A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

Although it was widely acclaimed the Photoshop CS File Browser also had its fair share of critics. Chief among the criticisms were: it was only available to Photoshop users, it was slow, and worst of all Windows users couldn't place it on a second monitor. We're told that this changed with the introduction of Adobe Bridge, but are the changes enough to satisfy all of the critics?


The Bridge sits at the centre of  the Adobe Creative Suite allowing users of applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and  GoLive to benefit  from features such as: view, rotate, search, sort, label, rank, annotate, rename and even editing of digital image files. Of course, being a standalone application means that all of these features are delivered  independently of the individual Creative Suite applications thus reducing the processor and memory overheads, which in theory makes it faster. Bridge also has the ability to have multiple windows open at the same time, and these can be placed on a second monitor. Nevertheless, whilst many believe these improvements take the concept of image browsing and management to a new level of power and convenience they also acknowledge that Bridge still lacks some important features, chief of which is the absence of a high resolution preview or loupe mode.


Figure 1 - Bridge Filmstrip View and Slideshow

At first many Bridge users thought the built-in slideshow, which also allows you to rate and label images was sufficiently large for previewing, and for some it is. Others were disappointed and voiced their dissatisfaction widely. In particular, photographers requiring 100% previews found that neither Filmstrip view or the Slideshow offer enough resolution. The problem with both these options is that they're based on the cached preview, which is limited to 1024x1024 pixels, and at this resolution the previews aren't good enough for critical image assessment. With the introduction of version 1.02 update in July 2005 many hoped for some improvement, but they were to be disappointed. To be fair there was a modest improvement  in that something close to full-screen previews (i.e. pressing the "D" in slideshow) was provided but the resolution was still very limited. Fortunately there is a workable solution in the form of Camera Raw 3's Filmstrip mode.


Figure 2 - Camera Raw in Filmstrip Mode

Bridge Views

There are many ways to configure the Bridge window and the screenshot below is one that I have saved as a Workspace (Window menu > Workspace > Save Workspace). Although not too different from the default I find this particular layout more useful because the space normally taken up by the preview panel is now available for other more useful purposes (e.g. metadata and/or folders).

Tip:  it's possible to associate a keyboard shortcut with up to 7 saved workspaces. If you haven't already used this feature then I recommend that you do because it's a real time saver.


Figure 3 - Bridge Customised Folder View

Keyboard shortcuts: for simplicity the keyboard shortcuts are shown in Windows/Mac format; e.g. Ctrl/Cmd+R should be read as Ctrl+R (Windows) or Cmd+R (Mac).

Step 1 - Selecting the Images

Manual selection of the non-contiguous images is achieved by "clicking" on individual images whilst holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key. Alternatively, you can make a bulk selection of contiguous images by "clicking" the first and last whilst holding down the Shift key. Selecting every image in a folder is really easy requiring only that you hit the Ctrl/Cmd+A keys. Obviously the more images you select the more you can review. However, be aware that opening too many images into Camera Raw will slow it down so I suggest that you try not to exceed 200, or thereabouts.

Step 2 - Open Images into Camera Raw

There are a number of ways to open the selected images into Camera Raw: Ctrl/Cmd+O opens the selected images into a Photoshop hosted version of Camera Raw or Ctrl/Cmd+R opens them into a Bridge hosted version of Camera Raw. However, both methods leave the Bridge window open in the background and this may not be ideal. If you're like me and prefer to close the Bridge window when Camera Raw is launched into Photoshop, then use Ctrl/Cmd+Alt/Option+Return. Unfortunately, there is no similar shortcut for a Bridge hosted option.

Tip:  when Camera Raw is hosted by Photoshop, Bridge can be working away in the background building the cache for other folders/subfolders, whereas a Bridge hosted instance of Camera Raw will cause background caching to stop.

Tip: when Camera Raw opens it will immediately begin the process of building the high resolution preview images. Fortunately, it does so on-the-fly, but be aware that takes it time to generate these previews. The yellow alert icon that appears on the top right of an image signifies that the high resolution preview is being generated. When you select an image Camera Raw gives it priority and the preview will usually be fully generated within a second or two. Usually this means that the image initially appears soft, almost like it's out of focus, but then it quickly snaps into focus.


Figure 4 - Camera Raw Filmstrip Mode

Step 3 - Configuring Camera Raw for 100% Previews

Whilst the objective of this tutorial is to demonstrate how Camera Raw can be used for 100% previews it's also important that it does so in an efficient manner. For example, simply selecting each image from the filmstrip and hitting the Ctrl/Cmd+Option+0 keys to zoom it to100% will drive you nuts, especially when you're trying to preview lots of images. The most efficient method is to choose Select All using either the button or Ctrl/Cmd+A.


Figure 5 - Camera Raw 100% View

With all of the images now selected you can choose 100% from the magnification pop-up (Figure 5, red circle) or better still use the Ctrl/Cmd+Option+0 keys. Either way will have the same effect, in so far as Camera Raw is now configured to show each image at 100%. Next hit the Shift+Ctrl/Cmd+A keys to deselect the images.

Ste 4 - Previewing the Images

Previewing the images at 100% is now as simple as "clicking" on them or using the "down-arrow" key. If you hold the Spacebar key down the Hand Tool appears, which allows you scroll the image in any direction using the "mouse".

  • To rate an image hit the Ctrl/Cmd+1 through 5 keys.

  • To label an image hit the Ctrl/Cmd+6 through 0 keys.

  • To mark an image for deletion hit the Delete key, a large red X will appear in the top left corner of the thumbnail.

Note: The numeric keypad (right side of keyboard) cannot be used to apply labels or ratings with Camera Raw.

Tip: When working in Camera Raw film-strip mode you might find that after adjusting an image the keystrokes for Next (Down-arrow key) and Previous (Up-arrow key) image no longer function... frustrating isn't it? The normal solution is to use the mouse to click the little triangle buttons found at the bottom right corner of the image preview window. However, there is a much faster method that doesn't involve the mouse, i.e. Next image ~ Cmd/Ctrl+Right-arrow key and Previous image ~ Cmd/Ctrl+Left-arrow key.


Figure 6 - Ratings, Labels and Marked for Deletion

Once you've completed your review of the images simply click the Done button and return to the Bridge. In Bridge you should find that all of the previews reflect any rating and/or labelling applied in Camera Raw. Images that were marked for deletion in Camera Raw should already have been deleted. Now wasn't that simple!

As Bruce Fraser says: "I agree that a loupe tool in Bridge would be a better long-term solution, but it WILL be a long-term solution. This way isn't all bad once you get used to it. (Command-A, Command-R, Command-A, Command-Option-zero, then down arrow to go through the images.)". Bruce is the author of a very useful book called Real World Camera Raw with Photoshop CS2. If you're interested in getting to know the true power of Bridge and Camera Raw, then I recommend that you obtain a copy.

All of the keyboard shortcuts mentioned in this tutorial are listed on the downloadable PDF's , which can be accessed from links at the bottom of my Bridge & Camera Raw - Keyboard Shortcuts article.


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