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Photoshop Tutorials For Beginners | Lesson 3: Adobe Bridge
If you're starting to use Photoshop quite a lot, I recommend getting to know Adobe Bridge. It's a pretty simple file management application that works neatly with Photoshop. It literally bridges the gap between files and folders on your computer and Photoshop, with lots of helpful organizational features. In this tutorial I'm going to introduce you to using Bridge, so that you can start to make your workflow a whole lot more efficient.
1. What am I looking at?
When you open Adobe Bridge you'll automatically be in the "Essentials" section, where there are panels on the left and right, with image thumbnails in the central area. Choose which thumbnails are displayed by selecting from Desktop, Pictures, Documents etc. in the top left panel, and then clicking on a folder to open its contents.
In the top right is a preview area. Click on any image to see it's preview. Below the preview are 2 tabs: "Metadata", which displays all the metadata of a selected image, and "Keywords", which shows keywords that can be assigned to an image if you choose to.
The panel on the lower left features 3 tabs: Filter, Collections and Export. Filtering is incredibly useful and powerful (more on this below). Click on the Filter tab to see a large list of criteria by which images can be filtered (selected to appear in the thumbnail area).
2. Viewing images in Bridge
Click any thumbnail image to see its preview appear in the top right preview area. Then click on the preview to make a magnifying glass, called the Loupe tool, appear. This is a really handy means of quickly scanning images for sharpness, detail and noise.
I you wish to change the size of all the thumbnail images, just use the horizontal scrolling bar at the bottom. This allows you to either fit more images on screen, or view the images more clearly at a larger size.
To view an image at a larger size than in the preview area, select it and then choose Filmstrip from the top. This takes you away from the Essentials screen and into a new layout. Your selected image appears above a filmstrip of all the other thumbnails. The thumbnails can still be scrolled through and selected.
Just like in the Essentials preview, to use the Loupe tool (magnifying glass), click once on the image, and drag it around to look at different areas. Click on the Loup tool once to close it.
3. Comparing images in Bridge
I like to use Bridge to compare similar photos from a shoot to decide which one I will spend time on in Photoshop. This is really easy to do. Just Cmd/Ctrl or Shift click multiple image thumnails and open them in Filmstrip (remember, just click images once, double-clicking loads them into Photoshop).
Your images will be side-by-side in Bridge. Use the Loupe tool to inspect the sharpness and noise levels within images, to decide which is the best. By holding Cmd/Ctrl when dragging the Loupe tool you will move it simultaneously on all images where it is in use. This is really useful when comparing similar images.
When comparing images in Filmstrip, I find the panel on the right irritating, because it takes up too much space, shrinking the size of the images. To remedy this, just press Tab once to make the panel disappear. Press Tab again to bring the panel back.
So, how do you identify your favourite images when you've chosen them...?
4. Labelling and rating images in Bridge
Labelling and rating images is very easy in Bridge. Go the Label menu and click an option from 1-5 stars to give a selected picture a rating. You can go to town on this if you wish! Personally, I usually just label images as 5 stars if I definitely want to edit them in Photoshop, and 4 stars if I like them, but haven't decided whether to process them yet. The shortcuts for star ratings are simply Cmd/Ctrl + 1/2/3 etc. Stars appear below images.
You can also give your photos a colour label. Again, under the Label menu, choose from "Select" to "To Do" to assign the range of colours. Colours appear below images, as background colour to the star rating. You might like to just use 2 or 3 of the colours, and they can denote whatever you wish (i.e. red for edited, yellow for needs editing, green for keep but don't edit etc.).
5. Adding keywords to images.
Keywords are a great way to organize photos in Bridge. In the Essentials screen, click on the Keywords tab in the right panel. You'll notice some pre-set example keywords (e.g. Mathew, Ryan, San Francisco etc.). These likely have no relevance to you (!) so you can delete them by clicking on them (the word, not the checkbox) and then clicking the trash can in the lower right.
To add your own keywords click the plus sign in the lower right and enter a word, e.g. London, Dad, Family Holidays, Christmas Day etc.
Tick the checkbox next to a keyword to apply it to the selected image(s). To make a keyword a sub-category of another, simply drag it on to the other keyword (e.g. drag "Halloween" on to "Party Photos").
6. Filtering images in Bridge
Filtering is a powerful way to select images based on a whole host of possible criteria. Choose the Filter tab from the left panel. Select one of the sub-categories and choose one of the options. You can filter by almost anything, from orientation (portait/landscape), to ISO speed, to Keywords, to focal length, to white balance, to date and so on.
Choose just one criteria to show show all images within the selected folder that adhere to it. Choose multiple different filter options to drill down and display only those images will all of the selected characteristics.
For example, you could find all images keyworded with New York, in portrait orientation, with a shutter speed of 1/50, 1/60 or 1/70 second, taken in September 2012, with a focal length of 80mm in a few seconds!
7. Using Bridge in Photoshop
To open an image from Bridge into Photoshop just double-click on it. But Photoshop also allows you to access Bridge from within the Photoshop workspace itself, using a feature called Mini Bridge. This is great because it saves time and gives you organizational advantages within Photoshop.
In Photoshop, go to the Windows menu and choose Extensions>Mini Bridge.
This normally opens MB as a large panel at the bottom of the screen, which is rather intrusive. So drag it over to the right hand panel area, and dock it with the small icons between the panels and the image area. The little icon shown will be a folder with "MB" on it. Click on it once to expand Mini Bridge, and click it again to close it.
With MB open, navigate to an image that you wish to open. You can even see a preview in the bottom left, which when clicked on zooms to 100% (just as with the Loupe tool). To open an image as a new layer on top of an existing image, drag it on to the already opened image. To open it independently as a new document, drag it to the file name bar at the top (or into the empty gray space if no other images are currently open).
So that's a beginner's guide to using Adobe Bridge. It's really simple, but also very powerful for organizing and selecting photos. I hope you found it useful.
For a beginner-friendly book with step-by-step Photoshop tutorials, I recommend "Photo Nuts and Post" by Neil Creek.
Photoshop Tutorials For Beginners