Category Archives: Adobe Bridge

Bad Bridge Behavior (2014)

This discussion applies to Windows machines in particular. We welcome your comments on whether the same problem occurs on Macs.

In Summary

Installing Photoshop CC 2014 on a Windows machine may have unpleasant side effects and one of those side effects is being forced to use ONLY Photoshop CC 2014 from Adobe Bridge.

The Details

Adobe Bridge is a rather powerful tool. In fact, we recommend it when using the Advanced Stacker PLUS. However during a live webinar recently Bridge stymied us.

Despite the release of many CC 2014 versions, there is currently no Adobe Bridge CC 2014 – the latest available is CC. Within Adobe Bridge CC a double click of a JPG or RAW file opens the file clicked in the most recently installed version of Photoshop EXCEPT if there is already a version of Photoshop running. If, for example you have Photoshop CS5 running and the most recent install is CC, then a double click would open the file in CS5 rather than CC. Adobe Bridge default file open still behaves the same way even after upgrading to Photoshop CC 2014. However other parts of Adobe Bridge do not behave the same.

The Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch operation previously worked just as described. No matter what the default version of Photoshop, using the Tools -> option would kick the currently running Photoshop and elicit Photoshop’s Batch menu. UNFORTUNATELY, The “Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch” operation does NOT work the same way once you install Photoshop 2014 CC.  With Photoshop CC 2014 installed, Tools -> Photoshop -> Batch will ONLY open Photoshop CC 2014. If you have another version of Photoshop already running, the Tools operation effort silently fails.

You can determine what version of Photoshop will be invoked by the Bridge -> Tools menu by selecting a file and doing  a “right click” and inspecting what is listed in the Open With list.

Default association

Default association


Also particularly unpleasant is the fact that only ONE of the Photoshop CS versions is listed as a choice in the Open With dialog even though on our windows machine we have 4 versions of Photoshop installed (CS5, CS6, CC and CC 2014). We’d love it if we could choose which Photoshop to open, but Photoshop CC 2014 confuses Windows into thinking that ALL versions of Photoshop are CS 2014. Normally in the the windows file browser you can right-click a file and “choose a default” program to open it.


Here we’ve chosen to associate a default to a PNG file.

Window_FileAssociation_Step1 The next step is to navigate to the program we want to open with by default… Here we will select the Photoshop CS5 folder, and next the photoshop.exe

After selecting photoshop.exe in the CS5 directory, we are disappointed to see the result look like this:WindowsPSCC2014_Confused

To Change Associations For Different File Types

While Photoshop does continue to make useful improvements, not all of those improvements are as easy to navigate. If you would prefer that Adobe Bridge open a different default version of Photoshop you can change the file associations within Adobe Bridge as shown. (Select Edit -> Preferences or Ctl-K).

Changing File Association

Changing File Association – click for a larger view

Doing things Backward in Advanced Stacker PLUS

Push Me - Pull You

Star Trails tapered in TWO directions… read on for how.

First we confess… Doing things backward applies to all manner of operations, not just Advanced Stacker PLUS so this technique is useful for almost any kind of batch processing.

By far the most IMPRACTICAL way to stack your shots in reverse order is to reverse time before taking your shots so that they will be numbered as you wish. Another eminently impractical way to shoot star trails backwards is to reverse the earth’s rotation before shooting that sequence of shots. 🙂

We’re pretty sure you are looking for a more practical solution, though! And here we offer a strategy that takes full advantage of Photoshop’s relentless bent on processing photos in alphabetical order.  To make everything run “backward” we need to reverse the alphabetical order of the photos.  Unfortunately, there is no number these files backward feature. We wish! There are some standalone programs for doing sophisticated file renaming but here we will use a tool you already have: Adobe Bridge. Adobe Lightroom can be used too – if you are anxious to know how, leave a comment and we will elaborate.

Here is a quick comparison. The first shot is “reversed” causing the stars in the Northern Hemisphere to be rotating clockwise instead of the counter-clockwise direction that they ACTUALLY move in.  While exactly the same shots were used in each case, the photos reveal one reason why you might want to reverse the order – to get a sky flavored with a bit of twilight blue.

130-41ReversedComet 130-41Comet

We have a lengthy article on how to use Adobe Bridge to feed the Advanced Stacker PLUS, so let’s start with using Bridge.  Below is what our directory of files looks like. We compacted our Bridge display to make it easy to get a reasonable size screen capture. We slid the  leftmost divider (normally it shows filters and folders) to the left.  Notice the “content” pane contains thumbnails and the Preview pane shows the two files we selected – one obviously taken earlier when there was yet some blue twilight, and the other taken later.

