Written by Steve Patterson. In the previous tutorial, we took a quick, general tour of Adobe Bridge CS4 and its default layout, panels and options. Bridge CS4 is what’s known as a digital asset manager and makes it easy for us to locate, manage and organize our ever-expanding collection of images. Of course, there isn’t much need to manage photos if we don’t have any to manage, so in this tutorial, we’ll learn how to use Bridge CS4 to get our photos from our camera or memory card on to the computer.
One common misconception with Bridge is that it’s a file storage program and that when we download our images, we import them directly into Bridge itself. That’s not the case. Bridge has no ability at all to store files. It’s simply a way to keep the images on our computer organized. We can use Bridge to get our photos from the camera on to the computer, but they’re stored in normal folders on your hard drive in whatever location you specify when you download them, just as if you had used your operating system to copy the images from your camera to your computer. Bridge simply gives us a better way of doing the same thing, with features and options that wouldn’t be available to us otherwise. Of course, where Bridge CS4 really shines is when it comes to managing the images after they’ve been downloaded, but before we get to all that good stuff, let’s first get the photos on to the computer.
Setting Up The Bridge Preferences
Before we start downloading anything, there’s one option in the Bridge CS4 Preferences we need to look at. Press Ctrl+K (Win) / Command+K (Mac) on your keyboard to quickly bring up the Preferences dialog box. In the middle of the General Preferences section, you’ll see an option that says When a Camera is Connected, Launch Adobe Photo Downloader:
The Photo Downloader is what we use to download the images from the camera or memory card, and if you select this option in the Preferences, Bridge CS4 will automatically launch the Photo Downloader for you when you connect your camera or memory card (using a card reader) to the computer. I recommend turning this option on to save you from having to launch the Photo Downloader manually each time, but if you’re not a big fan of having dialog boxes popping open on your screen unannounced, feel free to leave it unchecked. You can always come back to the Preferences later if you change your mind. Click OK to exit out of the Preferences dialog box.
Step 1: Launch The Photo Downloader
With Bridge CS4 open on your screen, connect your digital camera or memory card to your computer. We learned how to launch Bridge from within Photoshop CS4 in the previous tutorial. If you selected the option we just looked at in the Bridge Preferences, the Photo Downloader dialog box will automatically appear on your screen, so you can skip to Step 2. If you didn’t select the option, click on the Get Photos from Camera icon in the top left of the Bridge window (it’s the little camera icon):
Just before the Photo Downloader opens, Bridge will ask if you want the Photo Downloader to open automatically from now on. Choosing Yes or No will select or deselect the same option in the Preferences. Again, you can go back to the Preferences at any time to change your mind. Click Yes or No to close out of the dialog box, at which point the Photo Downloader will appear on your screen:
Step 2: Select The Advanced Dialog Box
The Photo Downloader first appears in its Standard Dialog format with a list of options for choosing a folder to download the images to, renaming files if needed, and some other options we’ll look at in a moment, but no way to actually see the images we’re about to download. Rather than being forced to grab every single image off the camera or memory card whether we want them all or not, click on the Advanced Dialog button in the bottom left corner:
This switches the Photo Downloader to its much more useful Advanced Dialog format, which includes the same options from the Standard Dialog box, plus a large preview area where we can see thumbnails of all the images we’re about to download. It also gives us the ability to add author and copyright information to our images. If you’re not seeing your images, select your camera or memory card from the Source option above the preview area, then use the scroll bar along the right of the preview area to scroll through them all:
Step 3: Select The Images You Need
If you look below each thumbnail in the preview area, you’ll see a checkbox. Bridge assumes we want to download every image so it goes ahead and selects them all for us by placing checkmarks in each of the checkboxes. If there are any images you don’t want to download, simply click inside the checkbox for the image to remove the checkmark. If there’s only a few images in the list that you want to download, click on the UnCheck All button below the preview area to deselect all of the images at once, then hold down your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and click on the thumbnails of the images you need. As you click on each image, a highlight box will appear around it. Once you’ve highlighted all the images you want to import from the camera or memory card, click inside the checkbox of any of the highlighted images to select them all:
Step 4: Choose A Location To Save The Files
