I will never forget the first time I opened Photoshop — I was a poor college student, working in a professional film photo lab. It was my job to painstakingly go through the scans of EACH and every photo in Photoshop (we are talking hundreds of photos per day) and remove any sand grain that might have blown in, and make basic adjustments. Digital cameras had just come out and were beginning to be used by professionals, but the digital photography world really hadn’t exploded yet. Photoshop was a new, exciting program, but there weren’t very many ways to speed up your workflow.
Now before you start thinking that this was decades and decades ago (and that I must be reaaally old) — let me remind you that the the growth and development of Photoshop has been very recent, and fast. Each version of Photoshop has had tremendous changes. If you are a nerd like me, you can read it’s history here, it’s quite enlightening! So no, this wasn’t too long ago, but it was many Photoshop versions ago!
Thankfully, the Photoshop wizards (as I like to call the Adobe team) have come up with some amazing workflow shortcuts in the last few versions of Photoshop. I cannot begin to emphasize how many hours of time this has saved me! If you are like me, you probably shoot 50 photos for every 5 that you really need. It’s one of the biggest problems of our digital era — how to handle the masses and masses of files we have without loosing your sleep, or your mind! Enter in the best part about Photoshop: Bridge & Camera Raw. These are digital plugins that are used as part of Photoshop, and will truly turn you into a Photoshop Superhero. Let’s go over some of the “highlight reel of Bridge & Camera Raw” today, and why you should be using it!
1. Bridge will help you quickly sort & organize your photos.
As I mentioned above, most photographers are guilty of shooting hundreds of photos. Trying to go through them quickly, organize them where you want them to go, and then highlighting the ones you want to actually spend time adjusting and editing can take a lot of time! Before Bridge, this could take HOURS! However, with Bridge, you can thumb quickly through photos in minutes. The Bridge program quickly loads thumbnails of all of your photos, so you can compare your photos to others–side by side, and batch by batch. You can rate the photos with stars, highlighting which ones are your favorite photos, and the program will “remember” these preferences. This means that later (even years later) you can come back and within seconds quickly find which photos from that batch were your best photos. So what does that mean as a photographer or designer? That means organizing your files will be easy, fast, and painless. And once you develop a system, you will be set for years and won’t have to go searching for that “one awesome photo” you took years ago.
2. Bridge + Camera Raw will help you make quick adjustments to your Raw & Jpeg images.
One of the best parts about Bridge, is it’s Camera Raw plugin. You can open up your raw image (or jpeg images for that matter), and make all of your most basic adjustments at once. Suddenly, you can change the exposure, saturation, contrast, and more within a few seconds, and change them in relation to each other, to make the best most possible adjustments. This is so much easier and faster than opening up each file in Photoshop, and then manually making each adjustment one at a time (which is how it use to be). If I had this Camera Raw plugin at my first job, I probably would have saved myself hundreds and hundreds of hours. It is pretty awesome.
3. Bridge + Camera Raw helps you “remember.”
Not only does Bridge help you remember your favorite photos, and helps you sort them, but it also helps you remember the original data and info about each picture. So even if you make all of these adjustments to the photo, but then decide you want to go back to it’s original, you can quickly uncheck and view these adjustments with a click of a button. In the example below, I took these photos a whole year ago last Halloween! As I was looking over them, I realized that I had adjusted several of them, but I wasn’t seeing the adjustments. I was able to click on them, find my “previous adjustments” and then quickly click back to that version. So I was able to see the photo perfectly adjusted, without doing it again. So Bridge has a terrific capacity to remember your original photos (as you took them) as well as any adjustments you made while working on them.
4. Bridge allows you to batch your photos!
Not only can you make quick adjustments to individual photos, but you can batch those edits across hundreds of photos within minutes. I go over more of this in my Photoshop 101 class, but for a quick summary: let’s say you took 50 photos in all in the exact same lighting and conditions (like these Halloween photos, that were taken in about 5 minutes before we went trick or treating.) I could pick one photo to make basic adjustments to, changing the exposure, fill light, etc, and then copy and paste those edits over the whole photo session. This takes seconds! Literally just a few clicks of your mouse, and you can have a whole photo session adjusted. This can save you hours and hours of time! Hundreds of photos adjusted without even opening them. So much awesomeness here, it’s really hard for me to not to be ecstatic about this particular feature of Bridge.
5. Bridge saves you time!
I cannot emphasize enough how much time Bridge & Camera Raw have saved me. Being able to sort, organize, filter, rate, and make basic adjustments, and then batching them have saved me hundreds and hundreds of hours. And that is not an exaggeration, because remember, that was my WHOLE job in college! With a few clicks of a button, you can find your best photo, make basic adjustments, and then apply those adjustments across your whole shoot. Then, after all of these quick steps, that have taken you minutes, you can pick out your photos that you want to edit further in Photoshop. Having all of this power with a few clicks is purely amazing, and the time you will save yourself is worth learning how to use Photoshop!
6. Bridge & Camera Raw are first and essential steps to Photoshop.
So, after reading all of this, some of you might be saying, why do I need Photoshop at all? First off, Bridge and Camera Raw are considered part of the “Photoshop” package and simply plugins, so you can’t have one without the other. They all rely on each other, and work together. In my Photoshop 101 and Photoshop 102 classes, we go over Bridge and Camera Raw in the first and second week, and I teach it as an essential step to the photo adjusting and editing process. After sorting, filtering, and making these basic adjustments in Bridge & Camera Raw, then you are finally ready to open up that file in the Photoshop program itself, and take it one step further.
For example, in the photo below, you can see the original, then the adjustments I was able to make in Camera Raw, and then finally, the adjustments I was able to make in Photoshop. So think of it as a whole package deal — as a process to helping you have a better workflow for adjusting and editing your photo.