Compared to Lightroom, Adobe Bridge takes a lot of trash talk. As one big-name photographer put it, “It comes free with Photoshop. You get what you pay for.” And so this idea has disseminated down from the industry leaders, all the way to the hobbyist photographers, so that no matter what company I’m in, when I mention using Bridge I’m met with the question, “Why don’t you just buy Lightroom?”
Contrary to this perception, I do not – not even for an instant – believe that Bridge is somehow the retarded step-child in the Adobe family. Nor do I prescribe to the idea that, just because I didn’t send additional copies of Mr. Franklin’s portrait to Adobe, this particular program is somehow “less than.” (And let’s face facts: given Photoshop’s price tag, not even the bar code sticker on the bottom of the box is free.)
I’ve been using Bridge for several years now and continually find that it fits my needs, even as those needs have evolved. Perhaps even more to the point, as my needs have evolved I’ve found that there is more to Bridge than initially meets the eye. Just like Photoshop, the sheer depth of features results in some of them being hidden in the background, often until someone else points them out.
Scott Kelby, who is definitely a Lightroom guy, went so far as to put together 100 video clips, entitled “100 Ways Lightroom Kicks Bridge’s @$$.” I encourage you to check it out. If you can’t spare the time to watch all 100 videos, at least scan the titles to see what those 100 reasons are. Depending on the kind of photographer you are, they might resonate with you. Personally, I didn’t find a single item out of the 100 to convince me to switch. Nor was I converted after attending Kelby’s “Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It” tour, where I was able to watch him use Lightroom first-hand (even thought I had expected to be).
In response, here’s my list of Not-Quite-100 Ways that Bridge Does Everything I Need:
- Image Import: Bridge lets me select individual images or a whole card to import, creates custom folders, and applies any of my pre-set metadata templates to the files.
- Review Mode: displays all images in a folder in a navigable stream, where they can be rated 1-5 stars or be rejected via keyboard commands
- ACR Launch: Adobe Camera RAW launches from Bridge itself (without having to open Photoshop) for a full range of RAW adjustments. (Both Lightroom and Bridge use the same ACR module, so no difference there)
- Image Tagging: five customizable presets let you tag images via keyboard command. I use this as a reminder system: red tags still need editing, blue tags need keywords, purple tags need printing, etc
- IPTC Fields: Bridge will complete some of these based on the metadata preset you selected during import, but fields can also be completed/removed/edited at any time. IPTC data can be entered on multiple images at once through two methods: data can be entered directly into the Metadata sidebar panel, or into the full IPTC editor by selecting the desired images and pressing Shift+Ctrl+Alt+I.
- Renaming: Crtl+Shift+R launces the Rename window, which allows you to select a series of manual or automated fields through which you can rename the selected images. The window also shows a preview of the new name, so you can make sure you got it right
- Keywords: Bridge supports several variety of keywords, including hierarchical, and allows for easy addition/adjustment of keyword choices and application to images.
- Ratings: Bridge offers a 0-5 star rating system (with keyboard assignment shortcuts). I use this to tag any edited images that I feel are extraordinary within each folder, and combine it with a corresponding star count keyword to make them searchable. Anytime I want to see my very best work, I can search for 5-star images
- Batch Processing: it’s implied in the previous items, but Bridge handles batch processing. Image adjustments can be done via ACR, while meta and file adjustments are done in the main module to any selection of photos
- Search: Bridge supports multi-field searching across hard drives, with the ability to search via a wide range of criteria
- External Device Support: Bridge can navigate and search external drives for transfer and indexing of images
- Preview & Comparison: moving between screen modes, I’m able to view a contact sheet of images, as well as larger views of individual images and comparisons between multiple images on the same screen
- Output Mode: Bridge will generate contact sheets, print packets, or web outputs. This is particularly useful for generating PDF contact sheets for client review
- EXIF Data: EXIF data is easily accessed through the Metadata panel, providing a full readout of camera settings for each image
- Photoshop Tools: an easy way to select a group of images and run them through one of PS’s tools, such as Photomerge or HDR. It’s easy to select the photos in Bridge and launch the tool from there
- Customized Layout: Bridge can be customized to fit my needs. In any of the preset or custom views, I can rearrange layout, add or remove display panels, and resize it all to taste. (Using the options, I can also adjust the tonality of the gray background)
- Fast: with good hardware (which you should have anyway, if you’re working in Photoshop) Bridge launches quickly, is responsive, and rarely lags or hangs
- No additional cost: is it lame to add this one to the list? I think it’s valid – Bridge doesn’t cost anything extra, as it is part of the Photoshop package
So what do you think? Maybe you learned a few things about Bridge that you didn’t know before. Or maybe you read this and still think that Lightroom is the answer. The choice is yours – what’s important is that you have a workflow that, well, works for you. Bridge does everything I need and, since it comes with Photoshop, it’s the logical place to start.