Using Bridge for Winnowing the Shoot

Using Bridge for Winnowing the Shoot

Remember back in Chapter 1 when I mentioned the steps you would take to properly winnow your shoot? Bridge is the Photoshop tool for this kind of work. Let's take a look at the specific tasks and how to do them efficiently in Bridge.

Organizing and Regrouping in Bridge

If your shoot consisted of photos for different purposes or clients, you'll want to start by physically placing those photos next to one another in their appropriate groups. Say you took a road trip to a location portrait assignment and going to and coming from the location, you shot some scenics and nature. While in the town where the assignment took place, you saw a few subjects for stock photos. Then, of course, there were the portraits from the shoot. This is how you would organize your images:

  1. At this stage, you don't need a large preview, folder navigation, or Metadata info. All you want to do is to get your files grouped together. There are two ways to do this: drag and drop images into place or temporarily assign a color label to each category, then drag all the images that have the same color label together, then delete the labels (you'll need them for other images later).

  2. For both of these operations, use the lightboxing technique I mentioned earlier. To get there, navigate to your target folder, and then press Cmd/Ctrl-F2. If you prefer tedium, you probably shouldn't be reading this book, but you can choose WindowLight Table. The Bridge interface will suddenly consist of nothing but small thumbnails, as seen in Figure.

    Figure. Bridge in Light Table mode before sorting.

If your collection is fairly small (say, fewer than 200 shots, just as a guideline), it's probably easier to drag and drop. Bridge allows you to physically drag images into any arrangement you like. The thumbnails will stay in that position forever, tooas long as you don't move them again. Here's the quick way to rearrange a relatively small group of files:

  • At the bottom-right of the thumbnails you'll see a slider. Drag it as far to the left as you can without making the images so small that you can't identify the contents. The more images you can see at once, the more quickly you'll be able to find those that belong together.

  • Click on the top-left thumbnail. Now press Cmd/Ctrl and click on each of the other images in the collection that has a lot in common with the first image. If there are a variety of subjects, start by gathering together all the images that are the same subject. Then, within that group, arrange the images that have the same lighting together and do the same for each of the other groups.

    When you are finished, all the images that have the most in common will be next to one another, as seen below in Figure.

    Figure. Bridge in Light Table mode after sorting.

If your collection is quite large, place a color label under images that belong in the same large category, such as people, buildings, and nature. You only have a choice of six colors for labels (none, red, yellow, green, blue, purple) and six star ratings (05), so you can have only twelve categories. Make a list on a piece of paper or index card of what each color or star grouping should be, something like the list in Figure.

Using stars and labels for temporary categorical sorting


Keyboard shortcut


No stars



One star



Two stars



Three stars



Four stars



Five stars



No label

No shortcut










Still life




No stars




No shortcut



Remember that the use of the ratings mentioned above is temporary. You can very quickly get rid of them when you're through doing this "quick grouping" by selecting all the images in the folder. Then, from the Browser menu, choose LabelNo Stars.

By the way, I set up a table in Word with these colors and categories attached. When I have a different type of group to sort, I just rename the categories and print out the chart. You may want to copy the one above and do the same thing.

These are pretty good large categories, but if you specialize in certain types of subject matter, you may want to substitute them. Also, note that I've assigned what are probably two of my least-used categories to the categories that have no keyboard shortcut for assigning the rating. It may also be that you can think of far more large categories than these, but chances are that you can consolidate them into larger categories in the beginning. For instance: glamour, portrait, men, women, boys, girls, seniors, strippers, and hippies are all subcategories of people. There may even be subcategories in those subcategories, such as male hippies, female hippies, senior hippies, teen hippies, and juvenile hippies. Some categories also overlap. Don't worry about any of these smaller categories yet. Once you've organized a large shoot into large categories, you can either reassign the labels to subcategories and resort just that area or simply drag and drop to make the categories more obvious.

Now, keeping your list handy, click on each image individually and use the keyboard shortcut in the table to assign it to the proper category. When it's easier, you can do this to multiple files at one time by Ctrl-clicking to select the individual images and then pressing the appropriate keyboard shortcut to assign the same category to all of them.

Once you've labeled everything, follow these steps:

  1. Put Bridge back in Light Table mode if you've changed it for some reason.

  2. Press Cmd/Ctrl and click on each image that has been given some kind of rating. Unfortunately, Bridge does not yet provide the means to do that automatically.

  3. As soon as you've chosen all the images with a given star/label combo, drag them all to the upper-left corner of Bridge's Light Table.

  4. Keep repeating this process for each ranking, in order, until the whole shoot is ordered by category.

  5. Repeat this procedure for each subcategory you want to process.

Once you have the files physically organized into groups, select all the files in the group and batch rename (see the "Batch Rename the Images for the Shoot" section later in this chapter) each group according to what your list(s) say those names should be preceded by. Be sure to batch rename each subcategory from the camera's filename. Your finished file organization should look like Figure.

Figure. Batch renamed and sorted files in Light Table view.

Once you've done that, you should remove all the rankings and labels so you can assort them into winners, keepers, don't show, and trash.


Later on, you will want to add keywords to the metadata for these files. So be sure to keep and refine these lists. The more consistent you are in your naming scheme, the easier it will be to find what you're looking for when you search by keywords.

