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When one converts a piece of paper to an electronic document,   all too often they are simply scanned at the "whatever" setting and saved as a JPEG. This is not surprising because JPEG is a format that most people have heard of so it's a "safe" format to select. Some scanners have an option to save as a PDF and that is preferable to a JPEG, but there are two areas this leaves off: a clean scan and a search-able PDF.

First off, let me explain what I mean by a clean scan: our eyes are very forgiving. We look at a newspaper and see black text on  paper and we pretty much ignore that the paper is  non-white. The scanner doesn't know the paper is supposed to be white so it records it for what it is: not white. Since newspaper are a worse-case scenario, I will discus and demonstrate with newspaper but just be aware that  all scans will display   paper as being off-white unless you do something to make the paper white.

Let me start with the dynamics of a clean scan and how to create a clean scan.

The problems with newspapers start with the fact that the paper is not white and the thinness of the paper causes the text and anything else on the back side to show up through the page. Thus, if you just run the scanner on a section of newspaper you'd get something like this:


One of the problems here is that there are some color images on the back side of this page and trying to deal with all of the colors is a waste of time. So, the first thing you can do here is to change your settings from Color scan to Black & White scan and that will give you this:


While it's still bad shading, at least it's consistent-bad shading.

At this point there are two options for the person doing the scanning:

  1. You can pre-clean the text prior to the final scan of the page.
  2. You can simply go with the gray background as above and get rid of that in a step further down in this article


Needless to say, both of these have advantages and disadvantages but let's start with pre-cleaning the scan.

Any time you are scanning, you need to first do a Prescan. This is done to verify that what you want to scan is on the scanning table and also allows you to crop the scan. This is also where you can make decisions on color or gray-scale scanning, resolution, final output size, create a name, where you are saving the image, etc. As a rule, I never save a scan as a JPEG, rather I always save it as a TIF image (for reasons that are beyond the focus of this blog). Yes, the TIF images will be large in storage size but do not worry, once you've converted them into PDFs (which will be considerably smaller), you can toss the TIF images you had just created.

To fix the whiteness of the paper, bring up your scanner software's histogram. Most scanning software of merit has histograms and most of the software that comes with your scanner will have histograms. However, if you tend to use the "Full Auto mode" that some scanning software have, select the Professional mode that should also be available.

[Important: Apple's Image Capture is absolutely dreadful for scanning and should be avoided at all cost. I do not know what's available as default on Windows machines but your first choice should be the software that came with your scanner. When first opened, it will probably come up with an Auto mode, do look for any options for Professional control.]

When you first bring up the Histogram, it will probably look something like this (the red rectangle is my crop line):


A histogram, if you are not familiar with them, is a bar graph of all  256 shades from black to white along the "X" (horizontal) axis where the far right is absolute white while  the far left side is absolute black. The "Y" (vertical) axis is the count of pixels that have that specific shade of gray so that if any given shade has a whole bunch of pixels, it will be tall column, if fewer pixels are of any given shade, it will be shorter. In the case of this scan, we can see that there's a lot of light-medium gray pixels through to some medium dark pixels and no white or light gray and no black or dark gray pixels.

What we can do is to tell the scanner that light gray pixels should be considered white and that the medium dark pixels should be considered black. To to this you mouse-down and slide the little arrows on the bottom of the histogram until we see what we want as shown below:


If you look at the image above you can see that most of the light gray pixels were too dark for what I wanted, I wanted the pixels that made the page look white. The trick is to maintain  the text remains black. Keep in mind this in entirely subjective. What you do not want to do is to make the gray so white as to cause the text to start losing its shape as shown below on the right side.


The good news is that if you are scanning a number of pages, the controls of the histogram are sticky. That means that once you set everything for the first page, all subsequent pages from the same souce should be good to go.

After setting the histogram, the final scan look pretty good as shown below:


At this point you can either drag these TIFs into Acrobat icon or Open the TIF from the Acrobat's Open window. Acrobat will automatically convert these not only into PDFs but also "Searchable" PDFs. What that means is that Acrobat can "OCR" (Optical Character Recognition) all of the text and convert that into words so you can both search and copy and paste the text. Below is the TIF from above that has now been converted into a PDF and is also search-able You can see that it's search-able because I can select the text in the document.


Had I not done that cleaning, Acrobat could still do the conversion to PDF and making it search-able as shown below.


But is the text here any better or worse than the other? For those who do OCRing on a regular basis there are known issues that can come to bite you. For example if the letters "r" and "n" appear next to each other in a poor quality scan, they can be interpreted as an "m." One way to test this is to convert the PDF into a Word document and look for underlined text with red lines. The red lines indicate bad spelling that can either be

  1. A real word that Word doesn't know about (e.g., someone's surname)
  2. A word that was chopped in half (e.g., a hyphenated word, if Word didn't do the hyphenation so it doesn't know it's been hyphenated)
  3. A word that was originally misspelled in the document
  4. A word that was badly OCRd.

So, here's the cleaned text after converting into Word:

cheech-clean-no edit-word.png

And here's the text that was not pre-cleaned and converted into Word:

cheech-before-no edit-word.png

As you can see, there are a significantly greater amount of errors with the text that was not pre-cleaned in the scanner prior to converting to text via OCR. But admittedly, a lot of people do not want to bother pre-cleaning a document, they don't think about it  or are unaware that it can be done.

Now, I should point out one important thing here is that what you see in this PDF is not necessarily what the OCR text thinks it is. So for example, while in the PDF you may clearly see "It's raining.." as the first words in the story, the not pre-cleaned text is "It'sraining..." So if you copy and paste this, you may not get exactly what you are expecting.

But I continue...

However, there is ONE MORE way to clean a scan and make it into a nice looking PDF and that's to delete the background by editing out that background in Acrobat. OK, here's the deal: When text is OCRd in Acrobat, a new layer of text is created ON TOP of the original document. The original document is below and the text is removed from the original document, and any image remains in the lower layer. Any component of that PDF can be deleted at any time. Here's how:

First open that original, non pre-cleaned scan in Acrobat, but this time after opening the document, click on "Edit PDF" in the Tools in the Right Hand Panel. If you do not see "Edit PDF..." in the Right Hand Panel, open Tools and click on the drop down below "Edit PDF" to add it to the Shortcuts on the Right Hand Panel. "Edit PDF" is such a valuable tool that if you do not already have it there, it should be for easy and quick access in the future.


After adding it to the Right Hand Panel, the tool will default-land on the bottom. If you want to rearrange this you can move it to a higher location by simply dragging it to the location of your choice.


Now that you have easy access to "Edit PDF...," click on it with your original scan. When you do so you will see Acrobat doing a variety of processing on the image.

You will now see thin rectangle lines around all of the text. The text is now completely editable and if there were any words that the original article had misspelled, you can fix then. But the important thing here is that you can now click on the background and delete the background. As shown below: just click your cursor where there's no text:


Now tap the Delete key and all the gray is gone. Then tap the Close Tool by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner to get out of Edit mode:


and you will see a very clean document as shown below [I want to thank Kelly Vaughn for introducing me to this great trick]:


Keep in mind that the quality of this OCR is just as bad as it was before, the page just looks better. However, the actual quality of any scan will vary considerably all over the place so do not dismiss this approach out of hand. In addition, the value of an excellent OCR has more to do with the need for quality search-ability. The scan itself will be clean and easy to read and often, that's typically the most critical issue.

One other issue  is: what do you do if the background contains important images. As stated earlier, the background contains the background content: both poor scanning debris AND any images that the document may have. The text, after OCRing, resides on a layer above the background. But if you rely upon deleting the back areas of a scan, watch out if there are images on the page.


Finally, here is the page above but as a pre-cleaned color image scan that has both the images on the page as well as the text.


Scanning a page with the intent of creating a PDF and/or to access the text of that page, one has make choices based on many factors: how clean the original page is, how thin the paper is, how much time do you want to take with the scan, is the quality of the OCR critical, and all of the other issues touched upon in this article. There is software out that that can do an amazing amount in "Auto" mode and I do not think you should avoid those when available. However, if the specific document you have does not provide an acceptable result, this article should provide the information for you to know what went wrong and why, and more importantly, how to get the best possible document to keep for yourself or to send to someone else.

Introduction of the problem

I've been scanning a lot of old family photos recently. One of the issues that I've had to deal with is that it was not uncommon for printers to use a textured or highly textured paper with some sort of pattern to provide some level of depth to the image. Admittedly, this did provide a nice appearance to the image, but if you are trying to scan that image for archival purposes, the texture can prove to be very problematic. If the surface had a flat (non-glossy) surface, you'd see small shadows in the region of the texture. If the surface were glossy, you'd see sharp reflections from the texture.


Below are two samples of each. On the left is an image with texture. Because this is subtle when seen on the web, I've placed a closeup within the image. On the right is a glossy image that has a lot of highly textured points sticking out to provide  depth. In this example I've held the image in the light in a way that fully exacerbates the problem as the reflected light overwhelms the image.


With the flat textured image like the one on the left above, there are two potential approaches: digital and mechanical. The digital approach relies upon FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) applications. There used to be a variety of these applications out there but they are either fairly complicated to use (such as this software) or are no longer available. PC users may have better luck finding this kind of software. Because FFT requires a regular repeating pattern in the image, the software approach will not help the image on the right because there is no regular repeating pattern of artifacts.


One common  suggestion is to use a Gaussian blur to remove the textured lines (as in the above image on the left) by blurring the image. I recommend against this because it also blurs the image as well. If you have a good sharp image, why blur it unnecessarily?

Another suggestion is to scan twice but rotate the second scan by 180 degrees. The images are stacked (into layers) above each other and the user needs to reduce Opacity until there is a happy medium between seeing the shadow and not seeing the shadow.

An alternate approach is to do multiple scans but not just twice. Here's the deal: the texture you see from the scanner occurs because the light is not directly adjacent to the sensor and this creates shadow. Any variations on the orientation of the image will cause the shadow to change its position. You can align the scansas layers and then average them out. And here the more the merrier. With the image on the left above, four scans (at 90 degrees rotation each) gave good results. For the image on the right right above, four scans (at 90 degree rotation) was good but eight (at 45 degrees each scan) was much better.


For my scanning I was using the Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner. For my software I was mostly using SilverFast 8 (by LaserSoft Imaging). Because this is a fairly monotonous process, it's easy to lose track of your progress. As such, I found that placing a Post-it note on the back of the image with an arrow pointing toward the top of the image and a circular arrow pointing the way I'm rotating the image helped considerably. (You can laugh, but if you're tired, this is really really handy.) You can see my system in the image below.


When performing the scans, what you need to do is to:

  1. Prescan, make all of the cropping, adjustments, and any alterations you choose to make on the first scan. Then scan the image.
  2. Next open the scanner and rotate the image 45 or 90 degrees (as you so choose) [Read below for methods of capturing rotation with your scanning software.]
  3. Close the scanner lid, do a Prescan to locate the image, then move and/or rotate your cropping rectangle, close the lid and scan.
  4. Repeat as necessary for the four or eight images you desire.


The thing here is that you do not want to make any subsequent adjustments to the quality of the scan; leave the adjustments alone.

It's important to note that some scanning software allows you to rotate your crop rectangle while others cannot. Because of this I'll explain the process first for scanning software that can rotate the crop rectangle, and an alternate proceedure for  scanning software that cannot rotate the crop rectangle. The end result will be no different.


If your scanning software can rotate the crop region:

Here I used Silverfast 8 scanning software which allows rotation of the crop region.


This is fairly straightforward: you place your image on the scanning bed at the angle you want, then do  a prescan to see the image and the crop region. With Silverfast you have four half-circles on all sides (see the image below), if you mouse down on these you can rotate the crop region. In each corner you can resize the crop region to fit your image, and if you place the mouse along a side, you can resize along that side. One annoyance is that the rotation axis is located at the middle of the image, which means that if you align the crop region with a corner of the image,  the crop-corner is no longer near the image-corner once you rotate the image. Because of this you  have to move the crop region to accommodate this movement.


One  problem that you may encounter is  if your image is too tall (or wide). Your manual rotation of the crop region will stop if the opposite corners  are wider than the scanner. The only option you have here is to shorten the rectangle, rotate, and then resize the rectangle as necessary. But I do encourage you to only change length OR width, not both.


I also encourage you to name/number the scans as you do them. Once you load these images into Bridge, you cannot tell which one is which, as shown below. For the rest of the process it really will not make a difference, but if you miss one, this will help you determine which one you missed.


At this point  use Adobe Bridge's rotation tools to bring all of the images to an upright position.


If your scanning software cannot rotate the crop region:

Here I used Epson Scan (v. 3.9.4) scanning software, because it does not allow  rotation of the crop region.

Obviously this only affects your process if you chose to add 45 degree rotations of your image. Since you cannot rotate the images, you are left with crops that contact the corners of the image as shown below. Fortunately this is fairly straightforward to resolve.


All you need to do is one extra step: bring the image into Photoshop and select the Crop Tool. As shown on the left, along the Options bar you can see the "Straighten" option. Select that and then drag across one of the straight edges (as shown below in the middle). PS will understand that this is either a horizontal or vertical axis and rotate the image accordingly. Finally, as shown in the third image, you'll need to set the formal crop lines against the image. Tap the Enter key when finished, Save it, and you're done with that image.


This is obviously only necessary if you need to scan at 45 degrees and is not necessary at all if you are only doing 4 rotated scans.


Finishing the process, two options:


Method #1: Open all four (or eight) images into Photoshop.

First Open all (four or eight) of the files. Then, from the File menu, go into scripts and select "Load Files into Stacks" as shown below


When this opens, select "Add Open Files"


Finally check both boxes below.


Now, go to the Layer menu and choose Smart Objects -> Stack mode -> (and select either) Mean or Median. [Note that these are commonly used when taking a photo in a public place when you don't want all of the people in the final photo: You need to take many, many shots of thefountain (let's say) . As people  wander around, not everyone will be in every photo in the same place. Median will remove all the people from the photo.] In this case, however, because the shadows are not in every photo (or at least not in the same place), they (like the people around the fountain) will be cancelled out from the final photo.


Method #2:  if you have Dr. Brown's Services:

From Bridge you can select all 4 or 8 of the images and select Dr. Brown's Services and then Dr. Brown's Stack-A-Matic.

[Dr. Brown's Services can be downloaded here and installed in Adobe Bridge.]


Once at  this window, be sure to check the boxes shown and click OK:


Now go to the Layers menu and choose Smart Objects -> Stack mode -> (and select either) Mean or Median as you did in the first example.


The Result

So where does this get you?


From the  first photo at the top of this blog on the left above, you can see a detail on the left side, below. You can see the result after  processing in that same detail on the right.


