Tag Archives: organization

Link Roundup 10-11-2009

Before we get to the links, just a quick reminder that you can suggest links and articles to me via Google Reader, Twitter, Delicious, and/or StumbleUpon. Google Reader is probably the best method (follow me and I’ll follow back if your shared items don’t suck), but I try to keep up with the others as well (though I’m really bad about following back on Twitter).

3 Reasons Why I Refuse to Use Lightroom

Sure, try haggling here.
Creative Commons License photo credit: gak

Ok, ok, now before you Lightroom fans get all twisted up, read this and read it carefully. This post isn’t intended to stir things up. I’m not a Lightroom user, but I’m a Photoshop user. Those who know me also know that I’m a big fan of using Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw to organize and process my photos.

But in no way am I trying to give Lightroom and Adobe a bad name or put the software (or it’s users) down — it’s a great tool, and I know a lot of photographers who swear by it. On that same note, I’ve also had a lot of photographers baffled at my decision to avoid Lightroom. So here they are… the top three reasons why I refuse to use Lightroom:

1. DEPENDENT ON A DATABASE

MNFTIU
Creative Commons License photo credit: [.i.c.e.]

I’m sorry, but I’ve already been hit with database issues in the past. I’m sure Adobe has things nailed down pretty tight, but I don’t like the idea of having to rely on those things to keep track of my photos. Call me old fashioned, but I like to place my photos on my hard drive in the folder hierarchy that I’m comfortable with, use sidecar files to store extra information, and only rely on my organization software to view the photos and place/utilize metadata.

Why am I so against a database? Doesn’t it make things faster and more organized? Sure, but what happens when you get new hard drives, upgrade operating systems or entire computers, or decide to use a different photo organization software at some point? You may find yourself out of luck.

2. REDUNDANT WITH BRIDGE/ACR

Redundancy
Creative Commons License photo credit: Will Pate

I’ve already made the decision that I utilize Photoshop enough to justify paying for it. Yes, Photoshop is a totally different beast from Lightroom, but the software bundled with it isn’t. Lightroom is basically a combination of Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw — they share many features and they use the same Raw processor.

Lightroom does have a few extra features and conveniences, but is it worth the extra cost if I’m already investing money in Photoshop? I think not. Lightroom and Bridge/ACR are so similar in nature that I’m willing to bet Adobe will leapfrog the two software packages with each new release. Meaning, you can probably expect to see many Lightroom 2 features in the next Bridge/ACR bundle, in addition to some new stuff that Lightroom doesn’t have. Then Lightroom 3 will probably have many of those new features plus some new stuff. And so on, and so on… (note that this is all just speculative rambling on my part, I could be totally off)

3. MOB MENTALITY

Since the introduction of Lightroom, there’s been somewhat of a cult following. I understand that it’s a useful piece of software, but I’ve seen more than one avid Photoshop user jump ship (or decide that they need both Photoshop and Lightroom). I’ve also had several fellow photographers urge me to get on board with Lightroom as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I tend to ignore the preference of the masses, and make my decisions based on my own needs. I’m the same way with the whole digital vs. film thing — I rather enjoy shooting film, no matter how many times ex-film photographers tell me how terrible the stuff is and how digital is the only way to go. Cool, if it works for you and it makes your life easier, I’m not going to stop you from following that path. I feel the same way about camera brands — I made the decision to shoot Minolta/Sony because it suited my needs best, not because they’re the most popular name brand.

YOUR TURN!

Ok, go ahead and let ‘er rip in the comments. Shred me to pieces. Preach your Lightroom gospel you users of Lightroom. Tell me why I’m wrong, and convince me to change my mind.

Actually… I’m hoping for a healthy conversation about the benefits of Lightroom from all of you using it. There are quite a few non-Lightroom-using photographers out there who could get a lot from such a conversation. I think it’s a great (and cheap) alternative option to Photoshop for a majority of hobbyist photographers.

This post is also part of Problogger’s Killer Titles group writing project.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up response from the readers!

The Exponential Photo Collection

As I was doing some overdue DVD backups, I realized that my collection of photos has been growing at an exponential rate. Earlier backups (from 2002-2006) only required a couple of DVDs to hold all the photos. Then, each month in 2007 and 2008 has been progressively larger and larger, thus requiring more discs. So I began to take a look at the amount of data I’m producing over time.

The charts below show the amount of disk space I’m using for each month, quarter, and year in my archive. This isn’t total disk space — it’s just the amount of space for each time block.

The chart below shows the cumulative disk space I’m using over time. So each new value along time is the sum of existing disk space used plus new disk space used for that time block. In other words, this is my hard drive filling up.

Scary, isn’t it? I’m willing to bet that this trend is not completely uncommon among many photography enthusiasts. You start off with your little point & shoot, creating jpegs as you go. Then you get into it and you decide to upgrade your camera. Now you’re shooting more because the camera has more capabilities and your skills are improving. Then you upgrade the camera again, resulting in larger and larger file sizes. Then you decide to shoot raw format, and the file size skyrockets. Throw in some monster Photoshop files, film scans, and all of the sudden you’re producing many gigabytes per outing.

