW and JPEG, and I’ll try to point them out along the way. The way that I intend to present this material should help close the gap between the two formats, but call me out if I miss something on the JPEG side of things.

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THE FORMAT WARS

RAW vs JPEG Comparison

In our last article, I mentioned I would be using a RAW workflow for this step. Processing RAW files is really a snap with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), and it doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time or effort.

Also in a recent article, I showed the difference between RAW and JPEG, unprocessed and processed with ACR. The purpose of this article was two fold: to show the difference between JPEG and RAW, and to introduce the notion of processing JPEG files with a RAW processor such as ACR. So regardless of which format you prefer, the following steps are still applicable. Do note though, that processing JPEG files with ACR is a new feature found in the CS3 bundle.

BULK PROCESSING

Adobe Bridge White Balance Filter

If you recall in our last installment of this series, I pointed out that I keyword my photos with lighting conditions. I also said that this would save us some time when it came to processing the files. Here’s why.

Similar lighting conditions will result in similar white balance. By grouping photos according to the lighting condition, we can process each group more quickly by bulk processing the white balance settings.

With that in mind, to begin the bulk processing I’ll filter my photos by lighting condition, select everything that is similar, and open them in Adobe Camera RAW. This can be done with a right-click and choosing “Open in Camera Raw…” or via the menus (File >> Open in Camera Raw…) or by pressing Ctrl+R. This loads all the selected images into ACR, and you can see their thumbnails at the left of the screen.

SETTING THE WHITE BALANCE

On the ACR basic adjustments panel, you can basically start at the top adjustments and work your way down. So white balance is one of the first things you want to establish. There are four basic ways to set white balance, but whatever method you choose, it would be wise to have a calibrated monitor.

ACR Editing Window

At this point, if you’re processing photos with very similar lighting conditions you can select all the images and apply the white balance and other settings to the whole batch. I won’t go through each method of setting white balance in ACR (because this series is about Bridge), but here’s an overview:

The first (and simplest) method for setting white balance is with the “Auto” setting. This tells ACR to do its best in determining the correct white balance for each photo on an individual basis. The second method for setting white balance is with one of the “Presets” (not available with JPEG) — daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, etc. These settings are usually close enough to use as a starting point, but I’ve noticed that they often need some tweaking to get them spot on. The third method for setting white balance is with a “Custom” setting on the adjustment sliders. Here, you can warm things up (yellow) or cool them down (blue), and add some green tint or magenta tint. With this method, a calibrated monitor is especially important. The final method for setting white balance is by sampling a part of the photo. To do this, use the “White Balance Tool” and select something that you know to be neutral gray. This is why studio photographers will shoot a “gray card” prior to photographing their subjects — it makes setting the white balance a no-brainer.

ACR Basic Adjustments Panel

I typically start with a preset and adjust from there. Sometimes I’ll use the sampling method, but I don’t always have a good neutral source to work with. But whatever I happen to do, I always flip through the images in ACR to double check my bulk settings — there are always a few that need some further tweaks.

BASIC ADJUSTMENTS

OK, so the white balance is set and we’re ready to move on. The next step is to adjust the exposure settings (the middle portion of the “Basic” palette). Here, you can adjust your exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, brightness, and contrast. I won’t get into what each of those adjustments does, but I encourage you to experiment with them.

Since I’m only doing a first round of processing on my images at this point, I don’t spend a ton of time adjusting these values. The purpose of this step in the workflow is to get the white balance correct and to make the images look more “natural” rather than looking like the dull RAW files that come out of your camera.

So… I usually just select all the images I’m working with and hit the “Auto” button (and as with auto white balance, each image is set individually by ACR). This gets things to about 90% of where they need to be. Certainly, many of the photos could benefit from more detailed adjustments, but it’s not worth the time and effort if a good portion of your photos will never be seen by anyone else.

Once again, I take a quick run-through of all the photos to make sure the software didn’t make some terrible choices. Every once in a while it does, and I’ll have to manually adjust the photo to bring it to a presentable state. But again, don’t get carried away with this stuff — it’s supposed to be quick.

OTHER ADJUSTMENTS

After applying the basic settings for white balance and exposure, you can jump into some other things — I typically don’t, but you might want to depending on your camera and your photos.

