When it comes to efficiency in converting raw images, actions are the key. I almost always convert raw images in batches using actions rather than simply opening them in Photoshop. Final deliverable images almost always require some handwork in Photoshop, but for the intermediate phases I'll often save images either directly out of Camera Raw, or using Photoshop's Image Processor if I need both a JPEG and a TIFF version of the images.
Even when I anticipate significant handwork in Photoshop, I try to work as efficiently as possible. Even in worst-case scenarios, such as when you need to stack multiple renderings of the same image, there are more and less efficient ways to do the job. I'll discuss the various built-in automation features in detail in the next chapter, Exploiting Automation, but here's the strategic overview.
One of the most useful additions to the raw workflow toolkit is the capability of Camera Raw 3.0 to save images in the background, hosted either by Photoshop or Bridgesee "The Main Control Buttons" in Chapter 4, Camera Raw Controls, and "Saving Images in the Background" in Chapter 5, Hands-On Camera Raw.
I use background saving for two distinct purposes.
Bear in mind that when Camera Raw is tied up doing saves in one application, it's still available for use in the other.
Background saving is useful when you've done everything the image needs in Camera Raw, but Camera Raw can't do everything I need to most images. For example, I always sharpen in Photoshop using PhotoKit Sharpener, and I often perform selective corrections to parts of the image in Photoshop, which Camera Raw simply can't do. But when I do so, I don't open the image in Photoshop and start editing. Instead, I use one of the options on Bridge's Tools>Photoshop menu to do as much of the work as possible. I'll discuss these in much greater detail in Chapter 9, Exploiting Automation, but for now I'll give you the 30,000-foot overview.
This is the Big Daddy of all the automation features, and is capable of doing just about anything that Photoshop can be made to do. To run Batch using selected images in Bridge as the source, you must invoke Batch from Bridge's Tools>Photoshop menu. If you try to launch Batch from Photoshop, you'll find that Bridge is grayed out as a source. The basic idea is that Batch takes selected images in Bridge as its source and opens them in Photoshop using the Camera Raw settings for each image. Then it runs an action on the images in Photoshop, and either leaves them open in Photoshop, saves them in a destination folder (optionally renaming them in the process), or, a potential big hurt-me button, saves and closes the files in place.
Most raw files are read-only in that Photoshop can't write the raw formats, but some cameras create their raw files as TIFF. If you have one of these cameras, avoid Save and Close like the plague, because it will overwrite your raw originals with the processed versions!
This option lets you create a slide show in PDF format or a multipage PDF with one image per page. For the slide show, you can specify how long each image stays on screen and choose a transition, but you can't add captions or copyright notices. It's quick and easy, but limited.
This option lets you save up to three versions of the selected images, a JPEG, a TIFF, and a Photoshop file, each in their own folders. You can resize the image independently for each format, run an action on the images, and embed a copyright notice (though in my opinion, you should already have done so long before you launched Image Processor). Image Processor is the easiest way to save a low-res JPEG and a high-res TIFF in the same operation.
Contact Sheet II
This option lets you build a contact sheet. You can specify a page size, select how many images appear per page, choose whether to preserve rotation or orient all images the same way for best fit, and choose whether or not to include filenames as captions, with the choice of font and size.
This option lets you produce a package of each image, with multiple copies and sizes of the image on the same pagefor example, on an 8x10 page, you could specify one 5x7, two 2.5x3.5, and four 2x2.5 inch versions.
You can customize the layout and add captionsautomated options are any one of filename, copyright notice, description, credit, or title, all picked up from the IPTC metadata, or a custom text string. This is a surprisingly deep little feature.
Web Photo Gallery
This option is like a contact sheet for the Web, but since it's a digital contact sheet, it offers the option of including feedback links. Like Picture Package, this feature has surprising depths, which I'll look at in detail in Chapter 9, Exploiting Automation.
All the work you do in Bridge forms the foundation for future automation. Images are converted using the right Camera Raw settings at the correct orientation, and the converted images contain all the metadata you attached to the original raws. Since this work is so important, you should understand how it gets saved and stored, and that means knowing a little about Bridge's cache.
Opening Multiple Iterations
Fairly often, I find it useful to combine differently converted versions of the same raw image in Photoshop, combining different tonal treatments to extend the apparent dynamic range, combining different white balances, or even combining different noise reduction strengths.
In Photoshop CS, this was a fairly painful process for two reasons.
Camera Raw hosted by Photoshop addresses both of these issues neatly with its Open Copy feature. When you press Option, the Open button changes to the Open Copy button. Open Copy opens the image in Photoshop without updating the Camera Raw settings, and if a copy is already open, it appends a number to the document nameif the first copy opens as filename, the second copy opens as filename-2, and so on.
Rememberthis feature is only available in Camera Raw hosted by Photoshop (which, since it's where you want the image to go, makes perfect workflow sense).
I hesitated to include this because I don't claim to have tested the process with a large number of cameras, and it's not a workflow that's sanctioned by any of the vendors involved. But if you wish Camera Raw offered tethered shooting, you may want to give this a try.
In theory, this should work. In practice, it has worked with both (Canon) cameras I've tried, so this comes with no warranties, expressed or implied. It doesn't take long to determine if it works or not with your camera. When it does, you can open the image in Camera Raw without even waiting for Bridge to read the thumbnailas soon as the icon appears, you can open the image.