Over time, you'll become very efficient at rating photos. To help you reach that point even more quickly, here are some techniques that I think you'll enjoy.
Tricks for Comparing Two Photos
If you have two photos that appear to be identical in quality, I have a neat trick that'll help you determine which one is better. Click the first candidate once, hold down the ⌘ key (Ctrl in Windows), and then click the second candidate. The two images will appear side by side in the Preview pane. This will make it easier for you to judge them.
But it gets better. You'll notice that if you move your mouse over any area of the image, your cursor turns into a magnifying glass with a plus sign. Click once, and that activates the loupe. You can drag the loupe around the picture, inspecting its various parts at 100 percent magnification. This makes it much easier to evaluate the fine detail of the photograph. Now move your mouse over to the second photograph and click the same area that you were inspecting in the first. You'll get a second loupe specifically for that photograph.
But here's the really cool part. Hold down the ⌘ key (Ctrl on Windows) and move either one of the loupes. They'll move in tandem, giving you a 100 percent comparison of the same areas of each photograph. Now you really have some detailed information to inform your rating decision. Once you've decided which image is better, hide the loupe by clicking once inside its magnifying glass, then click the thumbnail of the image that you want to re-rank and increase its rating.
But wait, there's more. If you want an enlarged view of the entire photo and you don't feel like leaving the comfy confines of your well-organized workspace, simply click the thumbnail and press the spacebar. Bridge will present you with a full-screen version of your image, letting you inspect it more easily. Want a closer look? Click once in the image to view it at 100 percent. Hold down the mouse button and drag and you can navigate around the image at full resolution.
Once you've finished your review, simply press the spacebar again, and the photo will return to its thumbnail-size view. How fun was that?
Reminder: Why You're Bothering to Identify Your Best Images
It only takes a few minutes to find your best shots, but doing image editing work on pictures can take hours. That's time you want to spend only on your best work.
Using Smart Collections
Another terrific new feature in Bridge CS4 is Smart Collections. Collections let you group images across folders, and Smart Collections will do so automatically. Essentially, Smart Collections are specialized search folders that let you apply specific criteria. Then, as those criteria are met, images are automatically added to the Smart Collection. One of my favorite uses for this function is to create a folder of my best photographs. And since I'm identifying my superior shots with high star ratings, I can have a Smart Collection automatically gather those images.
To create a Smart Collection, click the New Smart Collection icon at the bottom of the Collections pane. It looks like a little briefcase with a gear. The Smart Collection dialog box will open where you can fine-tune your search criteria. For the source, select Bridge Masters, since that's where you're storing all your photos. For Criteria, choose Rating in the left-hand pop-up menu. Next, choose "is greater than" in the middle pop-up menu. And finally, select the three-star rating in the right-hand pop-up menu. Under Results, in the Match pop-up menu, select "If any criteria are met". Then go ahead and turn on the Include All Subfolders checkbox. Now click Save.
Bridge will create a new Smart Collection for you, and will place within it all of your images that have four stars or more . . . automatically! Now, every time you rate a photo as four stars or more, it will appear in this Smart Collection. This is a great way to always have your best shots at your fingertips, no matter where the originals live.
Photographers who like to capture in both raw and JPEG at the same time will see duplicates of each shot when rating them in Bridge. Even though assigning star ratings to photographs is fun, nobody wants to deal with twice as many photos as necessary. Bridge has a nifty tool, however, that deals with this problem.
While you're working in your Photo Edit 2 workspace, revisit the left-side panel. Next to the Collections tab is the Filters tab; click it. One of the criteria under the Filters tab is File Type. In the Filter pane are labels for both raw and JPEG, with a number representing how many files of each you have in that folder. I recommend that you spend your time reading and keywording the raw files, and just leave the JPEGs alone. They're there if you need them, but I don't see any reason to invest a lot of time working on them.
So, under File Type, click Camera Raw Image. Bridge will show you all of your raw files, and will temporarily hide the JPEGs from view. If you want to remove the filter, just click Camera Raw Image again. But I recommend that you leave the filter on while you rate and keyword your images. Now, click the Collections tab, and get back to work.