For the other image, again in the detail on the left below is the first scan (this is not as bad as the first image I showed because this is from a single scan without holding the photograph to reflect the light, but it's still   unacceptable). On the right is the result of going through this process. Very acceptable.


The good news is that these textured photos are not as common as all the rest of your images. Out of over 700 images, I've only encountered 4. However, if you're going through the process of capturing your family's history, anything you can do to get the best possible image is worth the time and effort. I hope after reading this article you can recognize the vlaue of following this somewhat lengthy process.


I'd like to add a big thanks to Cristen Gillespie for helping me proof this blog. Cristen provided wonderful help.

In Part 1 we talked about how to take hundreds or thousands of slides and quickly turn them into digital images. This was done by photographing the slides with a good camera and a macro lens. While you will not get as good a result as a proper scanning of the slides, you will process your slides significantly faster than if you scanned. The goal here is speed and if your setup is done properly, and you understand how to work with Lightroom, you can get OK to pretty good results.

The problem with slides is that unless you can clearly see them, it's hard to see them well enough to know which images you want to keep or toss, like, or even cherish. Simply holding them up to a light is a very limited approach. By processing the images as presented below, you will quickly convert the photos of your slides into very viable digital images. However, speed is the operative word here.

I'm presenting a lot of information below, some of which may not be relevant to you depending on your Lightroom knowledge and experience. If you're already pretty good at Lightroom, there's a lot to skim. If you're new to Lightroom, there's information below that will help you process your slides as well as any image you encounter in Lightroom. Plus, it's always easier to learn an application while doing a project that uses that application. As such, this hopefully will be a functionally useful educational experience.

Also, as I stated in Part 1, I've processed over 5000 images at this point. I've tried a variety of approaches to speed up this process and the following techniques work for me. One of the advantages of Lightroom is how many ways there are to do the same thing. I find that I use many or all of some of these approaches to get the job done. That said, I'm sure there techniques that I'm not using because either I'm not aware of them or  they do not work for me. As always, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

Because of my approach here, this article on how to process your photographs of your slides is also a primer on how to use Lightroom. Lightroom is a wonderful application but very confusing to use because what you are looking at can change from one moment to another depending on what mode you're in or what you've clicked on recently. Because of this I will spend a few moments at appropriate times to make sure that what you are looking at on YOUR computer is what I'm showing on my screenshots.

In this article we'll discuss:

  • A global view of what you're doing here
  • Some tips on tethering your camera to Lightroom
  • What you can and cannot correct on these images
  • Tips on selecting and de-selecting images in Lightroom
  • Cropping a lot of slides uniformly using Auto Sync
  • Some techniques to self-review your slides
  • Removing and/or Deleting images
  • Using "Previous" to duplicate a slides adjustments
  • Using "Copy and Paste" to duplicate a slides adjustments
  • Using "Sync" to duplicate a slides adjustments
  • Using "Painter" to duplicate a slides adjustments
  • Fine-tuning adjustments on your slides
  • Digital Dust Removal
  • A variety of ways to Keyword your images
  • Fixing misspelled keywords
  • Face Detection

To Begin

As stated, photographing your slides is a great  opportunity to not only see your images, but to play Keep & Toss with your slides. If you have photos of nondescript mountains or nondescript people, they may have meant something at the time they were taken but now maybe not so much. You may chose to delete the photos of these slides from your hard drives or at least the image from your Lightroom collection. Because of the ability to better see your slides on your screen, what you do with these images is up to you. I will guide you on how to make these images as good as possible but you do not need to do ANYTHING from what I suggest. Just getting them into Lightroom might be sufficient. However, I found that since I can now see these images I might as well make the ones I like as good looking as possible. In addition, if there's any image that you particularly like, you can always pull out the original slide and do a proper scanning of the slide.

Just about everything that we'll be doing with Lightroom in this writing can be done with just about any version of Lightroom—you do not need the latest version. There are a few  techniques that can only be done with the newer releases but these are not critical to the objective: converting vast quantities of slides into a digital format.

Part of processing the images can start as early as when you are setting up the tethering your camera and computer together. This set up  can let you identify where the images will be placed in your catalog as well as start out with some keywords. [If you are not using tethering, you can do bulk Keywording during import from your camera's card as described in the Keywording section.] You can set your keywords to match the images' range you are processing. That is, if you've taken all of the images in one state (e.g., Florida), than that state can be placed in the keyword field. If in a specific location (e.g., Epcot), than I suggest you place both Florida and Epcot in the keyword list. Also note that I entered the slide box (or whatever location would suffice) that contained the slides. Again, this will help you find the slides at any future date.


You'll note that I do not have much of any custom names (for the slides) at this point. I've tried various approaches to changing the name of the slides as I processed the images but l gave up as it was  tortuous—too much stopping and starting. If you really wish to provide custom names to the images after they've been photographed, there is a MUCH easier way: when looking in the images in Library mode select all of the images that will share a name. Then from the Library menu select Rename Photos... Select option "Custom Name - Sequence" from the dropdown menu, provide the custom name, verify the Start Number, and tap OK and you're done. However, I honestly never found a strong advantage of customizing the names and often left the images with whatever name they received. Simply, Keywording is much more powerful and efficient than  naming  the images.


As stated, the goal is to process the images as efficiently as one can. If there are individual images you wish to enhance, you can always spend time with them in Lightroom one at a time. However, any time you can alter and fix more than one image at a time, the better. Lightroom helps this considerably by providing many ways to alter many images at a time.

What you can/can't correct on these images.

These images were first slides, not digital images. Therefore, there is no lens information to take advantage of Adobe's lens corrections. And part of this is you cannot expect to get any help from the new Transform Options of selecting the "Vertical," "Horizontal," or other options to remove the perspective of an building. Fortunately, if you use the "Guided" option  you can fix a distorted building, but most of the time I don't bother unless the image has some real issues and I want to take the time to fix the problem.)

Even though you've taken these as raw images (hopefully), any option to change their white balance by selecting sunlight, shade, tungsten, etc. from the White Balance dropdown menu are doomed before you start. Despite that, you can get close to fixing the White Balance by clicking on something gray-ish in the image with the White Balance Tool (or press "w"). More on this later


Another critical option that's not available is any grain correction—Photoshop and Lightroom do not know how to get rid of photographic film grain, that's a film issue, not a digital issue. If you have an image with noticeable photographic grain and you wish to fix that, your best option is to use a high-end scanning software such as SilverFast by LaserSoft Imaging. I've a sample of the benefits of this feature in the beginning of Part 1.

If you've taken your images as raw images, you will have excellent success with the Highlight and Shadow sliders. Likewise, you can control the white and black regions on the histogram with either the White and Black Sliders or by going up to the histogram, mousing down in one of the five regions (as you mouse-over each region will slightly lighten up) and dragging left or right as shown below.


Fortunately, one of the tools that IS available to enhancing the slides is the "Dehaze" tool. Unfortunately this also is a fairly new tool and is not available in earlier versions of Lightroom.

Some basic info on selecting images in Lightroom

So that you know what I'm looking at (and referring to), when I'm looking at image in the Library mode, I'm seeing the following view. Note, to get this you need to tap the Loupe View (e) seen just below the left side, below the image. I tend to not use the Grid view much (press the icon to the left of the Loupe View). However, there is one area where I do use Grid view and this will be brought up at a later time while I discuss Keywording.


Also note that the tools provided in this region can change by your choices. This is done on the far right of the tool region. If an item is checked, it will show. Also be aware that if you switch to the Grid view, the various tools change and the selections below also change. Fortunately what you chose is sticky so set it once and you are done. But again, the options for Grid and Loupe are different, it's just that once set each view's options will be sticky for that view. Anyhow, if I'm showing tools that you do not see, that's why.


Lastly, if you do not see this Tool region, press the "t" key and make it show or hide as you chose. Similarly, if you do not see the image thumbnails across the bottom, if you look at the bottom you see a small "up" pointing arrowhead as shown below. [Note: the contrast is dismal but it is there.] If the thumbnails are not showing and you mouse-over this arrowhead, the thumbnails will show, if you click on the arrowhead, the thumbnails will show and remain.


The goal in this article is to process many images as fast as possible, it's important to know how to select a single image, many sequential images and/or many non-sequential images. You might already know this material but if you are weak on these details, it will bring you up to speed on processes that will be discussed later. All of the following is done on the thumbnails that line the bottom of the screen.

Tips on Selecting and De-selecting images

If you click ON the image, that image will be selected.

clicking on an image to select.png

If you click above or below an image, you can also select an image. Let's call this "off-image clicking."

clicking off the image to select.png

If you click on one image and then Shift click on an image many images away, all of the continuous row of images (from beginning of the selection to end) will be selected.

And if you click on one image and Control/Command-click on any other images (regardless of order) they will be selected even if discontinuous.

Command-Control clicking to select.png

Now, notice above how one of the photos in the image above is a lighter gray than the others? THAT image will show up in the big Loupe view above. If you click ON any of the selected images (not off-image), then that image will be displayed in the Loupe view. This means that if you have more than one image selected but wish to change the view of which specific image is showing, you can. If you click off-image (on any of the images), that image will be selected and all of the other images will be deselected.

If you  press "Command/Control-a," all of the images will be selected. If you wish to deselect the images, you can either click any off-image clicking (and only that one image will be selected). Alternatively if you press Shift-Option-Command/Control-d,  all images will  be de-selected.

As you process your images, your ability to select and deselect the images is critical and the above tips will become 2nd nature in no time.

Processing the images: cropping off the slide's cardboard

As you recall in Part 1, I was very insistent upon making sure that each image was properly registered to a specific consistent location as you took the photos. The better you did this, the easier this next section will be.

Our first task is to crop the image so that none of the slide's cardboard is displayed. First, click on the Develop tab, or press Command/Control-Option-2 so that you are in the Develop tab (and not in Library mode).

The first bulk processing technique to demonstrate is "Auto-sync." I start here because this is one of the most powerful and consequently, one of the most dangerous adjustment tool in Lightroom. It's also a good place to start because it's a handy place to crop all of the images at once to remove the slide's cardboard. [Note: the way Lightroom works you cannot make any permanent changes to an image. Thus, if you crop an image in Lightroom and for whatever reason did a bad crop, you can always go back to the original image and nothing has been permanently damaged.]

Tap "Command/Control-a" to select all of the images. If you look at the bottom right of the screen you'll see a button called "Sync..." (More info on how to use Sync… a bit later.) On the left side of this you'll see a switch that's on the bottom. Tap that and it will flip to the top and now the button will say "Auto Sync." [Note, if you see nothing, than no images is selected and if the button says "Previous, that means you only have one photo selected.]


Now tap the "r" key (for cRop), select Crop from the Tools menu, or tap the Crop icon on the left of the tools (see below)


You'll now see  crop lines on the image. The default crop lines are on the image's edges.


Now you need to start bringing the crop down to the image. Because this image has a bit of rotation, there's no need to try to get accurate yet. So grab a corner handle and bring it down to the image, and then repeat with the other handle on the opposite corner.


Now, if you mouse-over a corner, outside of the cropped region (see the bottom right in the image below), the cursor will turn into a double-arrow. Click on the arrow and drag up and down—this lets you rotate the image. To complete the cropping process, make any fine-tune adjustments for the sides of the crop to line up with the images' edges. Now click the Crop tool once again (or press "r" again) and everyone of your images will have been cropped all at once. Done!


While you still have all of the images selected and you're still in Auto Sync, it's a good idea to move the Highlight slider to the left and the Shadow slider to the right. If nothing else this is why you took the images in raw mode, NOT JPEG. Your ability to make as much of an enhancement to each image as you can at this point is due to the extra information contained in raw images. The exact setting is not really critical here, just close to the settings shown below will be fine. This is just a starting point for any subsequent adjustments.


Now, before you do ANYTHING else, press Shift-Option-Command/Control-d key to deselect all of the images  (or click off-image on any  one image to deselect all but that one image) and be sure that  Auto Sync is turned off. It's important to get into the habit of this if you use Auto-Sync because if you start to make images adjustments with Auto-sync on, those adjustments will take place on ALL of your images, even the ones you just did a moment before. (And thereby undoing any fine-tuning you just did on any previous image(s)).

Initial Reviewing your Slides

Now that you can easily see your cropped images in full view in the Loupe view. Now is a great time to make sure that all images are properly cropped, which one's need to be rotated to Portrait view, and do a quick review of which images you want to spend time on and which images need to be tossed out.

The probable reality is, as you took photos of your slides, you  inadvertently bump your setup and suddenly all subsequent images from that "whoops" point are not properly cropped as the previous images were. No fear.  Select the first slide you notice this issue and then move over to the last slide and Shift-click on that last photo. Now go back to the first slide of this set, set "Sync..." to "Auto Sync," adjust the crop on that image. Next, be sure Auto Sync is off and deselect the images and continue. Every time you notice that things are off, do this semi-global adjustment and continue. Eventually you'll reach the end of the images and all alignment adjustments have been made.

As you look through your slides to make sure they are cropped, it is also a good time to quickly go through your slides to remove and/or delete photos that are just not worth saving. (If they are not worth saving, there's no need to spend any time correcting and/or enhancing the images.) As you progress through your images, you will find the occasional image that says nothing, means nothing, and/or isn't well taken in the first place. Time to play Keep & Toss.

You can either delete the images as you look though your images or you can mark your image so that you can "Find" the images with that marking (see next paragraph) and delete all at once. Whichever one appeals to you is fine.

In addition to deleting the images as you find them, you can be a bit more methodical and identify which images are either particularly good and/or particularly bad. This can be done by selecting an image and tapping the "P" or "X" key as you go through your images. If you look at the images below, in the upper left-hand corner you can see the white flag ("flagged") or black flag (rejected) icon identifying your choice.


Besides using the Flag and Reject, you can also use Ratings (*) and Labels (colors) to do the same thing, Flag and Rejecting are just two more ways to identify images.

The one advantage to flagging the good and bad images this way is that you've already identified which images deserve special attention. This might save you time later on.

To delete an image, select one image, several continuous images, or discontinuous images. Then, either tap the "Delete" key, go to the Photo menu and select "Remove Photo," or right click (as shown below on the left) and select "Remove Photo(s)" (if you select have two or more photos, this becomes plural). If you do any of these things, a new window pops up (shown below on the right) verifying if you want the images Removed from the catalog (but will still remain on your computer), or "Delete from Disk" which places the images in your computer's Trash Can where, if weak in heart, you can retrieve them again so long as you've not emptied your computer's trash can.


As stated, as you pan through your images it  is a great time to  find the portrait images you rotated to the landscape view to photograph. Here's something that's very cool: Lightroom remembers an images original orientation when making subsequent cropping operations. By this, let's say that the crops on the images were done in a side-to-side orientation. However, now that the slide has been rotated to a portrait position. If you select multiple images and make a side-to-side adjustment, all of the images that you rotated to portrait will automatically adjust in a top-to-bottom orientation. In other words, you do not need to do anything special to them after rotation, it all just works.