With all of the images we want to download selected, the next task is to tell the Photo Downloader which folder we want to save the images to on our computer. By default, it assumes we want to save them to our main Pictures folder. If you have a different location in mind, click on the Choose button in the top left corner of the dialog box, then navigate to the folder you want to save them to. I’ll leave mine set to my Pictures directory:
Step 5: Create And Name A Subfolder To Store The Images In
The Photo Downloader will automatically create a subfolder inside the save location you specified a moment ago and place your imported images inside the subfolder. This is a great way to help keep your images organized, but by default, it will give the subfolder a name based only on the date the photos were taken, which I don’t find particularly useful since I have a hard enough time remembering what today’s date is. If you want to name the subfolder something more descriptive, select Custom Name from the drop-down list directly below where it says "Create Subfolder(s)", then type in the name you want. Since my images were taken in Alaska, I’ll name the subfolder "Alaska":
Step 6: Rename The Files If Needed
Another option the Photo Downloader gives us is to rename the images as they’re being downloaded. By default, it won’t rename them, but just as with the date the photos were taken, I don’t find the names my camera gives them (like "_MG_2301") all that helpful. If you click on the Rename Files drop-down list (directly below the Create Subfolder(s) option), you’ll bring up a list with lots of renaming choices. I’m going to again choose Custom Name, and I’ll again type "Alaska" into the name field below the drop-down box. Bridge will now rename the files as they’re being imported based on my custom name plus a 4-digital extension ("Alaska_0001", for example). You can enter a new starting number for the 4-digit extension into the input box directly across from the name field, or leave it at its default value of 1. Select the Preserve Current Filename in XMP option if you want to embed the original name in with the image file. You’ll probably never need it, but at least it will be there if you do:
Step 7: Convert RAW Files To DNG
Below the Save Options are the Advanced Options. The first one, Open Adobe Bridge, is selected by default and will open Bridge automatically once the images are completely downloaded if it isn’t open already. The option below it, Convert To DNG, is much more important. DNG stands for "digital negative", and if your images were saved by your camera in the raw format, it’s a very good idea to select this option and convert your raw files into DNG files. This will help "future proof" your images, since there’s no guarantee that your camera’s specific type of raw format will always be compatible with future versions of Photoshop or with any other programs you may want to use them with. We won’t get into technical details here, but DNG is a public, open standard format for raw files and if you want to keep the chances high that you’ll be able to access your raw files down the road, select this option (if your images were saved as JPEG or TIFF files, you can ignore it):
Step 8: Backing Up Your Images
Unless you want to risk losing your images forever, never select the Delete Original Files option. Always make sure the images have downloaded successfully into the folder you specified in the Save Options before even thinking about deleting them from your camera or memory card. If you’ve deleted them, then discover that some of the photos are missing or some files are corrupted, you’re out of luck.
Not only should you never select the Delete Original Files option, you should always back up the images by saving a copy of them to a second, separate folder, and you’ll want this folder to be on a separate hard drive in case the primary drive crashes. Don’t just choose a separate partition on the same drive because you’ll lose all of your partitions when the drive fails. Select the Save Copies To option, then click the Choose button and choose where you want to save copies of the images to, either on a separate internal hard drive or on an external USB or FireWire drive:
Step 9: Add Author And Copyright Information
Finally, below the Advanced Options is the Apply Metadata section. Metadata, in this case anyway, means "information about your images". Enter your name into the Creator field and your copyright info into the Copyright field. If you’ve created your own custom metadata template (which we’ll see how to do in another tutorial), you can select it from the Template to Use drop-down list, but we’ll just stick with the basic information for now. To add the copyright symbol, on a PC, hold down your Alt key and type 0169 on the numeric keypad. On a Mac, hold down your Option key and press the letter G:
Step 10: Download The Photos
Once you’ve chosen your images in the preview area, selected your options and entered your information, click the Get Photos button in the bottom right corner of the Photo Downloader:
A small dialog box will appear showing the download progress. Click the Stop button if you need to cancel it before it finishes, or just sit back, relax and wait. If you’re importing many high resolution raw files and converting them to DNG in the process, now might be a good time to get some fresh air and take the dog for a walk:
When all the images have been downloaded, they’ll appear in Bridge so you can begin sorting through them:
And there we have it!