Camera Raw is a wonderful raw converter, and Bridge is a pretty capable image manager, but what really makes Photoshop CS2 a compelling solution for a raw digital workflow is the integration between the two. As soon as Bridge encounters a folder of raw files, Camera Raw kicks in automatically, generating thumbnails and generous-size previews that allow you to make good judgments about each image without actually converting it, so that you can quickly make your initial selects.
Note that the high-quality previews are based on Camera Raw's default settings for your camera. If you find that they're consistently off, it's a sign that you need to change your Camera Default settingssee "Loading and Saving Settings" in Chapter 4, Camera Raw Controls.
Then, when you've decided which images you want to work with, Bridge lets you apply conversion settings from Camera Raw by writing them to the image's metadata, again without doing an actual conversion, using either the Apply Camera Raw Settings command or, if you need to see larger zoomable previews, in Camera Raw itself.
When I do conversions other than quick one-offs, I almost always do so as batch processes, incorporating other actionsI might set up one batch to produce high-res JPEGs for client approval, another to produce low-res JPEGs for e-mailing, and still another to prepare images for localized editing in Photoshop, with adjustment layers already added so that much of the grunt work is already done for me. Then, when the computer is busy doing my work for me, I go off and lead my glamorous life….
In the next chapter, It's All About the Workflow, I'll examine the process from bringing images into Bridge to producing final images in much more detail, but here's a thumbnail sketch of the kinds of work you do in Bridge.
Selecting and Sorting
One of the biggest bottlenecks in a raw digital workflow is in making your initial selects from a day's shoot. Bridge helps in getting past this bottleneck with the Rating and Label features.
I start by copying the files from the camera media to my hard driveI've learned from bitter experience to avoid opening images directly from the camera media in all but the direst emergency. Then I point Bridge at the folder full of raw images and wait the few minutes while it builds the thumbnails and previews and reads the metadata.
Next, I enter my copyright notice on all images by pressing Command-A to Select All and either using a metadata template from the Metadata palette menu or clicking in the copyright field in the IPTC section of the Metadata palette and typing in the notice manuallysee Figure 6-19.
For simple binary sorts, I load Bridge's Filmstrip View workspace, and then I use the arrow keys to advance from one image to the next. For the keepers, I press Command-1 or Command-' (apostrophe) to apply a single-star rating. The rest I simply bypass (though I may rotate images that need it by pressing Command-[ or Command-] to rotate them left or right, respectively).
When I've gone through all the images, I choose Show 1 or More Stars (Command-Option-1) from the main window's Unfiltered/Filtered menu, so that I can start processing the keepers without being distracted by the rejects. (Of course, later on I'll probably choose Show Unrated Items Only from the same menu for a more nuanced look at the rejects.)
If a yes/no/maybe approach appeals to you more than a straight binary choice, you can take a second pass through the 1-star-rated images, and add one or more stars to those images that deserve them. You can also make use of Bridge's Label feature to add another layer of differentiation that you can use separately from or in addition to the star ratings.
Last but not least, if you're the type who thinks in terms of sequences of images rather than single images, you can drag the thumbnails into the order you want, just as you did with film on a light table. Once you've sequenced the images, you can use Batch Rename to rename the files, including a numbering scheme that reflects your custom sort order.
At this stage, I'll often look at the images using Slide Show mode for a quick reality check. I find that I sometimes notice things in the slide show that weren't obvious from looking at the Preview panel or the thumbnails, and I may adjust ratings accordingly.
Applying Camera Raw Settings
The slowest possible way to process raw images in Photoshop CS2 is to open them one by one, make adjustments in Camera Raw, click OK to open the image in Photoshop, and then save it. Unless you're working for an hourly rate, I don't recommend this as a workflow.
Instead, I open images that require similar edits simultaneously in Camera Raw, then I use the Synchronize button to apply the edits to multiple images. If I feel unusually confident, I may do a rough edit pass by editing one image in Camera Raw, and then use Copy/Paste Camera Raw Settings from Bridge's Edit menu to apply that image's settings to others, but seeing a large zoomable preview in Camera Raw is often invaluable.
Once I've applied settings to the images, I either save them by opening them in Camera Raw, selecting them all, and clicking Save x Images, or I use Batch to convert the images and also run an action. I'll discuss Batch in more detail in Chapter 9, Exploiting Automation.
Of course, some images deserve more attention than others, and hence get processed more than once. One of the problems that digital makes worse rather than better is never knowing when you're finished! The key to working efficiently is to go from the general to the specific, starting out by making all the candidate images look good rather than great, and applying general metadata and keywords to large numbers of images. Then you make more detailed edits and more specific metadata entries to smaller numbers of images until you're left with the ones that genuinely deserve and demand individual treatments. With planning and forethought, you can handle huge numbers of images relatively painlessly.