By the way, the process of rotating the slides is to either go to the Photo menu and select "Rotate CCW" (Command/Control-[ ) or "Rotate CW (Command/Control-] )." Because I always rotate the slide CCW when processing the slides, I always do Command/Control-] to right them again. This can also be done from the Tool menu from the Library view but the key-command is available in any mode so I tend to use that approach.

Next group process: Previous

Now we will begin to do actual image correction. This approach "Previous," and the next correction ("Copy and Paste"), are for speeding up corrections one at a time.

"Previous" is particularly good if you have multiple images that appear to need very similar correction. It doesn't make any difference if the images are near each other or not.

Below you see an image that has a color-cast and the image has had some color degradation.


I went ahead and adjust this image as well as I could in a fast fashion. (It's not a great image so I didn't spend much time on it.)


Now, I clicked on the next image


And simply tapped the Previous button


All Lightroom did here was to take the settings of the previous image and place them on the selected image. The advantage here is that this is real simple: you  adjust one image and then click on any image that appears similar. (You can always go back and  fine-tune any subsequent image as necessary.) So, as you look across the images in the thumbnail strip on the bottom, you can tap Previous as you continue processing. The disadvantages include that you cannot save multiple "Previous" settings (e.g., Previous A, Previous B, etc.), nor can you select multiple images and tap "Previous." In addition, if there were any corrections that were very specific (e.g., some rotation) on the initial image, those corrections will  be transferred to any other image you tap "Previous" whether the subsequent images need that adjustment or not.

Next bulk process: "Copy" & "Paste."

Copy & Paste is similar to Previous but is best when you want to Paste "almost" every attribute you corrected. To use this set of tools, it  requires an extra step before the Paste button.


You'll notice that the Copy button has an ellipse and that means that this will bring up a dialog box.


When this window comes up you can accept all of the boxes being checked or un-checked (lower left in the image above). As needed, you can check or recheck the options you  want maintained. Notice, for example, that you can turn off  rotational dynamics so they do not affect subsequent images.

To use this, you first select an image and make all of the adjustments you wish to make, then press Copy… Be sure that all of the attributes you wish to paste are selected. Then select an image and press  the Paste button. All of the settings you copied will be pasted onto the new  image. The advantage here is let's say that you had selected an image and made a bunch of corrections, including rotation. Assuming that you have other images that have the same problems but do not need rotation, by using Paste instead of Previous, you can pass on all of the adjustments but not rotation.

Once you've copied the alterations you've made, you can then select new image and then press Copy and repeat until you've adjusted all of the images with similar issues. What you cannot do with Paste is to select a number of images and then tap the Paste button—it doesn't work. That's when you need to use the "Sync…" feature described next.

The biggest limitation of Copy & Paste is that like Previous, you can only do it one image at-a-time.

Next bulk process: Sync…

The last option for bulk processing is the "Sync…" button (last seen when we were talking about "Auto Sync").

As before, if you select one image, this button says "Previous." If you select more than one image, the button now says "Sync…" The way to use this is to select a number of images, either continuous or discontinuous. Now click ON one of the images (not off-image because that will deselect your collection), that will be your master image for this process. Make any and all of the adjustments you want. Now tap the "Sync…" button. Up pops almost the same window as shown above. However, the button above that says "Copy"  now says "Synchronize." Press the Synchronize button and you are done. This is safer than Auto Sync because you actively have to press the Sync… button each time you wish to alter a bunch of images. Sync is much faster than Copy and Paste for bulk operations because you do not have to select and then Paste on each image. Rather, you can select two or hundreds of images and boom, your done!

Fine-Tuning Adjustments on your slides

After making any bulk adjustments, you'll invariably need to do some fine-tuning on those same images. This is because it's extremely unlikely that the group of images you bulk-adjusted were exactly the same. What the bulk adjustments did was to get a group of images close to being finished, now you can finish them. Making the fine-tuning adjustments on photographs of slides is not much different from making adjustments of regular digital images but with some limitations.

As stated, depending on the age of your slides, who the manufacturer was and/or the product type, and how they were stored, the amount of degradation may be nothing or significant. It's also a sad truth that the degradation is not going to be completely consistent from one image to the next (but there will likely be groups of images that are similarly, but not uniformly degraded).

Probably the most common issue/problem is white balance caused by fading of one or more of the emulsion colors. Fortunately, using Lightroom's White Balance eyedropper (and if something in the image is probably gray), you can sneak fairly close to what the correct temperature and tint should be.

At the top of the Basic panel, next to the Temperature and Tint controls for White Balance, is an eyedropper. You can either tap on that with your mouse or press the "w" key (for "White Balance").


Now, click on something in the image that you think is probably gray. As you can see on the left image below, I've chosen the sign. I have no idea if this is true gray but it's probably good enough to get close to what a balanced White Balance should be. On the right in the image below is the instant result of clicking that eye dropper on the sign.


[Note: how does the White Balance Tool work? As you probably know, gray is an equal mix of red, blue, and green but the trick is that there must be the exact same amount of red, blue, and green. When you click on something that is (or might be) gray, Lightroom will adjust the colors in the image so that if they were not the same before, they are now. (A mid-gray is a better choice than light or dark gray.) In the image above I had nothing else better to click on so I opted to use the sign.

Occasionally there's not enough information in "white" for Lightroom to make a correction as shown in the image below. Here, the white of the jonquils was too light  and I could not get sufficient information for Lightroom to work with and could not use this technique to white balance the image. (Note: if you make the image temporarily darker, this approach will still will not work.) Your only recourse here is to "eyeball" it. While challenging to do when you first start trying to white balance by eye,  the good news is that the more you do the faster it gets.]


To finish up this image I noticed a tad of blue in the upper left corner meaning that even if this was Great Britain, it wasn't a completely overcast day. So I dropped the Exposure a tad, bumped up the Contrast a tad, dropped the Highlights as much as I could and pushed the Clarity up a bit. Below is the "before" these adjustments and below that is the "after" these adjustments.


[Let me repeat, if this was a JPEG, the final results would not have been as good. A raw image contains significantly more information than a JPEG.]

There will be times when the emulsions have faded to such a degree that doing a simple White Balance as above will not work. If this is so you'll probably have to manually tease the Temperature and Tint controls or in extreme condition, open the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance Panel and see if you can control the problem from here.

Below is a great example where regular white balance completely failed but making adjustments in Saturation solved the problem. In Image #1, you can see the problem. I'm in a train station and the cement floor and walls appear moss-green. They probably are not this color. So in Image #2, I try to white balance the image off of the wall and this was a failure; you can see how in the distance everything is now bluish purple. The problem is probably the light source from the ceiling is giving the area a color-cast.

So in Image #3 I go to the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance Panel and select Saturation. If you look in the right hand panel, you can see that I've circled the Targeted Adjustment Tool. If you click on that and go to a region that has color in the image, you can click and drag up and down on the image and that will increase (up) or decrease (down) the saturation. Using this approach you can see that it did a good job in removing the errant green from the cement. Obviously this will not work all the time but since cement shouldn't be green in most circumstances, here it worked fine.


If the colors are really really bad due to the degradation of the film, I'll strongly consider converting the image into a Black & White image. If that fails, it's a true tosser.

However, just keep in mind that anything you do to help the image is better than the image sitting in a box continually getting worse and worse. If the image is the only known image of Aunt Maude, you do what you can and be happy that you caught the image before it was completely totally gone.

Dust Removal

Despite dusting every slide prior to taking its photo, there will be an occasional bit of dust on the slides that will show up in the photograph. Fortunately the dust is as easy to remove in Lightroom as is sensor dust  from a digital image. In image #1 below you can see the small spec of dust. [Note: The big difference between dust on a slide as opposed to dust on your sensor is that the dust on your slide will probably be sharper then sensor dust which will be fuzzy and out of focus.]

To remove the dust from the image, select the "Spot Removal" tool shown in #2 (or press the "q" key) (you can vary the size of the tool's active circle by pressing the "[" or "]" keys to encompass just the speck), and click. You will see two circles with  one having an arrow pointing to the original circle. This indicates where the new fill for the spot you clicked on will come from as shown in #3. [Note: if you think there's another region in the photo that would provide a better replacement to Lightroom's initial selection, just drag this second circle to that spot. For example, if the dust is on the edge of a cloud and Lightroom selected the middle of a cloud, move the second circle to the edge of a cloud somewhere else.] Image #4 shows the results of this spot removal. If you have a hair or a long thin item you wish to remove, rather than "click" with the Spot Removal tool, simply click and drag over the errant item. Otherwise the process is just the same.]



Like the many approaches to moving image enhancements from one image to others, there are many ways to apply keywords to one or many images.

Again, if you haven't been looking at these images in years and years and you want to see specific images in the future, you need to find them. So the last piece of the puzzle is to keyword the images.

Important: you must be in the Library tab to do Keywording. You can either click on the Library tab, press Option-Command/Control-1, or go to Window (menu) and select Library and then continue with your Keywording.

One of the advantages of Lightroom is that you can easily set keywords for single images as well as do global Keywording (apply keywords to a bunch of images at one time) and wherever you can do add Keywording, you should.

When I photograph a new set of slides into Lightroom, the Keywords I always automatically enter include: the box # (the metal or cardboard box containing the slides (you do number or mark them, don't you?)), the country, and the date (slides always have the date of processing pressed into the  slide's cardboard). This date will invariably NOT be the day you took the images but it's  close enough if you do not know the date otherwise. If all of the group of slides are from one state or one city, I'll enter that in at this time as well.

The very first image in this article shows where and how to automatically place keywords if you are tethering your camera to your computer. If you did not tether and will be importing the images from the camera's card. you can alternatively automatically enter the default keywords by setting up to import the images and before you tap the Import button, from the right hand side select the "Apply During Import" Panel. From there you can also set automatic Settings, Metadata, and Keywords.


At this point you need to refer back to any notes you have from your storage box or whatever else you have and go through your slides in groups to narrow down the slides to your keywords.

As you enter Keywords, you may have a group of photos that will all receive the same Keyword. You could enter the Keywords as a one-at-a-time process but that's a big time waster. Rather, you want to  select a block of images and set any keywords at once whenever possible.

If you are at the first image of a set, you then need to find the last image of that set to make the group of them all selected. But, while searching for the last image of the set you've very likely will have misplaced that first one.

One way out of this problem is to mark the first image to make it easy to find. The way that I like to do this is to place a color label on the first image. After selecting that image, if you go up to the Photo menu, and select "Set Color Label," then select a color. You can also tap any of the 6 to 9 keys and get a color. Alternatively you can right-click on the image and find "Set Color Label" and set the color.


Note that the color is neither profound nor in your face. As shown below, if the image is selected, there is a thin (color) border around the image and if the image is not selected there is a (color) tint to the region around the image. Not significant, but it is something to look for as you look for that first or last image to select.


If you want to set the color so it's easier to see, you can change this by going into the View menu and select "View Options…" toward the bottom of the menu (or select Command/Control-j). Then select the Grid View (the results will show up in either view). As you can see, go to "Tint grid cells with label colors" The default is 20%, I've found that for my purposes here I like 40% or 50%. This makes it much easier to see the first in a set of images I wish to mark with specific keywords.


So, you've colored the first image, gave it a color label, found the last image, select it and backtrack to find that first image. Now you can Shift-click on the first image and they are all now selected.

Syncing Keywords

Syncing keywords is a great way to tag a number of images at the same time. The screenshot below shows the right side of Lightroom's window in Library mode and shows the Keywording Panel. You can enter multiple Keywords (place a comma between each keyword). Once you have all of your words entered as you want, and you are ready to import, press the import button.


Be aware that Lightroom tries to speed things up by doing a variety of automatic entries. For example, if you just entered the keyword piano, on the next image, when you click your cursor into this field, it will have "piano" ready to go. In addition, if you type "p," Lightroom will show that word and any other previously created keywords. So, it could display a list showing "painter," "piano,"Piccadilly." If the next letter you type is "i" than it will just show "piano" and "Piccadilly." As you continue to type, fewer options will present themselves and if the word is a new keyword, Lightroom will stop guessing waiting foryou to finish. That new word will now be a new word in the Keyword list.

Also note that  there is a field just below the one shown highlighted above where you can also enter keywords. (It is hard to see that it exists because the contrast for Lightroom's fields are not very good.) The advantage of this one is if you tap the Enter key after each submission, Lightroom automatically enters a comma, ready for the next word. You can also enter multiple keywords in this field as long as you place a comma between each keyword.


Assuming you have multiple images selected, after you've entered in the Keyword(s) you want, notice that there are now two buttons on the bottom available to click on on the bottom as shown below.


On the right is one called "Sync Settings" which does the same thing as when you are in Develop mode (and let's you sync the image enhancements from the primary selected image). The "Sync" on the left which provides a whole new window shown below. The very last row in this window is for keywords. This should display all of the keywords that were entered for the primary selected image. If you want, you can enter more keywords here. The good thing here is that if there are images with unique keywords (e.g., someone's name), when you Sync the unique Keyword will not be removed. Lightroom respects these unique Keywords and leaves them alone.

At this point, be sure the check box on the left is checked, and then press "Synchronize" and those keywords are now entered for all the selected images.


By the way, if you have a group of images selected and any of them have an asterisk "*" following the keyword, that means that one or more (but not all) of the images selected have that Keyword. As shown below, not all of the selected images have the "Farmer's Market" keyword, but all of the selected images have 1984 April, Box 5, and Great Britain as keywords.


Let me show you one last way to set keywords: the Painter (aka the Spray Can). To use this you must be in the Grid view in the Library mode.


Using Painter is kind of a mash-up of "Previous,"  "Copy & Paste," and Sync" for enhancing the images but cooler.

Using Painter is a four-part process. Below I've found a set of images (between and including the images with the red label) that were taken in Sherwood Forest and I want to add "Nottingham" to their keywords.


Notice in Tool region there's an image of a spray paint can. If you click on this you can see the word "Paint" and a dropdown menu. From here you can see the range of stuff you can "paint" with the Painter tool. Select Keywords.


Next type in the word you wish to paint, I added "Nottingham." If you want to add more than one keyword, simply place a comma after each word (e.g., "England, Nottingham, Sherwood Forest")


Now bring your cursor (shaped like the spray paint can and seen in the top-left image) up to one of the images you wish to add "Nottingham" to the Keyword list. It's important to place your cursor ON the image, not  off the image.


