Setting up a digital photography workflow: preferences for Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw and Photoshop CS3

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Adobe Photoshop CS3 from a photographer’s perspective and in this post I’ll outline some of the application preferences for Bridge (CS3), Camera Raw (4.x) and Photoshop (CS3) that may be useful when setting up a digital photography workflow (with thanks to David Tunnicliffe, who originally provided me with the bulk of this information):

  • In general (at an operating system level):
    • Add some memory (noting that each PC or Mac will have a limit in the maximum amount of memory it can support and that 32-bit operating systems can only access approximately 3.2GB).
    • Resist the temptation to compress hard disk drives – disks are relatively inexpensive and the available storage capacity is increasing rapidly.
  • Bridge (CS3: my installation is at v2.0.0.975; some extra information here relating to features introduced at v2.1):
    • General: adjust the background colour – dark grey will generally provide a non-distractive background; if Bridge is to be used for importing images when a camera is connected, select the appropriate checkbox under Behavior; remove items from the Favorites list that will not be used (e.g. Start Meeting).
    • Thumbnails: enable Adobe Camera Raw for JPEG and TIFF file handling; 400MB is the default maximum file size for the creation of thumbnails and should be more than enough for most photographers (unless they scan images at very high resolutions); high quality thumbnails can be useful; however conversion on preview is an intensive operation and should be avoided.
    • Playback: few photographers will be interested in media playback options (new in v2.1 – not present in v2.0).
    • Metadata: select/deselect as required – few photographers will need audio, video, or DICOM; GPS is becoming more relevant with the advent of location-based services.
    • Labels: edit the description to match the colour coding system in use – together with ratings, these can be useful for sorting.
    • Keywords: Can be used to build a hierarchy of keywords (new in v2.1 – not present in v2.0).
    • File type associations: edit if required to change the application that is associated with a given file type. Generally, these may be left at their defaults/
    • Cache: Clear the cache if problems are experienced with thumbnails (new in v2.1 – not present in v2.0).
    • Inspector: not really relevant unless using Adobe VersionCue to manage workflow.
    • Startup Scripts: these can be disabled if not used but I have left them at the default settings (removing scripts will accelerate application load times).
    • Advanced: this is the place to clear the cache if there are issues with thumbnail display; international settings for language and keyboard are also set here; software rendering should be avoided if there is suitable graphics hardware available to do the work instead.
    • Adobe Stock Photos: probably of limited use to people who would like to sell their work! In fact, the service was discontinued in April 2008 and can be uninstalled from Bridge.
    • Meetings: Only relevant with Adobe Acrobat Connect.
  • Camera Raw (my installation has been updated to v4.5.0.175; the version originally shipped with my copy of Photoshop CS3 was v4.0):
    • Preferences (available in other Photoshop applications whilst loaded): save image settings in sidecar (.XMP) files; apply sharpening to preview images only; Camera Raw cache defaults to 1GB and can be purged if issues are experienced; JPEG and TIFF handling selected (not available in v4.0).
    • Main interface: ensure Preview is selected.
    • Workflow options (link at the bottom of the ACR window): Adobe RGB (1998) is probably the best colour space for most photographers (Sean T. McHugh explains more about the comparison between sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998); use 16-bits per channel; use size and resolution to upscale (for better results than applying interpolation in Photoshop).
  • Photoshop (CS3: v10.0):
    • General: Color picker should be set to Adobe; Image interpolation should be selected according to purpose but bicubic smoother is probably the most useful for photographers.
    • Interface: Select remember palette locations.
    • File handling: select the prefer Adobe Camera Raw for filetype options if you want to open JPEG or RAW files in Adobe Camera Raw (recommended); increase the length of the recent file list if required; disable version cue if not required.
    • Performance: Photoshop is memory hungry but don’t let it take more than 70% of the available RAM (that is the default) – use the ideal range as a guide; adjust scratch disk settings if you have multiple disks available; enable 3D acceleration if supported by the GPU; increase the number of history states if possible.
    • Transparency and Gamut: ensure opacity is set to 100% (default setting).
    • Units and rulers: minimum print resolution for new documents should be 300ppi (72ppi is fine for screen).
    • Plug-ins: this is only relevant if you have plug-ins for an old version of Photoshop or in a strange location.
    • Cursors; Guides, Grid, Slices and Count; Type: Nothing to change.

Of course, this is just scraping the surface – these applications alone are probably not the complete workflow and each of them offers far more functionality than most photographers will require. If you’re using the CS3 applications for graphic design work, then you’ll probably have a totally different setup.

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