ACR Panel Buttons

You can apply bulk adjustments to your saturation, tone curves, and sharpness if you’d like. Also, if you use a lens that needs consistent corrections for fringing or vignette, you can bulk process your images to save a lot of time. Honestly though, beyond white balance and basic exposure settings, I don’t mess with much. All I want at this point is to be able to view the photos in a more “natural” state so I can determine which photos will require more of my time.

When you’re all done making bulk and individual adjustments in ACR, simply select all the photos and hit “Done”. This will apply those settings to the XMP metadata and Bridge will update the previews for those photos. So you’re not actually making any changes to the photos, regardless of whether you’re using JPEG or RAW. The best part is that the new adjustments are stored along with the original settings. If you open one of your images back up in ACR it will look exactly as you left it, but you can also revert back to “As Shot” by using the pull-down menu on the palette menubar and choosing “Camera RAW Defaults”.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

Adobe Bridge Paste Settings

Let’s say you either don’t want to pull hundreds of images into ACR at once, or you simply forgot to include some photos. With Bridge, there’s an easy way to apply those processing adjustments outside of Adobe Camera RAW. This method also works well if you just want to change white balance settings across multiple images.

First, you need to select an image that you want to copy the settings from. Once you do that, you can copy those settings to memory by pressing Ctrl+Alt+C or by using the right-click menu or “Edit” menu and looking for the “Develop Settings” option. Now, select one or more images that you want to apply some or all of those adjustments to and press Crtl+Alt+V (or use the menus again) to paste the settings. This will bring up a dialog box that asks you which settings and adjustments you’d like to apply. Pick the ones you need and apply them — that’s it!

Another thing this is useful for is spot removal. I won’t get into it, but if you have a dirty sensor it’s something you might look into to help you tame those dust bunnies.

WHAT’S NEXT?

After running through your various lighting groups, you should have a full set of processed photos. They won’t be fully processed, but they should be in a better place than when you started. For some of you, this level of processing suits your needs just fine. For others, you’ll want to really dig into things and give some special attention to certain aspects of the photo.

In the next article of this series, we’ll go back to Bridge and take a look at how to efficiently keep track of your photos in their various stages of post-processing. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got some photos that are waiting to be worked on, some that are being worked on, some that are complete, and some that you want to revisit. I’ll show you how I use labels and collections to keep track of things.

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Here’s a video I found that goes well with the content discussed in this article.

Your Guide to Adobe Bridge: Workspace

In the last post of this series we talked about the basics of Adobe Bridge. What it is, what it can do, why it’s a good thing, and some of the computer requirements. I’m sure some of you are quite anxious to start digging in to the finer details of the software, but before we go anywhere I want to talk about the Bridge Workspace.

A workspace refers to the layout of features and controls available in a piece of software. Adobe Bridge has several predefined workspaces, each having a unique purpose in the photo management process. Different workspaces mean different views, panels, and controls. I’ll lay out the various workspaces, then we’ll dig into each of their components (many of which are shared across workspaces).

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THE SIX WORKSPACES OF BRIDGE

Adobe Bridge has six predefined workspaces. You can also create your own space and save it if you find something that works better for you.

DEFAULT
Default Bridge Workspace
LIGHT TABLE
Light Table Bridge Workspace
FILE NAVIGATOR
File Navigator Bridge Workspace
METADATA FOCUS
Metadata Focus Bridge Workspace
HORIZONTAL FILMSTRIP
Horizontal Filmstrip Bridge Workspace
VERTICAL FILMSTRIP
Vertical Filmstrip Bridge Workspace

And here are a couple of my own custom workspaces. They’re only slightly different than the predefined workspaces, but sometimes those little things can make a difference in your productivity. I’d encourage you to make your own workspace by dragging the various panels around until you find something you like.

CUSTOM 1
Custom 1 Bridge Workspace
CUSTOM 2
Custom 2 Bridge Workspace

After looking at a few of these workspaces, you ought to notice that they consist of the same parts (aka “panels”) but rearranged. So let’s dig into those panels and explore what they do.

THE SEVEN PANELS OF BRIDGE

For the purpose of this section, I’m using a screenshot of a workspace that has all seven panels visible. I don’t usually work with such a layout since tabbed panels are more space efficient. Refer to the colors in the image as I step through each of the panels.