From here you can either simply click and/or drag on/across the images you wish to add the keyword to. This will not affect any keywords that are already assigned to the images, it only adds to the images. Also, notice the image below showing a white line around all of the images where the Painter successfully sprayed. If you inadvertently clicked or dragged over an image that should not have this keyword, simply press the Option key and re-click on that image and that (those) image(s) keywords will be removed.


Fixing misspellings

If you ever misspell or mistype a keyword, not too worry. Go to the Keyword List in the right hand Panel in Library view and find the misspelled word. Than right-click on that keyword and select "Edit Keyword Tag…" This brings up a new window where you can fix the word, click the "Save" button, and every reference to that keyword will be updated. Quick and slick.


Face Detection

Especially if you have  photos of friends or family, turn on Face Detection. this is done by going up to your name in the upper left corner, clicking, and dropping down to the bottom of that menu as shown below.

Please note that this will index (and look for) faces in your entire catalog, not just any specific folder. And, if you've created a large number of photos before starting this, it will take some time for all of the images to be indexed.


Face Detection is very good for identifying full face or mostly full face images in your photos. Profiles and back of heads are not good for automatic face detection (but that doesn't prevent you from identifying who these heads are).

If you want Lightroom to point out potential faces and if you've already selected Face Detection (above), in the tool region above the thumbnails you can see a face, click on this. and Lightroom will point out what Lightroom considers a face. This is shown in the image below where Lightroom says "Draw Face Region." I should point out that in the beginning Lightroom can be howelingly wrong in determining what's a face or even the sex of people, but as you teach it faces Lightroom not only gets better at determining what in an image is a face but also becomes very good at recognizing who's who.

Also note the face image to the right of Survey View (circled in green) below, this gives you "People" (or tap "o"). If you click on that, you will get a grid of all of the faces that Lightroom thinks it sees. From there you can easily run though these images and identify who's who. AS you progress though this, Lightroom will get better and better. And for the images that are clearly not faces or people you do not care to know, simply tap the Delete key and not have to deal with them again.

The difference between having a region drawn around faces (with Draw Face Region) is that you can see the whole image and can therefore see the images in context. If you select to view the People option, all you see are faces in a grid fashion and will not have the rest of the image to put the face in context.

recognize faces.png

The advantages of facial recognition is pretty obvious: let's say your parents are having their 40th anniversary and you wish to prepare a book of their anniversaries though the years. Do a search on their name(s) and bingo, after some selection, you've got  your gift.

Using keywords to find images

Although this has nothing to do with setting keywords, let me point out one of the easy ways to use keywords.  Just below the keyword entry region mentioned above, look for the listing "Keyword List." In this section you will see every keyword you've assigned in alphabetical order. If the list is long you can search for specific keywords in the  field at the top. [Note: I truncated this list at the purple line to show a sample and the top of the list.]

If you mouse-over the keywords, you'll see an arrow pointing to the right on the right side of that keyword. If you click on that arrow, every image that has that keyword will be there immediately. In addition, you'll see a check mark on the left side letting you know that you're seeing all of the these images. You'll also note a shaded check mark just below that for California. This lets you know that for this example Calico Ghost Town  are images that are also part of the images in California.


In summary

If you've read this far, you win an ice cream cone. The amount of actual process listed above is not all that much, but I've shown a considerable amount of extra attention to what's happening within Lightroom to help as much as possible. Lightroom is a fantastic program with the one annoying aspect that items you just finished observing are now gone or different because you just tapped on something in the window. It's kind of like when you put your keys down a moment ago and now your keys are gone for good (or so it seems).

I hope you enjoy obtaining access to your slides as much as I have. It's been great seeing friends, family, and places I've been but haven't seen in many a year. It's also been very interesting to see how I've developed (or not) as a photographer in the 40+ years I've been taking photos.

This blog is divided into two parts. Part 1 is acquiring  and digitizing your slides. Part 2 talks about processing the images in Lightroom to enhance the images in a fast and efficient manner and to provide keywords so that you can find the image(s) you want in an efficient manner.

I started using  slides as my primary photography format around 1977. My Minolta 201 and my three lenses went to many countries and all around the United States. I photographed our family trips, my kids growing up, and my wife's and my many adventures. All told I have about 10,000 slides (really). But its been many years since I've seen these slides. They were  in  slide boxes and placed in the closet and the trouble of setting up the projector and screen, pulling out the slides that I wanted, mounting them into the projector to view, etc., etc. was too much work. Simply, it was as if I had never taken the photos in the first place.

I should point out that of all of the photographic mediums available, slides provide the least dynamic range. I didn't realize that when I started taking slides and I know that my photographic knowledge at the time was sufficiently limited such that if someone had told me that bit of information I wouldn't have known the significance. But that was then, this is now, and I still want to see what I photographed so many years ago.

I do own a very nice scanner and it can scan up to a dozen slides one-at-a-time sequentially but this still can take a lot of time. If you want the BEST quality images  you need to do all of the adjustments with the scanning software at the time of the scan rather than later in Photoshop. If you also squeeze the largest resolution of the image (which adds to the scan time), it can take about 5 minutes per scan. With some 10,000 slides, I'd be dead before I finished.

So how good are the images when photographed?

Below are two examples of the same image. On the left is the photo version of the slide on the right is the scanned version. Besides the obvious differences such as color variations, the real limitation of the photographed version can be seen is in the facial closeup below the following image.


Here is a close up of the young woman facing us, again the photographed image is on the left. The biggest limitation of photographing your slides is that there is no way that Lightroom or Photoshop can properly deal with image grain. Digital noise, yes but not grain. However, scanning software can deal with this. For the record, I used Silverfast 8 (by Lasersoft Imaging) software on this slide and its quality is self-evident.


If your original images are mostly grain-free, you will find that the photographed images are remarkably good, but even with some grain, they are not bad as the above image testifies.

Why digitize your images

There are many reasons, probably the most important is that you've probably not seen your images in many many years. It's time to see them but there's as many reasons as there are slides.

As I pondered my options on how to do this, I had read about people photographing their slides with a macro lens but never saw a specific approach. After much research, a lot of experimentation (and solving problems as they came up), I developed an approach that lets me photograph about 30 slides in 5 minutes. In addition, with  the power of Lightroom, I can process the slides from between a 20 seconds per slide (including adding keywords)  up to 2 minutes  per slide depending on how much time the slide deserves.

My goal here is speed: my primary objective is that I want to  see my slides. If there are slides that I want the best quality for their digital format, I can always do a proper scan at a later time.

Interestingly enough, there is another benefit to digitizing your images: slides  lose their quality over time. There's no doubt that the degree of degradation and the speed of this degradation depends upon the type of film used, how the slides were stored and cared for, and how old they are (to list a few of the potential reasons). Sometimes it's the luck of the draw if a group of slides has degraded over time, sometimes a whole group of slides will be pretty good yet within will be several bad ones. In addition, some film types were worse than others and were known for degradation In addition, every purchased set of slides I ever bought degraded badly. [You know, you go to some vacation spot and at the gift shop they sell a packet of slides, professionally made, and you figure, "Hey, I can't take slides inside and these professionally made slides of (say) Hampton Court will be better than what I can do." Well,  after time has taken its toll, not so much.]

Below on the left is an image of a  slide I took at Penn State Penitentiary and on the right a purchased slide from Hampton Court (Great Brittan). In both cases, these slides that looked fine at the time are now effectively gone.


So, in short, what this blog is all about is capturing your slides so that you have them digitized and locked in. You can always select slides that appeal to you and rescan them later to the highest quality. You can photograph these slides, look at them, shrug your shoulders and delete them all. But at a minimum you've seen them. Plus, you can now do a much better job of Keep & Toss on the images and/or the slides.

One of the side pleasures I've found as I look at these slides is how much my photography has improved and I also see where I did things correctly—even if it was inadvertent at the time!

The following is what worked for me, you obviously can vary the following as your needs and judgment feel is best. But I've photographed over 5000 slides at this point and I've already made most of the mistakes that one can do so I'm talking  experience.

Preparing your slides

I'd like to say that my life is as organized as my slides and the way that I've kept them, but alas, no. For some reason I've always kept my slides well organized so that I could find things when I wanted/needed them. I'm too cheap to have purchased all of the carousels that I would have needed so from the very beginning I've stored my slides in   steel Logan boxes that can hold up to 900 about slides. These boxes have 30 tabbed bins which, as you'll read, become a benefit as well. These boxes include a sheet of paper to identify what's in each bin. As I went through my slides I'd place some kind of identifying name, numbered them, and added an arrow to show what end was up. All of this identification helped immensely when it came to adding keywords. I would also take a marking pen and draw lines down slides with similar content to help see where one group started and stopped. Who knew how handy this would be years and years later.


If you haven't done all of this prep-work, I suggest sitting down during a sports game or some other mild distraction and do as much of this as you feel necessary before you begin. It will help in later steps.

Here's the equipment I used:

Some of the items in this list are not critical, others are. Again, this is what I used and perhaps you will find other items that fit your budget and/or lifestyle better.

  1.    A DSLR camera. Pretty much any kind can work here. Sorry, no phone camera or a point-and-shoot can do this.
  2.    A Macro lens, about 100mm is a good size for this type of work. The benefit here is that if you've been needing an excuse to get one, here's your excuse. I have to admit that I'm having a ball with my lens, I use it all the time in my regular photography.
  3.    A light source: What I wanted was some light source that wouldn't create a color-cast. That is, if the light source had a tungsten filament, all of the images would have a yellowish cast that would have to be dealt with. What I ended up with is "The LED Light Box" by Porta-trace. [Model #1012-1 LED] This was not cheap but it provided full even lighting with no color cast.
  4.    A Tripod. You need to affix your camera down so that it will not move, jiggle, or slide around. As one friend told me "don't buy a $20 tripod for your $1000 camera."
  5.    Painter's Blue Tape: you need to tape your light box down onto the table and you need to tape your tripod to the table that the light box is on. What's critical to this process is that every thing is ridged so that each time you place a slide down, it's registered in one place. This will become more evident and critical as you go into Part 2, Lightroom.
  6.    Dust Broom: a dust broom for slides to get the dust off. No matter how you've had them stored, the slides have dust on them and you want to get the dust off.


  7.    Slide Cleaner: If there are heavy fingerprints or other subsistences on your slides, you need something heavy duty to clean this off AND not damage the slide. At my favorite camera store I was recommended to use PEC-12 and PEC PADs for cleaning. They do a good job but you must use this in fresh air.


  8.    A long USB cable. If you chose to tether your camera to your computer, you will need a USB cable long enough to do that. My USB-3 cable is 8.5 feet long. Note: if your camera or computer does not have USB 3, depending on the storage size of your camera's images, it might not be worth tethering your camera. In addition, some cameras have built in wifi and there are 3rd party wifi options available as well.
  9.    Remote control shutter for your camera. This is not essential if your camera is tethered to your computer as Lightroom's tether controls have a shutter on your computer to press your camera's shutter. (I tie a loop on the remote shutter's cord that I let hang from one of my tripod's head's arm to make it easier to reach and grab.)

Lastly, you need to make a slide-register to place the slides on the light box. (I initially used the cardboard from a USPS Priority Mail box). If there's one negative about the light box mentioned above is that you can see some wires underneath part of the surface of the translucent cover to the light. For most purposes this is completely irrelevant but for our purpose it's not good. Locate a region where the light is not interrupted (there's lots so this is not really an issue). Now cut a rectangular hole about 1.25 x 1.5 at this location. This hole is larger than the image part of the slide but smaller than the slide itself.

Finally you need to place two extra pieces of this cardboard, offset to the rectangular hole so that the slide image can be seen through this hole. These two pieces of cardboard need to be 90°, dead on. This whole cardboard creation needs to be tapped directly onto the light box The reason for the large cardboard base is to cover the light from the light box as you only want the light projected from behind the slide.


One problem I had at the beginning was occasional dust  in that hole. So I took the trouble of making the whole thing again out of sheet plastic with blue tape covering over the clear plastic. This did not solve the problem: it turns out that most of the dust came from the slide's cardboard.

Now, as stated, everything needs to be place together so that once set up, NOTHING moves. Below is an image of how I did my set up. Note that I used a coffee table to do this: this was for convenience as my desk is, well, busy. Also note that the tripod is firmly attached to the table, the light box is firmly attached to the table, and the slide-holder is firmly attached to the light box All of this is done with blue tape. The bad thing about blue tape is that it tears easy so you do have to be careful. The good thing about blue tape is that it doesn't leave a residue. [Note: the photo below makes the blue tape appear very translucent. It is not, that's just an aberration of the photograph.


Prepping the slides for photography

I like to do the photography in small groups. That is, I found that each bin in the slide box is a good block to work with. I pull out this block of slides and place them on my desk. I should note that when I place the slides into each bin, they are numbered from back to front. This was originally done so I could remove them from the box and place them in my slide projector which displayed them in order back to font. This also turned out to be a fortuitous event because what I do is to lift the top slide (which is the last one of the group), dust the slide, and place it down on the desk. I then take the next slide, dust it, and place it on top of the previous slide. Thus, once complete, the slides are now in order top to bottom. In addition, if you have any slides in the portrait position, you must rotate them so they are in same orientation as the landscape slides. This must be done because the hole in the slide mount is set for landscape viewing. When I get to processing the slides in Lightroom in Part 2, you will see that this works out VERY well. [Note: do not think that it's wise to make the hole big enough to capture both landscape and portrait because that will end up taking more time when it comes to cropping the cardboard away from the image in Part 2.]


If you are tethering, plug one end of a USB cable into your camera, the other end into either a Powered USB port or the computer. Once the camera is turned on, you can go to Lightroom, File Menu, select "Tethered Capture," and select "Start Tethered Capture..." (A window will pop up that I will discuss in Part 2.)

One note on tethering: even if the images are directly going to your computer, the images are also being placed on your camera's storage card. As such, you may need to check and make sure you've room to continue taking photos. If you do not tether, you can save your images on your camera and Import the images later. The one big advantage of tethering is that you can quickly see if you have an issue and deal with the problem. Such issue's might include something simple such as forgetting to photograph the number of the box bin or something critical such as something in your setup slipped and you're only photographing half of the slide. If the images are only collected to your camera's card, you may miss something critical and need to redo some number of your photos.

Now part of this whole process is that you will have all of your slides photographed so you can easily see them but the other part of this is that you can easily FIND them. Probably one of the biggest mistakes I made early on is to not make each bin in the slide box easily findable. Once I realized how valuable this is, I created a simple solution, embarrassingly simple: I prepared a sheet of paper with the numbers 1 – 30 printed on the sheet. I cut it in two to make it easier to maneuver on the light box and before each bin was photographed, I took a picture of that number. Then when looking over the images in Lightroom, it was VERY easy to find where the slide was in the box and since the box number is part of the keywords, I know which box.