As far as I can tell, there are 2 reasons for exponential disk usage: improvements in technology and an increased passion for photography. Newer cameras are producing some massive files, and there’s still no end in sight for the megapixel war. Not only that, but as you shoot more you learn more… and in turn you shoot more… then you learn more… etc.

So basically, what I’m saying is that if this trend hasn’t happened to you yet — it will. Most photographers in their first or second year of shooting don’t realize what’s coming. Then all of the sudden, they’re neck deep in tens (or hundreds) of thousands of photos and several hundred gigabytes of data to keep track of.

If you’re really into photography and you find yourself shooting more, start planning ahead. Get yourself a good organization scheme and stick to it. And save a little money every so often to put down on some new storage space when you fill your hard drive.

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.

How to Create Monster Photoshop Files

A recent comment by reader Libeco got me thinking about something I discovered a while back. The comment had to do with opening RAW images as “Smart Objects” in Photoshop and duplicating them for certain effects. My response: beware your file size.

Photoshop Documents (.PSD files) can become very large if you’re not careful. I’ve managed to create files that were over 500MB in size (I’ve even had some approach 1GB). This can be a serious issue if you have many Photoshop Documents hiding in your archives. Think about this: if you shoot 4GB of photos in a single outing, it would only take 8 Photoshop files (at 500MB) to double your used hard drive space. So however many photos you thought you could keep on your hard drive, cut that number in half… or more.

As I go through some examples of file sizes, keep in mind that I’m using 12MP photos brought into Photoshop with 16 bits/channel and Adobe RGB color space. So without further ado, here are five great ways to create monster Photoshop Documents that will devour your hard drive:

1. CREATE A PHOTOSHOP DOCUMENT

Photoshop can turn a 18MB RAW file into a 70MB PSD file in no time flat — and that’s without even doing anything to the photo! So here’s a tip: if you can create a finished photo with Lightroom or ACR, don’t push it into Photoshop out of habit. One of my unprocessed RAW files takes up 18.2MB of disk space. Once I’ve processed the file in ACR it takes up 18.2MB — plus it’s completely non-destructive.

Photoshop is intended to give you the ability to apply localized image adjustments via layers and layer masks. It also has other uses such as blends, effects, and some other Photoshop techniques you can’t get from ACR or Lightroom. But if you’re using Photoshop to apply some curve adjustments and maybe boosting the saturation, you’re missing the point of the RAW processing software.

2. USE UNNECESSARY SMART OBJECTS

Smart objects are great tools in Photoshop — they allow for added flexibility with certain features and effects within Photoshop. But that luxury comes at a small cost in file size. Using the previous example, but with a smart object as the base layer, our 70MB PSD file turns into a 74MB PSD file. While an extra 4MB isn’t going to kill you, too many unnecessary smart objects will start to add up.

3. DUPLICATE LAYERS NEEDLESSLY

Sometimes duplicate layers are needed to ensure non-destructive adjustments. But duplicating an entire layer of information seriously bulks up your file. Going back to the original example file, I added a single duplicate layer. This resulted in a 109MB PSD file as opposed to our 70MB file! So you can see how just a few of these duplicate layers or copies of layer merges can turn your file into a little monster.

4. USE RGB SPACE IF IT’S B&W

Oh, cookie!
Creative Commons License photo credit: esti-

The thing about RGB color space is that it contains color information for the red, green, and blue channels. The thing about black & white photos is that the RGB channels are identical, which is what creates “grayscales”. So when you save and work with a b/w image as if it were a color image, you’re wasting 2/3 of the color information and increasing your file size by 3 times.

Opening the same file as a grayscale image through ACR (and keeping the 16 bits/channel on our 12MP image), we end up with a 23MB PSD file as opposed to our 70MB file. So my suggestion: do the grayscale conversion with your RAW processor rather than Photoshop if at all possible. Certainly, there are instances when you’ll want to use black and white conversion techniques that require the use of color channels in Photoshop, but just be aware that your file size will be larger.

5. MAXIMIZE COMPATIBILITY FOR OLDER VERSIONS

This one is a real killer, and it’s easy to overlook. Photoshop allows you to maximize compatibility of your files so they play nice with older versions of the software. This is handy if you are working with clients or customers who are not up to speed with their software updates, but most of us will never need such a feature.

There is a setting under the “File Handling” option in the “Preferences” dialog for this compatibility issue. Allowing Photoshop to maximize the compatibility will turn our 70MB PSD file into a 123MB PSD file. So if you don’t need that added feature of backward compatibility, turn it off and save yourself some disk space.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?

The big message I want to get across is not that Photoshop is a bad thing or that you should avoid big files at all cost. My main point to all of this is that you should be aware of what you’re creating while using a tool like Photoshop. Keep an eye on your file sizes, check your settings, weed out the unnecessary stuff, and use leaner methods if at all possible.

What else can you do to ensure a smaller footprint on your hard drive?

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.