I suppose I don't understand the mention of "destructive" in this context, because I always save as a 'copy'.
And PS also saves editing changes if desired.
So, Lightroom is essentially an expanded or refined version of ACR?
I use ACR exclusively before sending an image into PS for sharpening and such.
I like the freedom it gives me to correct exposure and other fundamentals of a RAW file.
Again, Bridge user here.
Much like LR then? Sounds very similar in my usage.
Sounds very handy for professionals, but I don't have a need for such a system.
I make it very simple for myself; I download images to my PC into folders appropriately named according to
place, date, etc. I then save edits into a subfolder named 'Upload' which are of an appropriate size for forums
and emailing, etc.
Many thanks for the insights, folks!
I've often wondered about LR, simply because I see it mentioned so frequently,
but I've never tried it for myself. It appears safe to say I've got my needs covered with ACR and PS,
and that LR would likely be a redundancy for my uses unless it's got some really whiz-bang advantages
over ACR/PS for a casual amateur.
Craig I'm not a full time working Pro, but do do the occasional gig for people. If all you need in the way of image management is folders date and time, with maybe location thrown in, or the name of the client for say wedding togs, then Bridge is great. I actually used RawShooter and then Bridge for over five years before moving to Lr with the release of Lr4. To answer your questions in order:
1. The term non-destructive in this case just refers to the fact that like all other RAW image converters it will never make changes to the original image data. Lr actually goes quite a bit further than most, in that by default it won't even add changes to EXIF and other similar metadata to the original file. You can make Lr make the changes directly to the file, but it is something you have to consciously allow.
2. The image editing tools in Lr are identical to those in ACR, although the interface in the two programs is very different. The only real difference in operation, once you have found the tool you want, that I have seen is in how the local brushes work. Lr seems to have a slightly different set of options for brush size, feathering, and the like. I don't have access to Lr or ACR right now, so I can't check specifics for you.
3. You can use the Lr Library module and view the folder structure just like with Bridge. The biggest difference here is that you can only see folders that contain images that have been imported into the catalogue. To make accessing information about your images faster Lr uses a database to hold all of the information about the file, including it's location on disk. If an image is not in the database then Lr can't see it. Also if you move an image outside of Lr it again can't see it, but you do get tools to both move images around, and find "lost" images. The reason you might want to go to this trouble is answered mostly in your next question, and I'll answer it there.
4a. I'll break this into two parts for clarity. The great thing that Lr has from the image management point of view, and actually Bridge now has now got it too, but is pretty broken, is collections, and specifically smart collections. Lr allows you to build a hierarchy of collection sets, collections, and smart collections. These can end up looking just like a second folder structure. One of the things that drove me to Lr was that I shoot lots of air shows.
At a show I might photograph anything from 50 to 100 different types of aircraft, depending on the location. Many of them may be in formations, or parts of a display team. As well as grouping the images by location and date I also want to be able to find aircraft by manufacturer, any display team they might be part of, and quite a lot of other factors. It's this complication of factors that was always difficult, since with a filesystem based organisation, unless you want multiple copies of the same file, they can only be in one place. I use keywords on all my images, and Lr uses those to put them into smart collections based on those keywords, and loads of other metadata options too.
Bridge now has Smart Collections too, but they are very slow to use. I tried one, based on just one aircraft manufacturer, and pointed it at the top of the My Pictures folder tree, with about 50000 images in it. The problem is that Bridge has to open either the associated xmp file, or the image file itself, to read the metadata to see if the image belongs in the collection. My test Smart Collection in Bridge took over 24 hours to read all of the images to make the selection. When I do the same in Lr it takes less than half a second. Usually it takes longer to display the previews than to know which ones are needed. This applies to any metadata search that you might do in Bridge.
4b. The other great thing that Lr allows is output on demand. With Lr you don't need to routinely store finished JPEG's locally. Instead you simply output a specifically tailored image for the need direct from Lr. Once you have used it you just delete it, and export again the next time you need to. This works for both single images and batches of any size. Generally if I think I might need the same sort of output from Lr more than once, it get saved as a new export template, so that the whole thing can be done from a single click. The real advantage of this is that you only have one image to worry about. If you make a change at a later date you don't have to worry about making sure that you also update the local JPEG. Lr does allow you to have multiple versions of the same image, but the interface treats those as separate images, just like a real copy. I know if you need to produce a batch of images from Bridge you can send them to Ps's Image Processor, but in Lr it is often a one click solution.
Lr also has what they call Publishing Services, that allow you to create a collection, or Smart Collection that can be directly connected to most of the options for posting images online, Flickr and Facebook are the two I use. The images are uploaded directly, according to your prefered settings. Lr will then keep a check on those images and if you make changes will offer to update them on the service, or if you delete them, or remove them from the service then they can be removed from the online service too. The updates offered can be dismissed if you don't want to change them online. The upload and update process always has to be done manually, so no chance of making changes without knowing about it. This is done directly in the Lr Library module.
You still have the Map, Print, Slideshow, Web Gallery, and Book modules too. I certainly find that the Lr Print module is the best way to print images that I have found anywhere.
I do still use Bridge, it's really good when working with other Adobe programs, or for downloaded images that I don't need in my image management system. For me the Lr wizzbangs as you put it are Smart Collections that work. Virtual Copies, which I didn't touch on much, but are great, since you can have both a colour version of an image and a black and white. Or for different print sizes you can keep around different aspect ratio crops, you can keep these out of sight too, until you need them. Actually Adobe could add Virtual Copies to Bridge quite easily too if they wanted, and it would make mixing Lr and Bridge better too. Publish Services are also on my Lr wizzbang list, in Lr each of the collections for Flickr translates as auto uploaded to a Flickr album of the same name. Printing I have already mentioned too.
I use Lr for everything to do with my own images. Usually when I start my computer the first program I open is Lr. It is quite unusual to not find that I have Bridge running too, so I have nothing against the program.