The Photography

Finally, after procuring all of the equipment, prepping all of the slides, dusting and/or cleaning the slides, ordering and aligning the slides you can start photographing the slides.

Aim your camera at the slides and that your light box is tipped a bit so that the camera is not pointing absolutely straight down. I found that sometimes the orientation within the camera would flip from portrait to landscape and back when the lens was straight down. With the camera pointing "mostly" down, this never happened again. By eye, it's not difficult to set your camera to be in as good a perpendicular alignment as needed. If necessary, grab something perpendicular (such as a piece of paper) to hold against the light box and the lens to compare and adjust as needed. Dead on accuracy is nice, but not really critical. Nonetheless, once I had this set up correctly, whenever I broke the system down until the next time I needed it, I did not adjust the tripod head's angle—I just left that alone.

Set your f-stop at the sweet spot for your lens and set your camera on aperture priority. For my light box, I found that I got better images if I set the camera to shoot one full f-stop faster than default. I also set my ISO as low as could be, in my case that was 100 ISO. You will probably need to experiment with this to determine what works best for your setup.

As one who does a LOT of HDR photography, I tried a variety of ways to get the nuances and bring out the best of the dark and light regions of the slides. Disappointingly, all I got for my effort was to take more time and get no better an image. The best thing you can do to get the best quality of an image is to take raw images of your slides, do not take JPEGs of your slides. If a good quality image is not your goal, than by all means, go take JPEGs. But if you want to bring out the most of your images, take raw images.

Surprisingly, I  got the best results by letting my camera do the focusing. The one problem with this is that you also need to use a fairly small region in the image to set the focusing point. If it's too wide your camera might focus on the cardboard of the slide, not the image. One of the problems with this approach is if the region where the camera is trying to focus has nothing to focus on (e.g., the sky or water), you can't focus. Just be aware of the problem and be prepared to change the focusing location in the image as needed.

Set the image so that you  photograph will include some of the cardboard of the slide, do NOT try to perfectly get just the image. If the image is a bit tilted, again, not a big problem, this can easily be fixed in Lightroom.


So, once you got everything set, hold the stack of images in your hand, place the first slide in the register spot, take the picture, remove the slide and place on the table, take the next slide, etc. etc. etc. After each bin was photographed, I would dust the slide slot in the light box, put away that block of slides, pull out the next group, and photograph the next bin number. Then repeat.

Let me add that if you've kept the slides in their package box, you might also chose to do them one-box-at-a-time.


As far as how many bins or boxes you should do before starting the processing, again that's up to you.

I also suggest that you do one whole trip and then process those slides. This will make adding keywords a lot easier. As far as how many images I do before I called it time to take a break, that would vary anywhere from half a box to a whole box. In other words, do what works for you.

One strong suggestion for however you do this: I  found that perching on a stool was great for my legs and back.

Now onto Part 2 where I talk about processing hundreds of images at a time in Lightroom.


Having some of the eyes in your photos show bright red is caused by the emitting flash being too in line with your subjects eyes and bouncing off of the retina show bright red. There are two ways to fix this.

  1. Before the issue comes up by making sure the flash is a far away from the lens as possible
  2. After the fact by using the tools in Photoshop (PS), Lightroom (LR), or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

Item #1 implies you have a Single Lens Reflex camera with a "shoe" to fit an attached flash unit. This is a great idea IF you have a SLR but if you have a Point & Shoot camera of any kind (including a camera phone) that's not an option.

In PS, LR, or ACR, there is a tool that you can select, drag across a "red eye" eye and the problem goes away.

In Photoshop it can be accessed from either the Brush drop-down menu, or with more recent version of PS-CC, it will be found in the Edit Tools icon as shown below.


In Adobe Camera Raw it can be found in the top tool menu.


and in Lightroom it can be found amoungts the standard tools in the Develop module.


the good and/or bad thing about each of these tools is that they are looking for a uniform red color. If your subject's red eye is not uniform, than it will not work all that well. For example, below is a classic red eye along with the results of using any of the red eye corrections (I tried all, none of them made a difference). On the top is the original image, below that is the best correction I could do and on the bottom you can see the problem: there are many shades and hues of red in those eyes. [Hint: sometimes you can get past this by doing multiple repeats of the process as each will do as much as it can and then you try again (and again and again)].

Photoshop CCScreenSnapz001.png

Nonetheless, if your subject's red eye is equally shaded, than any of these tools do an amazing job.

But, as stated, each of these tools are looking for "red." One of the big complaints after these tools were introduced was that they did nothing for animal eyes. As an example below is a photo of my two corgis at the head of the stairs using the flash on my phone.


Now these are unique as they are white, animal eyes can also be red but also light green, light yellow, and a host of other colors. Keep in mind though that white eyes are more likely to occur with phone cameras. Since you've seen the problems with human eyes, getting any kind of success when the eye's color are nowhere near red. And with that in mind, what do you do with humans when their eyes are white, not red as shown below?


Like the two corgis with white eyes, the image above was also taken with an iPhone 6S. [Note: the specific camera is not the cause of these kinds of problems, any phone camera and/or Point & Shoot camera can cause this. Typically the further away the subjects are from the camera, the greater the likelihood that the above image will be the result.]

The good news is that the cure is the same for both types of image: When using ACR or LR, use the "Pet Eye" option. Below is the ACR option found on the right hand side of the ACR window.


In Lightroom the Red Eye/Pet Eye option is right below the Red Eye tool:


There is no Pet Eye option in Photoshop.

Working on the two corgis is just a manner of opening a JPEG, TIFF, or raw image into ACR or Lightroom, select the Pet Eye Tool and do a marquee around the errant eye (but admittedly this isn't half as fun as the original). Because of the image noise and a host of other issues, the results in THIS image are kind of creepy from the other direction.


So, ironically enough, using Pet Eye is very good for fixing "human white eye!" However, if any of the eyes are not sufficiently bright enough, even the Pet Eye will not work. The resolution for this is found in Photoshop. Below is from the the 2nd boy to the left. As you can see, his right eye is not as bright as his left eye. His left eye was fixed just fine.


To fix this, go into Photoshop and zoom way into the eye that needs to be fixed. To fix this use the Quick Selection Tool


and click on the light region in the eye.


At this point, either press the Shift key to add the medium intensity pixels or click on the "Always Add" option in the Tool "Options" region at the top of the screen (below the menus)


and fill in the rest of the lighter region. Then, once everything is selected, press Option + Delete keys to fill with your foreground color (which should be black). Note: if you do not add these "lighter" pixels, there will be a lighter ring around the black region and that will look very creepy.


[Note: if your foreground color is not black as below, simply press the "d" key (as in "default") and that will return the foreground and background colors to black and white.]

foreground-color.pngthen press the "d" key to get: foreground-color2.png

Anyhow, the results show that the combination of the two approaches work just fine.


So, after repairing all of the eyes (and doing a few other adjustments), we end up with


Now before I leave this subject, there is one health warning I must make: if you take a photo of a child and their eye (or eyes) are always white and never red, you may consider having their eyes examined by an eye doctor. White eyes are typically caused by the distance of the flash to the subject and/or a camera phone (a shorter distance at the right angle is likely to cause red eye). Cancer on the retina (retinoblastoma) can be the cause to constant white eye in kids under 5 (while very rare with adults, it can occur) but white eye with adults can indicate a cataract. The family above need not be worried by this one photo as it is extremely unlikely that an entire family is having a such a problem at the same time. The good news is that camera-caused white eye is extremely more likely than a health-caused problem.

Part 3 in a 3-part Series on how to use Adobe Bridge


[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]


Whether you are looking at the contents of a single folder or the contents of multiple-folders-within-folders. The ability to find a specific image or a category of images in an easy fashion can only save you time. While it may seem that the work involved to make it easier and faster to find images may seem  like wasted time, it really isn't. When you are looking for "THAT" one image, the time spent in preparation will be moot. The question is: do you want to spend time preparing to find any image (at any time) or do you want to spend all your time finding any one image?

There are three different ways to find your images in Bridge:

  1. Utilizing the original Metadata
  2. Ratings and Labels (that you ascribe to specific images)
  3. Keywording (that you ascribe to specific images).


Each of these has different levels of interaction, from least to most comprehensive. In other words, the more you want to get out of finding your images, the more you have to put into the investment.


The Basics: Taking Advantage of the Metadata

Every time you take a photo, the camera is very likely to collect data on that image such as the aperture, the date, whether the camera was being held portrait or landscape, the ISO, the focal length, etc. All of these attributes become data as part of the image and this data can be seen and selected from Bridge's Filter menu. The Filter menu allows you to filter the images seen in the Content Panel. When used properly, utilizing the metadata helps to eliminate the wheat from the chaff so that there are fewer images to have to dig through to find the image you are looking for. For example, if you knew that you were looking for an image taken in portrait mode and you are looking in a folder containing 500 images but only 50 were taken in Portrait mode, than 450 images do not have to be dealt with.

[Note  that different cameras can only collect the Metadata that they are designed to collect. For example, if the camera does not have GPS capabilities, than it cannot collect the GPS Metadata.]


When you click on any of the displayed Metadata, images with that Metadata will be displayed in the Contents Panel. If you click on two (or more) Metadata options that can be concurrent such as images that were taken with f/3.5 AND f/4.0, than all images that have those settings will be displayed. But if you click on images with f/3.5 AND Portrait and no images in that folder have both of these attributes concurrently, than no image will show up in the Contents Panel.

The place where this often becomes an issue is if you do not cancel (re-click) out of a previous selection. For example, let's say you clicked on the Portrait images and then clicked on images that have Labels and suddenly there are no images in the Content Panel. Again, because this is a cumulative feature, not an additive feature. Thus, clicking on both will  NOT display all Portrait AND Label images. Bridge will only show images that have BOTH, Portrait AND Label attributes. If no images have both, no images will be shown. So, if you are not seeing what you think you should be seeing, examine the Filter menu and see if you have something checked that you no longer need to have checked.


There are several other things to be aware of as you look at this Panel. First of all, if you are looking for an attribute that is not in existence with any of the images in the folder you are looking within, that attribute tag will not show up. So, for example, if I add a Rating and a Label to some images, THEN, those attributes will show up in the Filter Panel where they were not showing up at all prior to my adding those items. If you look at the image below, there are no single, double, or five start ratings in any of the images in this folder so therefore those rating options do not show up in the Ratings category. (There are some exceptions to this such as "Keywords" as that is baked into this Panel.)


Ratings and Labels

Now for simple interaction for finding images you want to work with.

Let's say you have a folder with 500 or so images. You need to whittle that down to a more reasonable amount to figure out which images you want to spend time enhancing. If you are like me, you may occasionally take multiple shots of the same thing just to make sure that you have a several options of the image to review. This is one of the values of Bridge where you can easily see in the Preview Panel a respectable sized view of your images as you play Keep & Toss. (See the 1st article I wrote on how to customize Bridge's interface so that the Preview Panel is much larger than how Bridge initially presents the Preview Panel. You can read that article here.)

At any time you can provide a rating to your images from one star to 5 stars (Command/Control-1 through -5).  These can be used later as they are easy to search for when you want to see all of the images with ratings that are (say) 4 or better. You can also have Labels for images that add a color-bar to the image. This makes it very easy to have Red Labels images that are 4 stars or greater shown to one person while the Green Label images that are 4 stars or better shown to a different person.


[Note: If you do not wish to press the Control or Command key with the number key when setting Ratings or Labels, that can be set in Bridge's Preferences. Also note that you can change the wording for the various Labels that shows up in the Menus in the same Preference tab to something that works better for your workflow.]


I find that the ratings and labels are excellent mechanism to organize my images as I work. I take a LOT of HDR images and when I do HDR or especially HDR - Panorama images, processing and finding my results used to be confusing. That is until I started using BOTH ratings and Labels. First I'd assign each triplet of images a 2-star rating. Something easy to assign and not rated high enough to confuse with  images that (by themselves) I've  rated with a higher rating. Then I'd take each of these marked proto-HDR images and process them into HDR images. Then as each image completed processing within ACR, I'd assign the resultant HDR-image, and proto-panorama image, with a Label.


So below you see the Content Panel after processing eight sets of image for an HDR - Panorama. That means that I had 24 images to combine into 8 HDR images and then I have to find these 8 images, select them, and then process them. It can be done without the rating and labeling but it's a whole lot faster and easier to do  this using this approach.


Then, to view only the images I want to see I go to the Filter Panel and filter out everything but the images I want to see by clicking on "2 stars" and "Label - Seconds."



Admittedly, in this case I'd only need to click on the "Second" Label  to get the eight proto-panorama images. However if I had multiple many-image panorama proto-images I might have given the other one(s) a different Label  to help make each group easily identifiable and unique. Nonetheless, from a folder with 241 images, instantly I am looking only at the eight I need to do the panorama. [Note, in the images above and below, the reason why you are seeing "2*" in stead of "**" is that I decreased the size of the thumbnails to make it easier to get a screenshot that fit in this blog 2* is Bridge's way to truncate the Rating. If the thumbnails were larger, you'd see "**."]


Once I've created the panorama, the panorama will automatically be given a 2-star rating and the Second Label. At that point I'd give it either 3-star because it's nice, a 4-star because it's impressive, or a 5-star because all I want to do is to stare at the image. Anything without a Rating is going to be ignored (and tossing non-rated images is also possible).


Meanwhile, if I've assigned my "impressive" images a 4 rating, than by clicking on the 4 (or greater) rating in the Filter Panel, all I will be seeing are images that I gave a 4 or 5 star rating. If I decide that a particular image is no longer a contender, I can give it (say) a 3 star rating and it will be removed from the Content Panel view and it is now out of view (but has not been removed from the folder).


When you add the ability to select an image via all of the other parameters available to the user in the Filter Panel, it's very easy to narrow down the potential number of images you may be looking for.


Lastly, if you look in the Path Bar region on the right hand side, you can see the dropdown menu to select ranges of Ratings. So besides the Filter Panel, this is also a very quick mechanism to find images with which you've done some selection.


[Note: if an image has any Ratings and/or Label and is subsequently saved into a different format (e.g., you've saved a DNG image into a JPEG image), the new image will inherent the attributes that it had prior to the saving. So once a 4-star, always a 4-star -- until you change that to something else.]



If you want the greatest control to find specific images, you need to use Keywords. The biggest problem with Keywords is that they require "some" to "extensively" more work to create depending on how specific you want your Keywords. Simply, Keywords require more work than simply applying Ratings or Labels and as such, some people may rather dig through 1000 images rather than spending a few minutes applying Keywords to the images during the initial processing. Actually, the initial processing time is the best time to apply Keywords: when you are first examining the images  and the background content and details are still fresh in your mind.