Adobe Bridge Panels

  1.       FAVORITES
    Similar to a “Favorites” or “Bookmarks” folder on a web browser, you can keep your most helpful items in here. Favorites can include folder locations, files, collections, previous searches, Version Cue, Adobe Stock Photos, downloaded comps, Bridge Home, and a bunch of other stuff that can be set in the general preferences (Edit >> Preferences… >> General). Personally, I find it handy to keep my most used collections in there (we’ll get to what those are another day).
  2.       FOLDERS
    If you’ve ever browsed a directory tree, this one should look familiar — It’s just your folder structure on your hard drive. Folders can also be navigated in the “Content” panel, but the “Folders” panel provides a quick method of changing locations.
  3.       FILTER
    I love this panel. I think it’s one of the best things in Bridge that sets it apart from other software. Filters are a way to exclusively view photos that meet a specified criteria. Want to see only your RAW files? Or how about images with a certain keyword? Maybe you’re looking for an image with a vertical orientation? Easy — just click on the filter and you’ll only see those images. If you sort-of know what you’re looking for, filters will allow you to find it a hundred times faster than scrolling through tons of images.
  4.       CONTENT
    The content panel is a window to the contents of your current folder, not unlike a file browser on your OS. But the content panel provides more functionality than your operating system can. Thumbnails can be resized from very tiny to very large, and they can be set to scroll horizontally or vertically. Bridge caches the thumbnails for super-speedy viewing. Thumbnails also show star ratings (which I don’t typically use), labels (which I definitely do use), filename, and a few other things depending on what the photo is and what’s been done to it. This panel also allows you to access a large number of controls and commands via the right-click menu.
  5.       PREVIEW
    The preview panel is similar to a slideshow, but a little more powerful. It’s very handy for inspecting images at larger scales, comparing multiple images side-by-side (just select multiple files in the content panel), checking for sharpness and whatnot between 100% and 800% zoom (click on the image and a magnifying loupe pops up – scroll to change the zoom). The other great thing about using this preview is that everything is color manged, so your Photoshop files and RAW files will appear EXACTLY the same as in Photoshop.
  6.       METADATA
    When I first import photos this is where I spend most of my time. The metadata panel provides you with access to all the file info, EXIF, IPTC, RAW settings, and a bunch of other stuff you never knew existed. What’s really great is that you can select a bunch of images and apply keywords, descriptions, copyright info, location info, and other things as a batch.
  7.       KEYWORDS
    The keywords panel is similar to the metadata panel, but it’s sole purpose in life is to organize and apply keywords. Common keywords can be grouped, categorized, applied in batches, and renamed with this visual interface. Keeping your keywords organized and up to date can prove to be a major benefit while keywording images — I’m alway amazed at how many more keywords I can apply by just taking a quick scan through my lists.

So that’s pretty much it for the panels. I touched on a couple of usage tips and tricks, but we’ll go much deeper in subsequent articles.

THE MANY CONTROLS OF BRIDGE

To prevent this article from getting too long, I’m not going to visually highlight all of the little buttons and menus as I did with the panels. I would encourage you to explore the software interface on your own, looking for the little icons located below the menu and at the bottom of the window. Some of the panels also have buttons and drop-down menus that provide added functionality. Right-click menus contain another wealth of options to assist you with organizing, searching, and processing your images.

One major item worth mentioning is the “saved workspace” button set. Look down at the lower right of the window — you should see a “1″, “2″, and “3″. Hold down on one of them and select a preset (or custom saved) workspace. Set all three for the ones you like the most and now you have a workspace quick-launch — hit the button and away you go!

WHAT’S NEXT?

At this point I think we’re quite familiar with the Adobe Bridge interface basics. From here out I’ll be walking through my typical workflow and highlighting all of the things I commonly use the software for. In the next article we’ll talk about importing photos from your camera or card reader straight into Bridge. This is a very important step, since it can save you lots of time once you get those file on your computer. So stay tuned!

For those of you looking to obtain Adobe Bridge: Claudius Coenen mentioned on the last post in this series that there is a way to get Bridge for free. Apparently if you download the Photoshop CS3 30-day trial, the license will expire on Photoshop but not on Bridge. Now of course one of the major benefits of working with Bridge is the ability to interface with Photoshop and ACR, but it’s also handy as a standalone file management tool. Also note that I haven’t tried this out so I can’t say that it works for sure.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
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Here’s a video I found that goes well with the content discussed in this article.