Trash the Trash

At this point, I change the Bridge layout so that I can see both thumbnails and a large preview side-by-side. This is the layout I use most of the time. If you've already had some experience with Bridge, you'll probably know it just from looking at Figure.

Figure. My own preferred layout for Bridge. I can get a large enough preview of each image to give me a good idea of how the image compares with its competitors in the same category.

Now I just navigate up to the top left corner of the lightbox area, then push the Right Arrow key to move through each image one at a time. Right now, I'm only looking for images that will never make it to any practical use. Either they are too blurry, out-of-focus, or were accidentally shot pictures of the ground, my foot, or the sky. Of course, I'm also looking for blanks. Each time I encounter one of these images, I press the Delete key.

Do not, at this stage at least, delete any images that you may think you'll ever have a use foreven if there's just a part of one image that you might want to combine with another image. Also, don't delete images just because they're blurry. This morning, Regina McConnell, the owner of my mail suite, showed me a picture she took out the window of her car of a fat guy in a Santa suit riding a red motorcycle with reindeer horns attached to the handlebars. The picture was blatantly blurred and yet very effective. It really looked like Santa was having fun with his reindeer.

Doing the Critical Winnowing in Bridge

At this point, it's time to make sure that none of the images that are left have a defect (the most common are slightly blurred images due to camera movement or images that are out-of-focus). You have to do this while in a magnified mode. So put Bridge in Light Table mode, select as many images as your computer's memory and Photoshop are willing to deal with (I have a gig of RAM and lots of free hard drive space), which is typically about 16.

If you shot JPEGs, you'll have to delete the painful way. Do this for each of the shots you've opened, then open the next 16 or so and do it to them, then continue until you've checked the whole shoot. To do this:

  1. Double-click the Zoom tool, so you immediately see the image at 100 percent.

  2. Choose the Hand tool and pan to an area of critical sharpness:

    • If it's OK, just close the image.

    • If it's not, write down the camera number in the filename of the image to be zapped, then close the image and repeat these steps for the remainder of the open images.

  3. Open the next 16 images and review all of the images.

  4. Reopen Bridge and Cmd/Ctrl-click to select each image that has the number you've listed, even if it has somehow been duplicated in the meantime. After all, a duplicate of crap is still crap.

If you shot RAW, the job's much faster and easier (are you sure you need to shoot JPEG?):

  1. Select about 16 images for each round. Once selected, press Enter/Return and they will all open simultaneously in Camera Raw (see Figure).

    Figure. The Camera Raw workspace with multiple images selected. The red X in the upper corner of some indicates that they will be deleted when you close Camera Raw...if you haven't changed your mind.

  2. Double-click the Zoom tool in the Camera Raw dialog's Toolbar. Now, as you click the thumbnail for each individual image, it will be displayed cropped to 100 percent in the Preview window.

  3. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to move through each of the files you've selected. As each image's magnified section comes up, you may want to use the Hand tool to pan to the area that should be critically sharp.

  4. Press Delete/Backspace if you encounter an image that isn't sharp. A red X will appear (see Figure).

  5. Make sure all 16 images are still selected. If not, double-click the Hand tool. Now all the images will be sized to fit inside the Preview window. Go through the images you marked for deletion one more time to make sure they don't contain something you may need to use in another image or that they aren't blurred in some way that actually adds to the image's emotional impact. If either of those is the case, you'll want to keep the image. Select the image that was marked for deletion that you want to keep and press the Delete/Backspace key. The X will disappear.

Batch Rename the Images for the Shoot

We covered the general Batch Rename tool in Bridge earlier; now it's time to show the practical application of renaming all the images from a particular shoot. The goal is to name each image so that you know exactly which shoot and category it belongs to. Because you're limited to 33 characters in a filename and want to leave space for adding info to later versions, you will need to abbreviate the filenames.

Since there are almost always multiple images for a given shoot, category, and subcategory, most filenames will be unique in only one respect: the name given to that file by the camera. So I use the original filename as the last element in the reassigned filename. Figure shows you a diagrammed example of a filename.

Figure. A diagrammed example of a filename.

The following is the routine for renaming images by category:

  1. Select all the files in a given category and subcategory group. Include all the sub-subcategories in this same group. You'll be able to find these files by keyword.

  2. Choose ToolsFigure. Using the Batch Rename dialog to rename your images by category.

  3. Under Destination Folder, click the "Rename in same folder" button.

  4. Under New Filename, choose Text from the first menu. In the field to the right, type the abbreviated name of the shoot. Then highlight that part of the name and press Cmd/Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard. Now you'll be able to enter the name of the shoot ahead of other category names by pressing Cmd/Ctrl-V. Add the category name for this file. Finally, click the plus sign at far right. A new set of menus and fields appears.

  5. In the second row of menus and fields, choose Current Filename. In the center menu, choose Name + Extension. In the third menu, choose Original Case.

  6. Under Options, check the "Preserve current filename in XMP Metadata" box. I also check all three compatibility boxes.

  7. You will be able to see what your filename will look like in the Preview section of the dialog. Click Rename.

  8. A dialog box pops up stating that the data will be written to a sidecar file, rather than the original. Since there's nothing I can do about this, I check the don't show again box.

Repeat this operation for each category in your shoot.

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