When you first open Bridge there will be some default Keywords listed in the Keyword Panel but I found them mostly irrelevant and soon deleted most of them and created my own. Creating Keywords that satisfy your needs is probably one of the biggest challenges about this whole process depending on how When you first open Bridge there will be some default Keywords listed in the Keyword Panel but I found them mostly irrelevant and soon deleted most of them and created my own.


Creating Keywords that satisfy your needs is probably one of the biggest challenges about this whole process depending on how compulsive you are and how specific you wish to be. For example, if you wish to rely solely on the main location, say Nova Scotia, than the process is very very fast. If you want to add cities, it can take a bit longer, and if you then start to add the name of tourist sites, geographic features, construction details, etc., it just adds to the time. As a woodworker, I also take photos of woodworking tools and early furniture as well as architectural construction details. As you might gather, my Keywording can get a bit detailed. If you are into gardens and plants, you might want to have keywords for specific trees and specific plants. And there is always family members and friends. you are and how specific you wish to be. For example, if you wish to rely solely on the main location, say Nova Scotia, than the process is very very fast. If you want to add cities, it can take a bit longer, and if you then start to add the name of tourist sites, geographic features, construction details, etc., it just adds to the time. As a woodworker, I also take photos of woodworking tools and early furniture as well as architectural construction details. As you might gather, my Keywording can get a bit detailed. If you are into gardens and plants, you might want to have keywords for specific trees and specific plants. And there is always family members and friends.


So you can see that creating the Keywords is almost a never ending process. Well, it is a never ending process because there are always new friends and you will always be encountering new tools and new plants. However, the true value of Keywords is that they are actually added to the image file and are not placed in some cache within Bridge. As such, all you need to do is have the folder you wish to examine within ANY folder you are looking in. So, for example, I have my Vacations folder and within the Vacation folder is my Nova Scotia Folder and inside that are the various folders I visited during my trip. If I have my Vacations folder open and I do a Command-f in Bridge and search for a specific Keyword, in milliseconds I will have the images with those Keywords front and center in the Content Panel.


To create Keywords, open or display the Keyword Panel. As stated, there are a few pre-made Keywords set within that Panel, but it's probable that most of these  are not relevant to you and these can be ignored or deleted as you so see fit. Adding new Keywords is easy and can be done either by clicking on the Flyout menu for the Keywords Panel


An alternative location to create new Keywords (with fewer options) is found by right-clicking on the Keywords within the Panel itself.



Applying Keywords

Notice the difference between Keywords and Sub Keywords. Sub Keywords are indented from the Keyword they were created from. [You may see this relationship  also  referred to as a Parent - Child relationship.] This provides a certain amount of extra control: If I were to simply click on "Blacksmith-handmade," only that Keyword would be checked. If I  also wanted "Hardware" selected, I'd have to click on each option separately. However, if I press the Shift key at the same time I click on any subcategory, any parent Keyword(s) is also selected. So if I click on "Blacksmith-handmade" with the Shift key pressed, Hardware AND Architectural/Furniture  are automatically and concurrently selected.


The Keywords you create become part of Bridge and will show up in any folders you subsequently open. This is both good if you are adding Keywords to new folders of similar nature but could be in the way for folder containing images of a completely different nature (e.g., a wedding). Nonetheless, this problem is worth the overall benefits of Keywords.


Keywording your images  is obviously a  time-filling operation. The good news is that the more you do this, the more of the likely Keywords will have already been created and once created it's only a matter of checking them off. By the way, if you mis-spell or decide on a different word for any category, renaming does not remove any previous selections made with that Keyword. Any previous selections will simply take the new fixed or altered name.

Finding images with Keywords

So once you've done all this Keywording, now what? Well, if you look at the 2nd or 3rd screenshot above, you will see an option for "Find…" and if you go to the Edit menu, halfway down you'll find "Find," and if you press the Command/Control-f keys you will get the same Find window.


The advantage of using this approach to Finding your keywords is that you can also look for a variety of other parameters and/or constraints at the same time. In addition, this approach allows you to dig into any of the children folders. I'll explain this in a moment.


It would be easier if this window displayed the same view of the Keywords Panel as we  see in the Keywords Panel. Rather, it allows us to search for Keywords and any other option we chose to select from the Metadata Panel.


While the interface for Finding your Keywords with this window is not the best, the results are spectacular. First off, remember that you do not have to be directly "in" the folder to find what you are looking for, only higher in the folder tree. So, let's say you want to find all your photos of Aunt Maude and you have opened your "Family Photos" folder. Within that folder you have vacation folders (and contained with that are the many vacation trips you've done) and also contained within Family Photos is the Holiday folder and all of the Holiday folders that you've photographed, etc. There might also be folders of family gatherings and many other  folders that could potentially contain Aunt Maude as well.


However, if you just want to find Aunt Maude's images only from the Holidays folder, look in the Holidays folder and only images will show up from that folder. Any folders contained within the Holiday folder such as "Holloween-2012," Thanksgiving-2011," "Holloween-1999," etc. will be displayed. The display of these images will be milliseconds.


Please note that if you are looking in the Holidays folder, no images from the Vacation Folder will be found as those are parallel folders nestled in the Parent folder.

By the way, if you are curious as to where the found images were located, You have several options: as you select each image, looking at the Path Bar  the Bird's Trail of where the image resides in the folders can be seen. However, a Right-click on any image will give you the option to "Display in Finder," and you have immediate access to the images from that approach as well.


There is an alternate approach to finding your images that uses the Filter Panel. The Filter Panel can also display Keywords and will in fact display any and all Keywords contained within the images on display. Unfortunately these are displayed in alphabetical order and not in the hierarchal order that they were created in.

To find a specific image, all you have to do is to click on any of the Keywords in the list and POP, those images will show up in the Content Panel. Shift-clicking will select multiple Keywords even if the Keywords are not continuous on the list.


The biggest negative for this approach is that it will ONLY work within a single folder. That is, when you use the previous approach, using the "Find…" command, any image with a Keyword attached will be found no matter how deep that file is contained within the folder you started from. This approach, while easier (because you do not need to remember how to spell your Keyword or what words were used in a Keyword, you only need to look) will not look for items contained within folders within folders.

Bridge and Lightroom

After doing all this Keywording, Labeling, Rating, and adjustments you've done, one question you may have is can all of the work you've done creating Keywords import into Lightroom if you chose to move this folder of images into your LR catalog?


The answer is mostly yes. The Ratings you set for the images will all be there but the Labels will not. Neither the color or even the fact that they had a label of any kind will transfer. The Keywords will also transfer but depending on how many Keywords you have in your Lightroom collection may make it a tad of a challenge to find them. But they should transfer. Additionally, any image enhancements you've done in ACR or Photoshop will also transfer. However, they will come over as a completed work in progress and none of the "History" steps of any enhancements you've done in Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop will be listed. Any subsequent corrections you do after Importing the images into Lightroom will be included in the History. Since Lightroom was not involved in any of the initial operations, it has no way of knowing what was done.

A Recap on Finding Your Images

There's no getting around the fact that as we take more and more images, finding the images we want to share can be a tortuous ordeal. From the features within Bridge, that ordeal can be focused by using the Metadata already built into each image. Unfortunately, Metadata does not automatically display how we felt about any image and that requires us to interact with Bridge to add either Ratings and/or Label. Lastly, if we want to easily find just those images of "trains" we've seen on all of our vacations, "steam engines" we've seen on all of our vacations, or "steam engines that are still functioning" on all of our vacations, we need to add keywords to quickly find those images. Otherwise our guests will need to be very patient as we say "I know it's here somewhere, give me a second..."

Part 2 in a 3-part series on Using Adobe Bridge


[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]


Now that you've opened a folder full of images in Bridge, now what?


The common complaint on Bridge is that it "I can't see how  to DO anything to the images." While that is mostly kinda sorta correct, it doesn't tell the whole story. At a minimum, there are a few things that Bridge can do to the files contained within a folder. Bridge can certainly help organize the contents of your images and Bridge can certainly help you rename the files in your folder. [Quick tip: if you do the standard "Click" (on the name) and pause and then "click" again, the name is now selected so that you can rename it. If you now tap the Tab key, you will jump to the next image in succession with the name already selected ready to rename.] If you want to have personalized Metadata in your images, you need  Bridge. In addition, Bridge can interact with (say) Photoshop to do a variety of processing of your images as well as interact with Photoshop (and Illustrator) in a variety of ways that can save you inordinate amount of time. At a minimum, you can rate and/or label your images (more on that in Part 3), play Keep-&-Toss with the images, and open the images in Photoshop for enhancement.


But can Bridge lighten an image or place a vignette around the subject of your image? Not at all. Rather, Bridge is a multi-gateway that provides quick and easy access to "the next step" in processing your images. Whether you want to open your images in Photoshop or Adobe Camera Raw, it's easy to do from Bridge.


Bridge as a Doorway

Using a separate application to open files may seem strange. After all, since we can be viewing our images as thumbnails in Finder or Explorer, why use something else to do the same thing? Well, as shown in Part 1, we do not have to limit ourselves with a thumbnail for viewing an image and can use a large expanded view. But we do need to open the images into something else to "do" something with them. So let me start with:


Opening  raw and other image formats into Adobe Camera Raw

If your camera is set to save the images in a raw format (e.g., Canon (CR2), Nikon (NEF), Fuji (RAF), etc.), or if you use any DNG file, if you double-click on the raw or DNG file will initiate the process to  automatically open up ACR as Photoshop does not understand the data from a raw or DNG file and this file must be processed into an understandable file format (in a process  called demosaicing) before Photoshop can understand and display the image for processing.


[A brief explanation on the difference between a raw file and a DNG file: As just explained, a raw file is the image taken from your camera that was captured in the raw (unprocessed) format. This is quite different from the JPEG file that can also come from your camera. When importing your images from your camera (or camera card) into your computer, you have the option when using Photo Downloader (one of the features from within Bridge) to auto-convert the raw images to DNG.

If you do not convert to DNG, any changes made in ACR are stored in a 2nd file (called a side-car file) in an XMP format. The original image and the side-car file MUST be located in the same folder for ACR to see these adjustments at any time in the future.


Amongst the benefits of DNG formated images is that they are a "container" kind of file and they contain the XMP data within the DNG file. So, if you were to move the raw formated file to a different folder (or computer) from where the xmp file is located, all of your adjustments would not show up. As such, it's important to move the raw file AND the xmp file together. However, if you moved the DNG file to a different folder (or computer), all of your adjustments would appear as you last left them. Note in the screenshot below that the file size of the side-car files are very tiny. Also note that the size of the DNG file is typically smaller than the raw file it came from (but not always).


If you did not convert your raw images into the DNG format during the importing process, you can always do that at ANY time via Adobe's DNG Converter which can be downloaded from here. Note that the DNG Converter will automatically combine any XMP sidecar file with the raw file during the conversion process so that once complete any changes you made with the raw file are already "there" with the DNG file.


In addition to raw or DNG images, you can also open JPEG and TIFF images (but not PSD (Photoshop documents)) in ACR and do almost all of the adjustments that you can do with any raw image on those image types as well. To do this, you can either select the image and press Command/Control-r or right-click on an image and select "Open in Camera Raw...":


Or click on the four-sided wheel in Bridge's tool icons:


However, there are some settings in ACR's preferences you should be aware of. Bridge is unique in one special regard, when going for setting the preferences, you will find two: one for "Camera Raw Preferences..." and one for "Preferences..." (this being specifically for Bridge). Here you need to select the former. Toward the bottom you will see some dropdown menu options for JPEG and TIFF Handling. You will see three options for both. The top one, "Disable..." is if  you NEVER ever want to process that kind of image in ACR. The bottom one "Automatically..." will ONLY let you process a JPEG or TIFF image in ACR first. The middle one, "...with settings." lets you open either a JPEG or TIFF image into ACR using the same commands as shown above on raw images but if you select the image and then either double-click or press Command/Control-o, the image will open in Photoshop. In other words, it lets you process the image the way that YOU want to.


There are a couple of limitations to opening a non-raw image in ACR, most of which involve layers and thereby show up with TIFF images: if you've previously opened your TIFF image in Photoshop and created any layers of any kind, you cannot open that image in ACR. The annoying aspect about this is if you were to open the image and flatten it by deleting the layers or by flattening the image and go back to Bridge, you still will not be able to open that image in ACR via Bridge. At that point what you need to do is, after the flattening and closing the image, to go into Bridge's Tools menu -> Cache  and then select "Purge Cache for  folder "(name of folder)." Once you've done that, you can then open up that TIFF image in ACR. Keep in mind though that if you have any other images in the same folder with layers you will need to repeat that last step for each image. A more efficient approach is to flatten any and all of the images you want to work with AND THEN Purge the Cache for the folder.

After any image has been adjusted  in ACR, be it raw, JPEG, or TIFF image, you will see the icon in the image's thumbnail in Bridge showing that there's been  ACR adjustment.


Now, here's an important dynamic: the only Adobe applications that understand a raw/DNG image are either Bridge (only to properly display), or ACR or Lightroom (to display and enhance). Word, InDesign, Illustrator, and other Adobe applications do not understand and cannot display a raw image. But there's more. If you take a JPEG or TIFF image and do some alterations in that image in ACR, those changes can only be seen in Bridge, ACR, or Lightroom. If you try to open those ACR-adjusted images in either Word, InDesign, Illustrator, etc. the images will display as they did before the changes done in ACR. If you want those changes to be "sharable" with friends (who do not have ACR) or other applications, you need to do a "Save as..." with those images into new JPEG or TIFF format from ACR with the changes. These new images now like any normal JPG or TIFF images and can be placed within other applications and/or be emailed and shared with friends.


Sharing ACR adjustments  within Bridge

Despite all of this opportunity to open images in appropriate "other" applications, in fact, there's only a few things you can actually DO to an image by Bridge, in Bridge: one of the very few is the basic operation of rotating the image CW or CCW. The one special dynamic here is that once that's done, this new orientation will be recognized by any other Adobe application. In most DAM (Digital Asset Management) software that I've worked with lets you rotate the image in that application but is ignored when you place that image into another application. Otherwise, there  are some important processes you can do with ACR-altered images in Bridge and this has to do with Copying and Pasting any settings from ACR.


It's fairly common for more than one image to need the same general adjustments as other images in any given shoot. When selecting images to open in ACR, you can add to your image count by Shift-click to get continuous images from the Content Panel (or Command/Control-click to get discontinuous images), and double-clicking on one of the selected images will open all of the selected images  into ACR at once. Now, if you Select All (Command/Control-a) you can adjust all of the images at the same time. But let's say you've opened one image, made some adjustments and later see another image that has very similar issues. You can at that point, right-click on the image and select "Copy Settings." Note that when you select "Paste Settings...," that option has an ellipse after the command letting you know that there will be a new window popping up. From that window you can deselect some of the settings such as any cropping or other adjustments that you do NOT want pasted into this image. By the way, although these key-commands are not shown, you can also Option-Command/Alt-Control-c and Option-Command/Alt-Control-v to Copy and Paste your ACR settings.


