Saturday, July 18, 2009

Using Adobe Bridge to share image files across a network

Over the past several weeks I have found serious limitations using Adobe Bridge for sharing a centralized library of images. In all fairness, though, Bridge is really not designed to do what we are all want it to do.

Still, like many others on this forum Bridge is the tool of choice for creating a central image library and then organizing and tagging existing and new images. After a series of meetings with the other members of the Creative Services team I began the creation and organization phases in late March, finishing in early July.

But first the basics:

1. We're running a network of a half dozen machines using both Windows and Mac operating systems some with Bridge CS3, most with CS4.

2. The image library is made up more than 107,000 image files, taking up roughly 434 gigabytes on a 2-terabyte mirrored RAID system in our IT data center. (New images are being added nearly every day.)

3. Cataloging software is not an option and a move to a full-blown server-based DAM system is projected but details remains uncertain at the moment.

Lessons learned so far:

1. Creating a large library requires some form of initial or permanent folder structure in order to move files around easily and quickly -- and to permit accurate and effective metadata tagging. Attempting to move more than a few hundred image files at a time can be a challenge for Bridge and will require the peppiest of workstations.

2. Using the primary work machine I pointed all our machines toward a centralized cache files (including the camera raw cache files) as suggested in this forum: right in the library itself, in a specially designated file. I also use this to work on collections of images before placing them in their respective library folders.

Warning! We discovered what may be a serious issue here: a day after pointing our machines to a centralized cache each copy of Bridge could see thumbnails and see the metadata but they could not search using the metadata. Even when they could search, each time a machine opened Bridge and accessed the library the thumbs would load painfully slow. This is both CS 3 and CS4 across platforms.

3. BTW, sharing master keyword lists is a breeze in CS4: just go to keywords panel and export the list to the location of your choice. It creates a .txt file (on the Mac). You can change it like any other text file and then import it right back again. Importing is equally easy: just go to Keywords panel and click on Import. Navigate to the changed keyword list and that’s it.

4. The central problem with Bridge is that each machine needs to fully index the library the first time – you can already see how long that is going to take with tens of thousands of images.

Moreover, there is no effective way to update the library from one source (for example, from the image librarian’s machine) and have all the other copies of Bridge automatically update with the new images or modified images.

Remember! Every time you move a file or modify the metadata for a file each cache on each copy of Bridge needs to be updated. One senses this could easily become a logistical nightmare.

5. Next phase is to duplicate the library and push all the files into one large folder. This should achieve two goals:

a. This should allow for easy updated of each copy of Bridge.

b. All the image files can be renamed using an agreed-upon renaming convention. (Another issue is our image files have a wide variety of file names, many using unacceptable characters (asterisks, pound signs, ampersands) and with spaces, etc.

c. Then we test this across platforms and versions of Bridge.

I should say that as a freelance digital photographer I use Adobe Lightroom 2 for my own image library; however, my present client cannot/does not want to purchase multiple licenses for such an expensive program.

I have also tested Microsoft's Expressions Media 2 and have found this to be a reliable, inexpensive handy little program for creating catalogs as well as simple web galleries to share. And the cool thing is that MS distributes a cross-platform catalog reader for free!


  1. Hello

    its helpful to read through your guidelines and how you are managing data. For my very own i did a small windows vbs script which downloads the keywords per http from a server url and make it possible to be more flexible in using the keywords:

    Maybe this might help somebody too ;) - Thanks

  2. Thanks, for the tip Robert! If anyone is interested in pursuing this further, he has much more detail on his site (just follow the link he provides; it's good).