May 3, 2005

Raw Shooters CS2 Migration Guide

The purpose of this short guide is to help you transition from Photoshop CS/Camera Raw 2.x/File Browser to Photoshop CS2/Camera Raw 3.x/Bridge. Nothing terrible is going to happen if you fail to follow these recommendations, but you will lose time.

Why? Simply because, the first time you point Bridge at a folder, its cache for that folder is empty, so it’s going to spend time reading the thumbnails, then using Camera Raw to generate high-quality previews. Since this is a fairly time-consuming process, you want to make sure that it’s done the way you want it. These simple steps will help you achieve that goal.

Camera Raw Default Settings
The shipping default settings in Camera Raw 3 are very different from those in Camera Raw 2.x due to the new Auto-Correction feature. Before you let Bridge start caching folders and generating previews, it’s a good idea to decide whether or not this is a behavior you want, because it’s the behavior Bridge will use for all raw files that don’t have explicit settings applied.

If you’ve hand-tweaked your Camera Raw 2.x defaults, or you have any useful saved subsets, save them out of Camera Raw 2.x in Photoshop CS to someplace where you can find them easily without having to tunnel through subfolders, such as the desktop, before tackling CS2.

There are two rational ways to decide how to set your defaults for Camera Raw 3.

• Dedicate a small folder with a dozen or two images that Bridge will cache, and work from that (if you use multiple camera models, remember that Camera Raw stores separate default settings for each model, so you’ll want to include samples from each camera).

• Open a representative sampling of images directly from the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer into Camera Raw hosted by Photoshop. If you open 10 or more images, you’ll see this warning:

I recommend checking “Don’t show again” — I’ve successfully opened 1500 images simultaneously in Camera Raw, though it took a few minutes to do so! Again, bear in mind that the defaults are separate for each camera model, so choose files from each camera you plan to use with Camera Raw. I prefer the second method, because if you decide that you need to change the defaults, you’re already in Camera Raw.

You can toggle the Autocorrection on and off by pressing Command-U (Mac) or Ctrl-U (Win). If you decide that Autocorrection works for you, you can leave it as the default. However, if you’ve made any custom Calibrate settings for any of your cameras, you may want to incorporate them in your camera defaults, along with any changes you made to the defaults in the Detail or Lens tabs. The Autocorrection feature assumes that the new Curve tab is at its default setting of Medium Contrast, so if you want to use Autocorrection, don’t change the curve.

If you decide that Autocorrection isn’t for you (I’ve come to the conclusion that one needs to be a much better or much worse photographer than I am to want it—I need to see the effects of my exposure decisions rather than having them normalized by Autocorrection), Pressing Command-U/Ctrl-U will get you the Camera Raw 2.x shipping defaults. If these are what you want, fine. If you want to change them to your own defaults, either change the values in the Camera Raw dialog box, or load the Camera Raw 2.x settings and subsets you saved to the desktop.

Once you’ve adjusted the settings the way you want the defaults, choose Save New Camera Raw Default Settings from the Camera Raw menu.

From the Settings fly out menu, select Save New Camera Raw Defaults.

Repeat this process for each camera model you plan to use with Camera Raw 3. It takes much less time to do than it does to explain, and the time spent will be amply repaid when you start working with Bridge.

Camera Raw Preferences
There’s one more detail of which you need to take care while you’re still in Camera Raw, which is Camera Raw’s Preferences.

Click on image to see full size dialog in a new window.

The critical preference is “Save image settings in”—because if you decide to change it later, doing so entails considerable work. I prefer to save my settings in sidecar .xmp files to doing so in the Camera Raw Database, because I often move images between machines, and with sidecar files the settings can travel with the images, where with the Camera Raw Database, they don’t. (Camera Raw’s new Export Settings command lets you export sidecars when you need them, but it’s one more thing to remember.)

New to Camera Raw 3.0 is the Camera Raw Cache. The cache simply holds previews to speed up Camera Raw on already-viewed files—nothing is stored in the Camera Raw Cache that isn’t also stored somewhere else. Each preview takes a little over 5MB, so at its default 1GB setting it caches about 200 raw images. If your work habits involve opening the same collections of images in Camera Raw multiple times, tuning the size of the cache folder can provide modest but welcome speed gains. On a dual 2Ghz Macintosh G5 with 6GB RAM and a dedicated scratch partition on a different physical drive from the startup disk, loading 1505 raw Canon EOS 300D images into Camera Raw took 63 seconds after purging the cache. Using a 10GB cache, loading the images a second time took 46 seconds. Your mileage may vary…. Unlike Save image settings in, you can mess with this preference setting later without any great penalties, so if you’d rather worry about it later, that’s fine. Once you’ve finished setting your camera defaults and Camera Raw Preferences, click Done to close Camera Raw.

Bridge Preferences
The other key setting that will help smooth your migration is the one that dictates how Bridge’s cache files get stored. The File Browser’s cache mechanism was complex, and in my experience at least, occasionally infuriating. The interaction between the main cache and exported caches was often hard to understand, and I’m confident I’m not alone in having burned CDs without caches because I simply forgot to export the cache.

By default, Bridge uses a centralized cache, just as File Browser did. It seems somewhat better-behaved than File Browser’s cache, so if you really enjoyed the way File browser handled caching, by all means leave Bridge at its default setting. But Bridge offers an alternative that I feel is superior—Use Distributed Cache Files When Possible. When you choose this option, Bridge writes the cache files directly into the folder you’re browsing, so it’s always where you need it, and there’s never any need to export the cache.

The one small downside to the distributed cache is that every folder Bridge has seen winds up containing two files, Adobe Bridge Cache.bc and Adobe Bridge Cache.bct. If this drives you nuts, you can use the centralized cache instead, but you’ll have to remember to export the cache when necessary, and while I have no solid evidence to support the statement, I suspect that the centralized cache is less stable, and more prone to permissions problems, than the distributed ones. So I recommend setting Bridge’s Advanced Preferences to Use Distributed Caches When Possible. (The “When Possible” weasel words are there because Bridge can’t write a distributed cache to a folder on read-only media or to a folder with read-only permissions. In those situations, it uses the centralized cache instead.)

Click on image to see full size dialog in a new window.

All the other preferences and settings in Bridge, Photoshop, and Camera Raw are open to experiment without incurring any serious penalties in terms of work that has to be undone, but the three key settings that are the focus of this article—Camera Raw defaults, Camera Raw Settings preferences, and Bridge cache preferences—are ones that you should set before you start doing any serious work, because if you don’t, they’ll cost you in that most precious of all currencies, your time.


Bruce Fraser is the noted author of the best-selling Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2.

He is also the co-author of the books; Real World Photoshop and Real World Color Management from Peachpit Press. Bruce also writes for CreativePro where he pens his “Out Of Gamut” articles.

Bruce is a founding member of PixelGenius, developers of the PhotoKit series of Photoshop plug-ins and was lead designer for PhotoKit Sharpener.

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