If you decide to digitize a collection of images, such as a photo album or a slideshow, there are literally thousands of different software solutions to go about organizing them. Many of these can come bundled with scanning or photo software, and often those can offer a relatively low-cost and hassle-free solution to keeping track of your images.
However, if you want to ensure the maximum compatibility and usability of your images over the long term, there are more advanced options available through Adobe's very popular line of professional software. The complete Creative Suite (and the newly-offered Creative Cloud) feature an almost overwhelming amount of tools, from film editing to website design, along with the nigh-essential Photoshop.
Two of these programs are designed for the main purpose of organizing and viewing large collections of images; something you might imagine is essential to the kinds of digitization projects taken on by the Dartmouth College Library's Digital Production Unit. Adobe Bridge and Adobe Lightroom each offer distinct advantages over the other, and while they may share some purposes, it can save you a lot of time to know which one suits your project best.
Adobe Bridge is, as its name implies, an excellent way to organize many different kinds of media, "bridging" many formats. It is designed to play nicely with all other Adobe programs, and offers an excellent alternative to the standard Mac OS Finder, or Windows Explorer when it comes to browsing collections. The interface can be altered modularly to suit a project, meaning you can re-size, add or delete tools from the main screen with great ease. Additionally, you can add or alter image metadata, and do batch file renaming. Its flexibility is its best selling point, making it a helpful addition to any Adobe-based workflow.
Lightroom, on the other hand, is designed specifically for photographs. In addition to letting users browse through collections of photographs, Lightoom offers far more tools for photo-editing than Bridge, and presents them in a way that is familiar for professional or amateur photographers. While at first blush this would appear similar to running a combination of Bridge and Photoshop, it actually has a few interesting tricks of its own.
The most important thing about Lightroom is to think of it within the context of a photographer's studio. The program is designed to take raw camera files (.dng is the most common format) and apply various changes to it without altering the originals. The entire editing action takes place within the Lightroom environment, so you are never in danger of losing data. You can think of your raw camera files as digital negatives, to be used and reused to create different print files. Lightroom easily stores setting data, allowing you to export as many kinds of derivative files as are needed. However, it is designed around these features. If you want to make actual changes to a master document you'll have to use Photoshop.
Between these two programs we can respond to all kinds of challenges in the Digital Production Unit, organizing and reworking files in the manner best suited to the project.
Written by Ryland Ianelli