Lastly, note that the last option is to Clear Settings. Where this is important is if you converted your images into DNG format, you cannot simply delete the xmp "sidecar" file in the Finder/Explorer to remove any alterations you've made on the image. The DNG format is a "container" type of file and contains the xmp data. So this option, the Clear Settings, removes any alterations you've made to a file for good. Simply, one of the dynamics of raw/DNG images is that you cannot change any pixels in the image, only how the pixels are interpreted by the software. If you remove any interpretation, all you have left is how the image is generically viewed.



But not everything about an image is done to the image. Rather, there's a lot that can be done to the image's data. The Metadata, or "along with data," encompasses potentially a lot of information about that image.


Each of these categories contain different types of information that you can elect to include with the file. For example, the IPTC contains information mostly about you and the image such as Creator (photographer, Job Title, City, State, Zip, email(s), website, Copyright Notice, Copyright Status, plus many other potential items of interest/importance. This is quite a bit different from the IPTC Extension which can contain information about the subject, especially if the subject of the image is a person so that information about if the Model has signed release documents, the age of the Model, if this was taken at an Event, etc.


The Camera Data only contains the original date and time that the image was taken while the GPS contains the Latitude, Longitude, and Altitude of the image (if that data was available from the camera). [Note: my older DSLR did not have a GPS unit built in. To capture the GPS data I'd often take an extra image with my iPhone and manually copy and paste that data into these fields since the iPhone  automatically collects this data.]


If you are a hobbyist, you may not wish to deal with much of anything here but if you are a professional, having the ability to easily edit and apply this data to your image can save you inordinate amount of time and energy.


One of the things that Adobe has done is to make it very easy to update, and apply this information into the Metadata as well as into the image from either Bridge or Photoshop. After selecting one or every image in a folder, from within Bridge's Content Panel, from the File menu, go to the bottom and select "Get info..." Then simply select the Template you wish to use and you are done.


Although not shown in the image from Part 1 of this series, when you download images from your camera into your computer, if you select the "Advanced" view of Photo Downloader, one of the other options is to automatically install the Metadata template you've created.


Working with other applications

Probably one of the least-known features in Bridge is Bridge's ability to control the color space for all Adobe applications. It's probable that you've opened an image and tried to move it into a different image only to be told that the color space of one image isn't the same as the other image. Or perhaps you've tried to move an image into a InDesign document only to be told something similar.


Color Settings

Within Bridge is a simple single option at the bottom of the Edit menu called "Color Settings." When selected, you can coordinate all of your applications color settings to the same setting. This means that if in the morning you are working on web design, you can select "North America Web/Internet" and in the afternoon you are working on a printed mailer, you then can switch to "North America General Purpose 2" and you will not get any of those "incompatible" messages. And yes, you can customize these settings.



Batch Rename

As I explained earlier, Bridge is sort of like a hallway where you can easily go to other applications as needed to do your job. These are best displayed from the Tools menu. However, even before you get to other applications, let's say you have a folder with 200+ images and you've selected 14 of them and now want to rename them and have consecutive numbers for those 14 images.


Piece of cake.


From the top of the Tools menu, select "Batch Rename..."

A new window pops up letting you custom design a wide parameter of components into the name you'd like these files to have. VERY fast and easy.



Process Operations from Bridge to Photoshop

And now, digging more deeply into what Bridge can do when interacting with other applications, if you go to the tools menu and drop down to Photoshop, you see these options:


So, in order:


(1) Batch…: Let's say you've selected 30 images that you want to run an action you've created that lets you place a Watermark on any image.

Select the images and then select Batch from Tools -> Photoshop ->Batch. You then have the following window: [Note: this window is sufficiently wide that when reducing it's with for this blog would make it too small to be viably visible. As such I'm showing first the left section then the right section.]


From here you can select your new Action in the Play section. Since you've selected the images in Bridge, select Bridge as the Source. Then check or uncheck the various options and set the Errors option as need be.


Then choose where you want the saved files to be located. It's good to check any "Override Action for any "Save As..." Command in an Action. Finally, you can set any new continuous renaming for the files.


Click OK and all of those files will be done in very short order.


While you can only process one Action at a time in Batch, you can create new Actions that are a combination of independent Actions. Such as an action that resizes the image, places the watermark, and does a final sharpening. Now save that Action with a recognizable name. In Batch, select that Action and all three actions will be done on the selected images.


2) Contact Sheet II...: The term "Contact Sheet" comes from the time when people were working with film. The developing lab would take the negatives, physically lay them in direct contact on a sheet of photographic paper, hit it with light and you then had "instant thumbnails." Contact Sheet II is essentially no different except that you can control the size of the thumbnails. What you can't do is to see what you've created before you create it. Nonetheless, what you will get will be pretty straightforward.


If you are starting from Bridge, after selecting the images you want to use, then go to Tools -> Photoshop -> Contact Sheet II... Once you've selected that, you are jumped to Photoshop.


On the top of the control widow, you can either accept the images you selected in Bridge and/or select other images and/or folders of images. For the Document, the default is set for a US letter size document, customize as needed. Finally on the bottom, for Thumbnails you select how many columns and rows. The more columns and rows, the smaller the thumbnails and vise versa. Lastly, you can use each file's name as the name shown on the Contact Sheet. This will be processed into a PSD document which you can either Print as is or convert it into a PDF that you can send to someone to look over the images.



3) Image Processor...: One of my favorite selections from the Tools -> Photoshop options. As you probably know, when you take an image from your 30 MegaPixel camera, you do NOT want to send that photo out to all of your friends via email. Similarly, you do not want to send those images out to your Facebook page. In the former, if you send 10 images out to your friend, these images will store at 20-30 MB each. Send 10 images that's one email with 200-300 MB of data. You will not make or keep friends that way. If you send these images to Facebook, you now have the extended wait time for these large images to upload to Facebook and then Facebook will decrease them down to a reasonable size to display. However, if you decrease the pixel size and set a reasonable compression before you send them off, you get to keep your friends as well as keep your uploading time to Facebook down to a reasonable amount.


Not only is the Image Processor (IP) very practical, it's easy to use. It has 4 steps and you are done. After selecting the images you want to process in the Content Panel, select Image Processor and those image are ready to process. Step 1). If you didn't select the images before opening IP, you can click on the Folder icon on the left and select the images in a Finder/Explorer view. Step 2). Figure out where you want the processed images to end up. Step 3). Here you determine if you want JPEG and/or PSD and/or TIFF images and what dimension do you want the final size of the processed images. [Note: if you place (say) 1000 in the W and H, this will automatically work for portrait and landscape images. It does NOT turn the image from a rectangle into a square.] If you are saving to JPEG, do set the quality (generally a 7 is a good compromise for quality versus reasonable compression size). If the images will be viewed on a monitor (e.g., email and/or browser), do set "Convert Profile to sRGB." For PSD images (Photoshop document), Maximize Compatibility will increase final storage size a tad but will be visible to more software. Lastly, for TIFF images selecting "LZW Compression" will decrease the storage size of the image (but not that much for 8-bit images) but at the expense of the images may not be opened by some other software (other than Adobe software). Lastly, 4). If you have any pre-made Actions, you can call them up here (such as a pre-made Sharpen Action) to finish up the processor's actions.


Once you've set all of the options you want, click the "Run" button. At this point Bridge and Photoshop will be dancing back and forth as the images you've selected are processed one-by-one. It doesn't take long and when completed, you'll have a group of photos you can send to your friend or Facebook and not worry about overloading anyone's system.


4) Lens Correction...:  While this is available from Bridge, I'm not a strong advocate of using it. This is an automated correction  that once set in motion,  applies what it thinks your image needs and then returns you back to Bridge. In effect, it's not different from selection Lens Correction from Photoshop's Filter menu, except that it provides zero option for you to do any fine-tuning or personal finesse. To be frank, you are better of selecting the Lens Correction... from Photoshop's Filter menu or use the Lens Correction from within ACR.


5) Load files into Photoshop Layers...: Like it says, select two or more images from the Content Panel and open those files with this command all of the files will open in one document and each file will open in a different layer. This is particularly handy when (for example) stacking multiple short depth of field shots from Macro Photography to obtain a fully focused image.


6) Merge to HDR Pro...: Like it says, if you have several images that were taken of the same view but with different shutter speeds to make the images lighter/darker, you can select the images and then by selecting this option you will automatically go to Photoshop's HDR Pro for processing.


7) Photomerge...: Just like #6 but for Panoramas, if you have multiple images you've taken as part of a panorama, selecting the images and then selecting this option, you will automatically open Photoshop in its Panorama creating capabilities with all of the images ready in place.


8) Process Collections in Photoshop:  The Collections Panel is used to store "Found" items. That is, you could have a Collection of all of the Aunt Maud photos you have. It's also a place where you can store all of your proto-HDR and proto-panoramic images in a Collection. If you were to do this, you'd see all of the related images automatically place themselves into Stacks. When you select this option, all of your HDR and Photoshop images will self-process themselves into HDR and Panoramic images. The good thing about this is that it is completely automatic and you do not have to do a thing. The bad thing about this is that it is completely automatic and there's nothing you can do. So, if you want to see all of your images processed letting you  determine which ones deserve more care and unique handling, this is great and lets you do that. But if you tend to want to spend your time finessing every image, this may not work out for you.


But there's also Adobe Illustrator

Just beneath Photoshop in the Tools menu is Illustrator. Alas there is only one option but it's a good one: "Image Trace..."

Select any PSD, TIFF, or JPEG image and then select "Image Trace..." If Illustrator is not open, it will open and process the bitmapped image into a vector image. Once the image is in Illustrator, and the basic processing is done, you can still tweak and work with the image. However, to be able to tweak the result, be sure to uncheck the option: "Save and Close Results." If you check that, whatever was processed in Illustrator will be saved and closed. The other option here: "Vectorize To Layers in Single Document" means that if you have more than one image selected, and this is checked, you will have 1 Illustrator document with as many layers as you had images processed. Otherwise, you will have one document per image.


Once in Illustrator, as long as the image is selected, you can continue to manipulate and finesse the image as you so chose. Remember you can bring up the Image Trace Panel to have complete access to all of the tools by either clicking on the Image Trace icon in the tools Panel, or selecting the Image Trace Panel from the Windows menu and select it from there.



And So…

So, as you can see, while you can do very little "on" an image in Bridge, there's a tremendous amount you can do "with" an image in Bridge. For those who find that Lightroom does all they need, that's great. I am an avid user of Lightroom as well and find it invaluable for family events, traveling, and any professional gigs that come my way. But when I have one-off image shoots or people send me some images. I do NOT wish to add that to any Lightroom Collection and am satisfied to only review, play Keep & Toss, or process the images and I'm done with those images. That can best be done in Bridge. When you add that I can see PDFs, InDesign documents, Illustrator documents, Word and Text documents, etc. in Bridge (which cannot be done in Lightroom), that means that I can work with and follow an entire project in Bridge.



In the 3rd and final section on Bridge I will discuss how to find particular images within folders in Bridge. This will include using Labels, Ratings, using Bridge's Filter Panel and Keywords.

Part 1 in a 3-part article on using Adobe Bridge


[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]


Bridge grew out of a  single Palette from within Photoshop called "File Browser." . By the time Creative Suite 2 arrived, Bridge was an actual separate program and was part of the default installed applications. By removing File Browser from PS, all of the Adobe Applications could now interact with Bridge providing significant interactivity throughout most of Adobe's applications. Now, long overshadowed by Adobe Lightroom, Bridge seems almost as an afterthought. But do not be fooled, Bridge remains a very important and valuable tool in your software arsenal.


There are a specific times when I want to use Lightroom as when I've been on vacation or have had a professional shoot and I  need to have repeated access those images as well as the features that Lightroom provides. Alternatively, if I have been provided a collection of  files for a website or newsletter that I'm creating (not all images) and I only need to work with the files for a defined amount of time, and I do not need or want to work in Lightroom's catalog, I must have Bridge. Simply, I use both depending on the task at hand.


If you are unfamiliar with Bridge, it is a tool to let you quickly examine documents of all kinds with an emphasis on images of all kinds. One of the most common observations that people make when opening up Bridge for the 1st time is "It doesn't seem to 'do' anything." While that statement is kinda true, it doesn't tell the whole story. For this article I will focus on images but keep in mind that you can work with a wide variety of documents although you may not be able to have the same level of interaction with them as you can with images.


Simply, if you have a folder of images and you want to see what you've got and which images you want to spend some time on in Photoshop, and/or which images to use for (say) a newsletter, Bridge is the fastest and most convenient way to do that task. There's quite a bit more that Bridge can do, but at a minimum, it helps you navigate your images, helps you narrow down the images you want to keep, and/or helps you determine which  images you want to provide extra time with in Adobe Camera Raw and/or Photoshop.


By the way, this article will help you organize and customize Bridge so it can work for you. There is also a 2nd article explaining how to do things in Bridge and a 3rd article on how find images in Bridge. Do look for them, they are nearby. Also note that I have a number of small tidbits of information about and how to use Bridge. If I included EVERYTHING about Bridge here, this would have been a significantly larger article.


Starting  Bridge

When you first open Bridge, it's probably going to look a bit confusing: there are three columns of Panels, some sharing the same column, some by themselves, and you may not be sure to know which way to look or why, and most important, there's not much feedback to know what to "do." One of the most common complaints is why does the image in the Preview Panel look barely larger than the size of the thumbnails in the Content Panel? Why bother, what good is such a small Preview?



Getting your images into your computer

While you may already have a number of folders of images, if you have images currently in your camera, Bridge can help you bring them into your computer. Yes, you can do this directly in the Finder or Explorer but there are several extra features by using Bridge's Photo Downloader.


Regardless whether you plug your camera directly into your computer or use a Card Reader (main benefit: doesn't require use of your camera's battery), you can transfer all of your images into your computer with Photo Downloader. PD can automatically start up (via Bridge's Preferences), or you can start it by clicking on the little camera icon in the upper left corner of Bridge's window, or select "Get Photos from Camera" from the File menu, the PD window opens up.


Since I do not have a camera card connected at the time of this screenshot, PD is letting me know that no device was found. Other than that, most of the settings are very straightforward about locating where you want to images to end up, subfolder names, etc. The points of note are further down. The checkbox for "Open Adobe Bridge" simply says that if not open already, Bridge will open and come to the front. "Convert to DNG" is an excellent thing to do at this point if you wish to do it. Read further on for some of the advantages of the DNG format.