Reversing the File Order – Adobe Bridge



Arrows below indicate places where we can control the view that Bridge shows us.


Some key controls for manipulating the Bridge display are shown.


NOTE: You do not have to change the view, you can use the Sort option and uncheck the “Ascending” order.

We find that the easiest way to reverse the displayed order is to change to List view. And then click on the header to reverse the sort order. While we can change the sort order directly (see sidebar) we prefer the neater view we get in List mode.

Clicking the triangle on the Name column at the top of our content pane reverses the sort order and results in the display as shown at the right.


Unfortunately Photoshop will not be swayed by the different sort order… it insists on processing files in ALPHABETICAL order. Our solution is to change the names of our files to reflect the desired ordering.

Batch Rename


Batch rename (under Tools) gives us the ability to copy or move files while renaming them.  Fortunately when we use the rename tool, it DOES respect our sort order. Our strategy is to use our reversed-order file list and place an increasing sequence number at the beginning of each file name. By prepending to the file name we can force the first file in our sorted list to become first alphabetically.  Bridge has a built in “Sequence Number” which automatically increments.

We do this often enough that we took the extra step to save the configuration as a preset.

Adding a 3-digit prefix followed by a dash character. To add or remove items from the rename click the + or – icons.

The important points are:

  1. We must prefix a sequence number.
  2. We strongly suggest “Preserving the current file name in the XMP data” so we can return the files to the original name if we wish.  Or instead of renaming them, select “copy” and place the result in a separate folder.

Once we have our renumbered files, we can feed them to Photoshop just as we described in the Stacking with Bridge article.  And, if use the “preserve file name in XMP” option, we can easily rename the files back to their original names using the batch rename. The small trick for this is described at the end of the video below.

Batch Renaming – The Video

Reversing the ordering of files for Advanced Stacker PLUS (Using Adobe Bridge)


Using Lightroom To Rename

Using Lightroom has many drawbacks as we previously described.  Lightroom also has a rename function (F2), it is, however a bit more tedious to set up.  The other important thing to remember about using Lightroom for stacking is that Lightroom insists on exporting files before you are able to stack them.  And because of these two complexities, we decided to stop writing here.  If you really want to know how to use Lightroom to accomplish the same task, plead with us in the comments below.  Or better yet, offer us bribes!

Tips for Using Layers for Stacking

Down Range

With hundreds of users of our Advanced Stacker PLUS, we get questions about workflow. What is the best way to manage files in Lightroom? What order should I perform operations, etc. While we have briefly given some hints in the comments for the Advanced Stacker, it seemed time to elaborate.

Of course it all begins with how you choose to organize your files. Organizational tips will come in a separate article as it would make this article too long.  Unfortunately Lightroom is not a particularly helpful tool to use for creatively stacking shots and that’s one of the reasons I don’t much like it. For my money Adobe Bridge is more powerful and flexible.

One particularly insightful exchange was with Dan B who wrote:

One minor gripe I have mostly has to do with incorporating the action into my existing workflow. For star trails my current workflow starts in Lightroom where I do any preliminary adjustments/corrections and then open the sequence as a layered document in Photoshop. I created a layer style which is my one-click way of changing the blending mode to lighten on all of the layers. Unless there is a way of applying the action to an already open layered document I would presumably have to adjust my work flow by moving the star trail sequence to its own folder, doing preliminary adjustments in ACR and then using the action as directed.

Beginning in Photoshop CS6, you can do a one button change of all blend modes and opacities of all selected layers. You can select all layers with Alt-Ctl-A  (Option-Command-A on a Mac).

PSMultiLayerOperation PSMultiLayerOpacity

The change applies to all selected layers.  Setting all the opacities the same won’t provide the nifty comet-style stacking.  There are some scripts out there to address variable opacity and other stacking tricks but there are restrictions. Installing a script isn’t always easy – depends what version of Photoshop you have, and no script I’ve seen is able to work from files. Scripts work on Layers. Scripts by design aren’t really meant to tackle repetitive tasks against a large number of files – that’s why actions were created.

Summary: There are two options: work on layers (actions or scripts) or work on files (actions).

There is no equivalent in Lightroom to do Photoshop Batch operations like you can from Adobe Bridge, and that’s unfortunate.

