Bridge is a standalone application that can be started in Windows or on the Mac independently of Photoshop. If you're running other software in the Adobe Creative Suite such as Illustrator or GoLive, you can use Bridge to manage files for all of them, including Photoshop — so it serves (aha!) as a bridge between them. You can use Bridge to perform quite a range of tasks as you organize your photos — including these:
i Browse your computer for images: First and foremost, Bridge is a great image-browsing program. You can easily navigate all the hard drives and folders in your system for images. Figure 5-1 shows the Bridge window with a thumbnail selected.
i Open images directly into Camera Raw or Photoshop: Bridge serves as file menu for both Camera Raw and Photoshop. Double-clicking raw-image thumbnails in Bridge will automatically open images in Camera Raw. If the image selected is another file format (such as JPEG, TIFF, or PSD), the image will be loaded directly into Photoshop.
If you have other raw converters loaded on your computer, double-clicking raw-image thumbnails might open your images in one of those other raw converters instead of Camera Raw. You can always click an image and then press Ctrl+R (^+R on a Mac) to open an image in Camera Raw.
i Add metadata to images: For my commercial work, one of the first things I do when first viewing a fresh download of images is to add metadata to each image — data about data (in this case, about images) that helps me organize the files. Your digital camera provides some metadata — for example, the date and shooting information such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO setting. You can add more metadata in Bridge (say, copyright information and a text description of the photo).
Metadata information is stored in a sidecar file kept with your images. Whether you're viewing thumbnails in Bridge or editing photos in Photoshop, that metadata is retained. If you're using DNG format (which I discuss further in Chapter 2), metadata is stored directly in the image file (no sidecar file).
i Add ratings and color labels to images: One cool feature of Bridge is the convenient way to rate, rank, and label your images. You can indicate a rating to an image of one to five stars and even apply a color code to an image. Both ratings and color labels are good tools to use in conjunction with Bridge's image search features, which allows you to search for images based on ratings and labels.
i Rename a bunch of images at once: Bridge offers the ability to batch and rename images, giving you the choice to both rename those images and then store the renamed images in a folder of your choosing. This feature comes in handy when you have a number of images you'll want to send to a client (or a friend for that matter), but don't want to use the same filename for the images that your digital camera provides.
i Choose workspaces: Depending on what you're doing with your images, you can use Bridge to switch between workspaces — different working views of Bridge. If, for example, you're creating a filmstrip-style presentation, you can use the Filmstrip workspace shown in Figure 5-2. For other tasks, you can change workspaces easily by choosing WindowO Workspace (or by clicking the Workspace icons in the lower-right corner of the Bridge window).
i Run Photoshop automation features from Bridge: These automatic features that can be run directly from Bridge include creating a PDF presentation, creating a Web photo gallery, and stitching together panoramas (using Photomerge). But the crown jewel of these features is the powerful and time-saving Image Processor, where you can batch-convert any number of images from one format to another while choosing a separate destination folder for those files.
With all the image-management functions that Bridge offers the photographer, it's worth taking some time to get to know. If you read up on using its features, play around with it some, and fit it into your workflow; you'll save a lot of time in the long run, and your images will be a lot better managed and organized. Just as Windows or Mac OS is the operating system for your computer, consider Bridge the operating system for your images and Photoshop.
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