The Bridge to Lightroom

When the topic circles around the soon-to-be-released Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 these days, much of what I hear in the middle of my brain is buzz. Literally.

There has been so much buzz surrounding Lightroom for so long that it has become difficult to focus on what Lightroom actually seeks to offer users that Adobe’s other creative apps don’t. And that’s particularly true since Lightroom—which sort of seems like it ought to be a Creative Suite app—is being sold independently.

One major question that’s cropped up recently—especially with Adobe’s uncharacteristic release of the Photoshop CS3 beta —is this: what about Bridge? If you have Bridge, why do you need Lightroom? Or to put the question another way, why would you need any photo management app at all if you already have a top-notch file manager and browser that happens to ship free of charge with both Photoshop and the Creative Suite?

Bridge is already a great file manager, and it’s getting even better with the new version of Photoshop. Bridge is essential if you want to use the CS suite to combine photo files, or application files, or to integrate various components from InDesign, Illustrator, or other CS apps.

But if you’re a photo pro—if you’re exclusively a photographer—and you’re not interested in page layout or Web design or adding illustrations to photo collages, Lightroom is targeted to you. Not all photographers will need Lightroom’s powerful database functionality and camera raw facility, but those who do will be gratified that it is so compatible with their favorite image editor.

Whereas Bridge is essentially a browser that accommodates and incorporates many different file formats spanning the entire suite, Lightroom is a database app that accommodates only image file formats. While you can do an amazing amount of raw image manipulation via Bridge, Lightroom is built from the ground up for a camera raw workflow. In fact, some say that Lightroom’s Develop module may be all that some photographers need to process their raw photos.

Lightroom also promises better and faster photo management, especially for sorting, comparing, and entering and editing metadata for hundreds, or even thousands of photos from disparate locations.

In addition, a few photo-editing tools found their way into Lightroom’s debut version: there’s a Clone and Healing tool to zap those little dust spots and a Targeted Adjustment tool for fine-tuning colors, for example.

In the next few days Rick LePage, Macworld ’s editor at large, will give you a complete first look at Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0. (You can listen to him and senior editor Christopher Breen talk about the program in the latest Macworld podcast.) I’m looking forward to Lightroom for many reasons, not the least of which is that it will help clear this particular buzz from my brain.

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