Another observation is that loading files into a stack in Photoshop and then editing individual layers is, SLUGGISH unless you have few layers – see later for just how sluggish.  Why would you edit layers? You might edit individual layers to remove things like airplane trails or bright light sources. Airplane trails are a lot easier to remove from individual documents than to remove after the stack has been created. However my recommendation is: don’t do editing in layers. Export the documents to TIFF or JPG and edit them individually. Why? Because then you can use the edited files standalone or stack them in different ways and NOT have a huge layered document. You also have more flexibility to use programs like StarStax which do not work well with RAW files (StarStax does not know how to apply all of your ACR or Lightroom edits). Alternatively, you can load files into a layered document, edit the layers and then use a script (Export Layers to files) to save layers as individual files.

Load Into Layers from Lightroom


Save From Layers into Individual Files


If you save from layers into files, Lightroom will not know where those saved files are unless you Import or Resynchronize the folder where the files are saved. Bridge, on the other hand, doesn’t require importing or synchronizing – though you may need to do a refresh operation. By the way the Photoshop “Export Layers” operation insists on adding a number prefix to each of your files… and it will make a mess if the opacity of each layer is not 100%.


If you want to do your stacking using layers, there is one more thing that might change your mind… speed.  We ran speed tests on two different machines comparing the end-to-end time needed to create stacked documents using the layering method with the automated Advanced Stacker Plus.  We were shocked by the difference.  For each machine we stacked 60 RAW files from a Canon 5D Mark II. In each case we applied a linear adjustment to all files, and made a tweak to the color balance.  We drove the layering method using Lightroom 5’s “Edit as Layers” operation. For the Advanced Stacker PLUS we drove the operation using Adobe Bridge CC. We kept Bridge CC, Lightroom 5, and Photoshop CC loaded in each machine so that the same starting memory footprint was used. And to make sure there was no advantage from using pre-loaded files, we used a different set of 60 files for each comparison.  The file sizes were identical.

The less speedy machine was a quad core AMD Phenom II processor with 6Gb of memory, Windows 7 Home Premium, 64 bit. The new machine was an Intel I7 quad core machine with Windows 8, 64bit, and 12 Gb of memory.

On the lower end machine it took 33 minutes to load 60 Raw files as layers, change all the layers to blend mode Lighten* and merge those layers. There was HEAVY swapping and the machine was extremely sluggish.  Using the Advanced Stacker PLUS to perform the same result took 8 minutes and the machine never became unresponsive – because there are never more than a dozen layers in memory.  The Advanced Stacker PLUS took 76% less time!

*NOTE: In Photoshop CC and Photoshop CS6 all the blend modes are changed with one Select All Layers command and one blend mode change.  On the sluggish machine it took almost 2 minutes for the “Select All Layers” key sequence to complete!

On the faster machine the results were similar: it took 19 minutes to load all the layers, change the blend mode and merge the visible layers into a single image for saving while it took 3 minutes to use the Advanced Stacker Plus.  On the 12 GB machine there was some pretty heavy disk operation going on when using layering, but memory did not top out. The Advanced Stacker PLUS took 80% less time.

In each case, adding more layers will make the stacker speed advantage even greater because once the machine maxes out memory it becomes a performance dog.  We’d love it if you’d run a comparison on your hardware to see what your results are like.

In Summary

There are many folks out there who are proponents of stacking star trail shots using layers. I’m not a fan.  Certainly using layer provides some benefits, but it also comes with some (high) costs.  Here are some tradeoffs to help you decide whether layering shots in Photoshop will be more effective for you or not:

Layer When

  • You have LOTS of memory and patience.
  • You have fewer than about 30 layers (shots) or your individual shots are small.
  • You don’t expect to save the final image as a layered document (only .psb files allow sizes big enough to hold a typical layered document)
  • You don’t mind throwing away any editing you do in a single layer (e.g. removing plane trails, stray light, etc.)
  • You don’t mind manually updating blend modes and opacity or finding installing and using the (very few) tools available to help with layer adjustments.
  • You intend to do something totally different from all the currently popular effects (Comets, streaks, etc.)
  • You don’t plan to make a timelapse – or if you do, you can live with the restrictions created by a layered document.

Stack via an Action or External Tool When

  • You have a boatload of images or limited memory.
  • Want to create intermediate images for timelapse/animation.
  • You intend to pre-edit individual frames to clean them up before creating a final version.