I got this question recently:
“When I am browsing through my extensive photos files, do I need to import each one into Lightroom to look at it? I like how with Bridge I can access anything quickly. If I had to import each item I wanted to look at first, that seems like a waste of time. Ideas on this? Much thanks.”
The main differences between Lightroom and Bridge:
1. Bridge is a file browser; point it to a folder and it will show you all the contents. Bridge doesn’t know or keep track of anything about the files except what it reads in when browsing. Bridge will show all the files in the folder regardless of file format. Edits to Raw images are done through the ACR plugin.
2. Lightroom uses a database and it’s unaware of any files until they are imported into the database. From there, it keeps track of changes made to the file. LR can only import image files (TIF, PSD, JPG, DNG, RAW). Lightroom has Raw image processing built in.
I have my entire image library imported into Lightroom. So I can view and edit all my images there. This took me a while to accomplish.
However, I still sometimes use Bridge if I know exactly where the file/folder is and just need to find or take a quick look at something.
If you intend to use Lightroom to manage your image library, you should eventually take the time to import everything. This leverages the maximum power of LR through the use of the database.
But if you only want to periodically process selected images using Lightroom, you can just import them as needed.
Bridge + ACR + Lightroom + Photoshop = the complete imaging solution. Each has its own strengths and utility.