I recommend that you do NOT select "Delete Original Files" as re-formating a card should be done in your camera. The last option "Save Copies to:" is great when you  wish to download your images to your camera AND an external hard drive at the same time to make sure you have backup copies.



Opening Folders in Bridge

Again, for this article we are focusing on images. Let's look at the way one can open folders in Bridge. Surprisingly, there are a number of ways to do this but none of them involve going to the "File" menu and selecting "Open Folder..." or any other menu operation. While you can open any number of new Bridge windows as you want, there's no menu mechanism to open a specific folder.


For the Mac and the PC:

  • From within Bridge you can go to the Folders Panel and navigate your way to the folder of your choice.
  • From within Bridge, select the Favorites Panel and select a folder that contains the folder you want or contains the folder you want. For example, if you click on the "Desktop" folder,  in the Contents Panel you will see all of the contents currently in the Desktop.
  • Then either by navigating within the Folders Panel, you can drill down into your desired folder, OR by double-clicking in the Contents Panel you can open and/or drill down to your desired folder to open that folder in Bridge. Also, if you come to a fork in your folders, you can always right-click on the containing folder and open that folder in a New window. This will give you two open Bridge windows. [Note: you can add custom folders to the Favorites Panel, this is discussed later.]

For the PC:

  • If you have a Shortcut to Bridge on your Desktop, you can drag a folder over that Shortcut and that folder will open in Bridge.
  • Similarly, let's say you have a folder of images already open in Explorer, you can drag a single image file onto the Shortcut and that will open that folder in Bridge.
  • If you have Bridge in your Task-bar and drag an image onto the Bridge icon in the Task-bar, that will add that image to the "Pinned" list. At any time you can double-click that pinned image and open that folder in Bridge. Dragging a folder of images to Bridge in the Task-bar will not do anything.

For the Mac

  • From the Finder, drag a folder of images to Bridge sitting in the (Mac's) Dock (running or not) and Bridge will open (if it isn't already) to that folder of images.
  • If you have a folder of images open in the Finder and drag anyone of those images onto the Bridge icon in the Dock (running or not), that will start Bridge (if it isn't running already) and display that folder's images in Bridge.
  • If you have a folder of images that is open, one other option is for you to  mouse-down on the folder's icon in the open window, you can then drag the folder's icon to Bridge's icon in the Dock.

As you scroll your eyes around the Bridge Window, you do start to notice a few things. First off, you can see thumbnails of all of the images in the folder in the Content Panel. In the upper right there's a Preview Panel that displays an image just a tad larger than the thumbnail shown in the Content Panel. On the lower right is a Metadata Panel, and adjacent to that is the Keywords Panel. In the upper left you see a Favorites Panel (with an option to add items). A Folder Panel is adjacent to that and below you see a Filter Panel as well as an adjacent Collections Panel.


Bridge, like all of Adobe's applications can be altered by the user to a new Workplace that suits your needs and work-flow. Adobe does supply a good range of pre-made Workspaces and these can be found both in a horizontal list across the top of Bridge's window or from the Workspace sub-menu from the Window (menu). Depending on how wide your window is, you may need to check these out via the dropdown arrow found just to the left of the Search field in the upper right corner. If you find that none of these Workspaces satisfy your needs you can make your own.


However, as pliable as Bridge is, there is one big limitation: there is only one window and there are the three columns and you need to work in that framework. Panels cannot float, but they can be removed from view if any specific panel is not relevant to you. However, you can open multiple windows of the same folder (or different folders) and each can have their own Workspace.


Customizing the Bridge Interface

If you wish to "customize" your Bridge Workspace, it is simply a matter of learning how to move the various Panels around. The good news is that NOTHING is going to break Bridge and at a minimum you can always go back to the original state of the Workspace from which you you  started. With that in mind, at any time you have Bridge open, you can mouse-down on any Panel's name and drag it to any other location in Bridge. So, for example, you can drag the Preview Panel into the Central Column as shown below.


In the image above, in the red outline, you can see the gray outline of the Preview Panel as it is being dragged over the Content Panel. When you see the entire Panel in blue outline, that means that that Panel will share the same space together as you can see in the Meta-data and Keywords region in the lower right.


Now, if you grab the Contents Panel tab and drag to the right, if you place your mouse toward the very top of the right-hand column, you can see a single horizontal dark blue line as opposed to a box around the entire item in the column as we saw before.


When you get that single horizontal blue line as opposed to a full rectangle, that means that the previous contents within that column will now slide down to make room for the moved Panel to exist above the previous Panels.


With that in mind, the following image shows how I like to have my Bridge laid out.


What I find is that this layout now provides a good quick view of the thumbnails and a larger view of the selected image. I have this set up to display the thumbnails 3 wide, I find that a comfortable number to scan but you can change that by changing the width of the right-side Panel or by increasing/decreasing the size of the thumbnails. To change the width of the Panels, move your cursor to the region between two Panels and notice when it changes from a regular black arrow to the "pushme-pullyou" cursor and then you can mouse-down and drag left or right


Alternatively, you can go down to the bottom of the window and change the size of the thumbnails by either clicking on the small rectangle or the large rectangle or by simply dragging the Size Guide left or right. Regardless how how you do this, there is a bit of a game of going back and forth between these two options to get the number of thumbnails you want at the size you want.


In my basic Workspace, at the upper left you have your navigation and in the lower left you can both look at the Metadata, your Keywords, and work with any filtering you wish to do to narrow down the items seen in the Content Panel. [More on this in Part 3.]


The Different Panels in Bridge

We've already discussed some of the Panels in Bridge, but there are many and some of them you may never need or want. You can turn the appearance of Panels On or Off from the Window menu. If you see a Panel with a checkmark, that means that that Panel is open. Selecting a Panel with a Checkmark will close that Panel. Here is a brief introduction to all of the Panels in Bridge. Remember these can be placed in either of the three Columns in Bridge's window.


  • Folders Panel: Displays the Folders on your Hard Drive as they appear in the Finder or Explorer
  • Favorites Panel: Displays a few of the Folders on your Hard Drive without having to "get to them." You can add specific folders to this Panel at any time.
  • Metadata Panel: Displays the unique Metadata of any file
  • Keywords Panel: if you've assigned keywords to your images, you can see what you've added from this Panel as well as assign other Keywords TO an image.
  • Filter Panel: When in a Folder of images, any images that have specific attributes will be displayed in this Panel. As such, if you have a mixture of (say) Landscape and Portrait images in the same folder and only wish to look at the Portrait images, by clicking on the Portrait images all of the Landscape images will be ignored. Similarly, if you have DNG, TIFF, and JPEG images in the same folder and have already selected Portrait images, if you then click on JPEG images, only Portrait images that are JPEG will be displayed.
  • Preview Panel: Will display any selected image(s) from the Contents Panel (no more than nine at a time).
  • Inspector Panel: This Panel is only useful for those making Scripts for Bridge. For more information see this information.
  • Collections Panel: Good for holding images of a given kind that may be across many folders. For example, if you've gone to many places that have lighthouses, you may chose to have a Lighthouse Collection. These are essentially aliases (Mac) or shortcuts (PC) and do not contain the actual image, only a link to that image. This also has "Smart Collections" where you can establish specific criteria for images in a given folder (or folders within a given folder) that if matched, will automatically place an alias/shortcut of the image into THAT Collection without you having to move it there yourself.
  • Publish Panel: This is a brand new panel in Bridge CC-2017 that lets users Publish directly to Adobe Stock. Because publishing to Adobe Stock is completely outside of the focus of these articles, I will direct you to this web page for more information on this new feature.
  • AOM Adobe Output Module Panel. This is the only Panel not automatically installed in Bridge and must be installed by the user. It can be downloaded here with full instructions at this page for how to install the Panel. In addition, it doesn't show up under the Windows menu and in fact can only be seen when the Workspace "Output" is selected. Although hidden and initial access is not very user friendly, what AOM does provide is the ability to create PDFs of your images placed on pages as well as images that can be placed on websites in either HTML or Flash based Galleries. This module is very dated and hopefully will be updated at some point. As such, it's value is limited but it does have some value.


The Non-panel Selection: the Path Bar

There is one extra option in the Widows menu that I always have "on" but is not a Panel: it's the Path Bar. When this is de-selected, it does provide a smidgen extra of vertical space that might be beneficial to laptop users who need/want that little bit of vertical space but the loss of that set of tools to me is not worth the loss of the space.


On the left of the Path Bar (shown below) shows the "Bird Trail" of where you are in your computer. From here you can always back up by clicking on a previous folder or location. In addition, if you are in a folder that contains many folders, you can right-click on the rightmost arrow-head and select "Show Items from Subfolders" which does exactly that. So, for example, if the folder you have opened is (say) San Diego and within that folder may be other folders such as "Old Town," "SD Zoo," and "Beach," rather than opening up each one separately you can see all of the San Diego photos all together. Be advised that that Bridge will need to Cache each image again (even if it has already for the individual folders) so viewing may require a minor pause while the viewing cache is created.


On the right side of the Path Bar (shown below) are some tools for Bridge. The left two are a dropdown menu as to how Bridge will display your images: "Embedded," "High Quality on Demand," or "Always High Quality." This will help either speed up Bridge or improve viewing quality of the images. The Rating dropdown menu is a quick access location to display the ratings and/or labels you've assigned to your images. The "Sort..." provides a variety of options to view you images and in which order. The third from the right icon lets you open up recent images into Photoshop. [If you want to open up a recently opened folder in Bridge, click on the "clock" icon in the above screenshot just to the left of the "boomerang" icon.] The second icon to right is the "New Folder" icon. If you have a bunch of images that deserve to be within their own folder, create that new folder, name it, and move this group of images into that folder. Remember, all actions you do within the views of Bridge will be concurrent with what takes place in either the Finder or Explorer. Lastly, the icon on the far right is the "Trash" icon, have an object selected in Bridge and click this and it will be deleted. The default Preference is to have a popup window asking if you really want to delete this/these items but you can check a box so that that (safety) popup does not show up. Your call.



Saving Workspaces in Bridge

After doing  all that customization, what you should do now is to save that workspace or you'll have to rebuild it any time you reset your workspace and/or delete your Bridge's preferences. Creating a custom workspace is easy to do: you only need to click on the name of the Workspace at the top of Bridge's window and open the dropdown list of Workspaces and select New Workspace. From there you can name it (I'd suggest something short, I use "Gary") and that's it. Your new Workspace will show up at the top of the list. You can create any number of custom Workspaces. If you do than it's best to select a name that is more informative than just your name.


At any time you can change the appearance of a Workspace to satisfy your needs for that moment. You can change the width of any Panel as well as the size of the entire Bridge window. You can remove Panels, add new Panels, whatever. If you wish to have the Panels returned to their original appearance, simply select Reset Workspace as shown at the top of this dropdown menu. If you create a new variation you like, you can keep it by simply selecting "New Workspace" and saving the new iteration.


You might have noticed that the Workspaces are listed not only in that Dropdown list just shown but also across the top of the Bridge's window. Personally I  almost exclusively use my workspace and occasionally the Light Table Workspace that is almost at the end of this list. If you want to make the latter more accessible, simply mouse-down on the Light Table Workspace (or whatever Workspace you wish to move) and drag to the left (or right) so that it lands in a location that is good for you. You can move all the Workspace names to the order you want. By the way, if you find that there is very little room for all of these names to show up on the top of your Bridge's window, note that there is a Vertical Bar on the left side of the Workspace names, this can also be moved left or right by simply clicking on the vertical line and dragging left or right as you see fit.



Customizing the Favorites Panel

Perhaps you are like me and do not keep your images in your computers default "Pictures" folder. Or you keep then on a 2nd hard drive. That, or you have your images in multiple folders across your hard drive that you want easy access to. That's why there is a Favorites Panel and the option to "Drag Favorites Here…"

Any folder you see in the Folders Panel or from the Content Panel can be transferred to the Favorites Folder simply by right-clicking and selecting "Add to Favorites"


In addition, from the Folders Panel or the Content Panel or from the Finder or Explorer you can also simply drag a folder to the bottom of the Favorites Panel to have quick and easy access to the contents of that folder.


Simply, the whole purpose of this article is to show that by customizing the Bridge interface, you can achieve a functional layout that meets your expectations.

As stated earlier in this article, while Bridge itself doesn't seem to "do" anything to a file, it is a great way to get to places to do things to files and is much more efficient that trying to do the same thing in either the Finder or Explorer.


Viewing your images

One of the things that sets Bridge apart from other DAM programs (Digital Asset Management) is that Bridge displays your images in the image's true color. Assuming that your monitor is calibrated, when you display an image, Bridge has gone into the guts of that file to display the true contents of that file, not the JPEG shortcut. It is because of this, Bridge may not be as lightning fast as other file management applications in displaying your images. In addition, when first opening up a folder of images, you are likely to see your images first appear with a black line around the image and then the line will disappear which will coincide with an improvement in the quality of the thumbnail. Below you can see the black line around the right image while the left image has been processed by Bridge.


Sometimes the quantity of images within a folder can be extensive. In addition, if you take panorama or HDR images (or panoramic HDR images), the number of total images can be overwhelming.


To help deal with this, one of the options you have is to select "Autostack HDR/Panorama" from the Stack menu or you can select a specific group of images and select Stack from the same menu. This adds the ability of "stacking" a group of images that are neither HDR or panorama images but could be manually collected as a Stack (e.g., all of the images of the cake cutting at a party).


I've found the Auto-Stack to not be reliable and can break HDR or panorama image sets into strange sets of Stacks. As such, when I use Stack, I prefer do it manually so I can insure the collection is what I want/expect it to be.


After images are set in Stacks, the "stacked" images will appear with a number in the upper left corner (and appear as a stacked group of cards). If you click on the number, they will expand so you can see all of the images in that stack. Re-click on the number and they will re-stack.




Bridge is a unique application that by itself doesn't really do all that much to your files. However, as a support application, it can save you extensive amount of time,  help to organize your files, and a host of other duties. However, it's initial user interface does not do the best job leading one to those potential benefits. As such it is up to you to work with Bridge and see what Panels you find useful and those that are not and manipulate the Bridge window to best let Bridge work for you, not hinder you. The good news is that nothing is held in concrete and you can change and adapt Bridge as you see fit any time you want.


In my next (2nd) article in this series, I will explain some of the nuances to opening  JPEG, or TIFF images into Adobe Camera Raw from within Bridge as well as Bridge's features to let you process many images with limited interaction by you, maintain color consistency throughout all of your Adobe applications, and a bunch of other bulk processing techniques.


In my third article I will show you what can be done  from within Bridge to find your images which will include using the images metadata, Rating, Labeling, and Keywording.


In the meantime, customize your Bridge, go play!