The Key To The Picture

7/27/2012 11:31:27 AM

It may be laborious, but key wording your images will make it faster to find them

Adobe Bridge, the image browser that ships with Photoshop and the Creative Suite, is an excellent cataloguing tool and you can use it to browse all the images on your Mac. Use the slider at the bottom to scale thumbnails to any size, hit the spacebar to view any image full screen, use the left/right cursor keys to move to the next and previous image, and click on any full screen image to zoom in to a 100% view and then use the cursor keys to view other photographs at the same magnification, in the same location within the image.

However, none of this makes sense if you can’t find the images you want to work with - and it all comes down to key wording. Like weeding the garden, grouting your bath­room tiles and doing your tax return, the business of creating, assigning and managing keywords is one you’ll keep putting off until it’s a rainy afternoon and you have nothing better to do. The rewards are tremendous, though: suddenly you’ll be able to find any images on your Mac in an instant, and the boost to your productivity will greatly outweigh the tedium of the creation process.

Many users never use keywords, and a glance at the default keyword panel is enough to see why. It contains three events, two people and five cities. As a curious Bridge user, you might try clicking on the name Ryan and then, because nothing seems to happen, double-clicking on Ryan. Again, nothing will happen. Unless you happen to have a friend called Ryan, of whom you have photographs with applied keywords, there will be no images on your Mac that match the key­word. The same applies to the cities and the events. The best approach is to delete all the default keywords so you can start again with real ones.

If you use images from photo libraries, you’ll find that most of the images are supplied with keywords embedded in their metadata, and Bridge can read these with no further prompting. However, you’re likely to find that many of these keywords are irrelevant to you. For example, this image from this PhotoDisc collection includes valuable keywords such as Woman’, ‘adult’, and - rather confusingly - both ‘european’ and ‘ameri­can’. These are terms you might well search for. It also includes phrases like ‘annoyed’, ‘fed up’, ‘pout­ing’ and ‘arms folded’, which you’re unlikely to think of seeking out; and references to the original location, such as ‘CD98’, ‘22866PPW’. The trouble is that this list of keywords is so long it can be hard to find the ones you want.

Description: picture search
picture search

A better solution is to create a new category, such as ‘My keywords’. Do this by pressing the + button at the bottom of the keyword panel. Now, create a batch of keywords that match the sort of image you’re likely to search for, such as images of men, women, people shot from behind, people in profile, room locations and soon. It’s best to use a single term ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘behind’ - for ease of reference. To make a new sub-keyword, hit the icon showing a + with a down ward arrow pointing to it to add all your words within the ‘My key­words’ category.

Description: PhotoDisc collection

You can create additional sub-categories within this if you want to make the process even neater. So, for example, you could create a category called ‘People’ and then move all the people-related sub-categories into this one.

To apply keywords to your images, select each image in turn and check the keyword that applies to it.

Alternatively, you can select a bunch of images - such as a load of shots of women - and check the ‘woman’ keyword, and it will be applied to all of the selected images. However you go about it, though, assigning keywords is a laborious process, but it really is worth it in the long run.

Once your keywords have been assigned, you then need to know how to search for them. Surprisingly, it’s not as straightforward a process as you might expect. Ideally, you’d just double-click on a keyword in the list to find all instances of that keyword, but it doesn’t work that way.

First, you need to be in the folder you want to search - or at the top level of your Mac if you want to search your entire hard disk. The breadcrumb trail at the top of the Bridge window will show you the path to the current folder. Again, you might think that typing the search term into the text field in the Keyword panel will search for that keyword. In a way, it does, but it only searches for the keyword itself, not the images to which it has been assigned.

The two methods are to Ctrl-click on a keyword, which opens a dialog asking where you want to search and what you want to search for, with the keyword on which you Ctrl-clicked helpfully already inserted for you. Alternatively, you can use the Cmd-F shortcut, but if you do this you’ll have to type in the keyword for which you want to search - the text field will default to displaying the last-used search term.

It’s all a little clumsy, really. Fear not, though, as there’s a better way, which is to create Smart Collections. To do this, choose Window > Collections to open the panel, then click the New Smart Collection button at the bottom of the panel - it’s the icon showing a briefcase with a gear attached. This opens the Smart Collection dialog, in which you can type the criteria for which you want to search. Although you’d normally search for a keyword that ‘contains’ the search term - and this is the default position - you might want to modify it based on context: here, for instance, we’re searching for keywords that ‘start with’ man, so they don’t turn up images tagged with ‘woman’ as well.

You can use this dialog box to specify which folder or disk you want to search, and you can add multiple criteria. For example, if you have photographs of people categorised in two ways - men and women, and standing, running and sitting -you can add several keywords together to search for just sit­ting men, for example.

Creating Smart Collections means that every time a new image has these keywords applied, it will automati­cally be added to the collection. Now you can work with your Keywords panel out of sight until you need it, and just the Collections panel on view. All you have to do is to double­ click one of the Smart Collections in the list and all images whose keywords match those criteria will be found in an instant - it really will speed up your workflow.

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