Adobe Photoshop Lightroom vs. The Adobe Bridge

February 22, 2010 | | Comments 49

This article is a follow-up to a recent post on how Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom differ.

On the surface the Adobe Bridge, particularly Bridge CS4, looks a lot like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Beneath the surface though there are two fundamental differences. First and foremost, the Bridge is a “browser” which means that you have to tell it where to go when you want to look for your digital media files. Lightroom, on the other hand, is a database. I go to Lightroom and use its search box when I want to find files whose location–the exact sub-folder where the file lives–has slipped out of my memory.

For photographer’s the difference between Bridge, the file browser, and Lightroom, the catalog maker, is most noticeable when you are searching for one particular image. For this example, let’s pretend that you have twenty-thousand images spread across three hard drives and countless sub-folders. Let’s also pretend that every one of these files has been already been connected with your Lightroom database (ie. that we have imported everything) and that all of our files have meaningful metadata.

If we were to use Bridge to search for the one image out of our twenty-thousand that has both the keyword “landscape” and a five-star rating, our search would take the Bridge a very long-time. With enough time the Bridge would eventually discover the appropriate file, but this search is going to take a while. If you were to then decide that you want to see both your four-star and your five-star quality landscapes then the Bridge’s search engine has to start the entire hunt all again. Again the results will be painfully slow.

Bridge’s searches never get any faster because it is simply a browser. As a browser, the Adobe Bridge keeps no records about the metadata that it finds inside of each and every file. With Lightroom though either of these searches would produce almost instantaneous results.

Lightroom would find the appropriate files even if the hard drive where they actually live is not turned on or connected. [Not that this would help you much but Lightroom can index files even if they are "offline.] Lightroom’s search results are blazing fast because its database makes a copy of each and every file’s metadata. Since Lightroom builds its own index, it’s own database, the program does not need to repeatedly crawl through each and every folder on each and every hard drive to fulfill a metadata search query so search results are blazing fast.

Although the Bridge is not an efficient tool for digital image management it is a wonderful tool when you need to connect multiple types of media together. Bridge is the tool of choice for multimedia projects where you need to mix photographs, logos / vector art, audio tracks, and movie clips all into a polished project. Here the Bridge lives up to its name; literally it bridges Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, and InDesign together.

Lightroom, sadly, can only help me find my photographs. All of these other files types are beyond its scope but for folks who do this kind of work the Bridge is critical when we want to connect all these parts together.

For a detailed discussion of the Adobe Bridge vs. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom workflow comparison please watch this excellent video tutorial from Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost.


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About the Author: David Marx is a digital photography instructor whose engaging teaching style inspires photographers of all skill levels. David is an Adobe Certified Lightroom Expert. To learn more about David's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit or follow David Marx on Google+.