Reader John Schwaller asked a good question today: Why is it that if you assign a color label to an image in Lightroom, then update the file’s metadata on disk (Cmd-S/Ctrl-S), the label appears white in Bridge instead of in the expected color?
The answer lies in the fact that Bridge lets you customize the text string associated with labels (screenshot). This makes it possible to tag images quickly with custom, searchable phrases (e.g. "Urgent," "Needs client review," etc.) using just a keystroke. Think of it as a specialized, powerful form of keywording.
When you apply a label, you’re not, however, storing the color in the file metadata; rather, you’re just assigning the text that’s specified for that label. If you’ve associated the green label with "Client approved," Bridge will display all files with the label "Client approved" as green. If you then use Bridge preferences to change green to mean "Good to go," however, Bridge will show files labeled "Client approved" as having a white label. This indicates that the label on the files doesn’t correspond to any of your custom labels.
Lightroom doesn’t offer the ability to customize the text associated with color labels*. When it writes a label to a file, the text corresponds to the color ("Red," "Green," etc.). By default Bridge uses different strings for the colored labels (red = "Select," green = "Approved," etc.). So, assigning a red label in Lightroom will produce a while label in Bridge–kind of bizarre, if logical in its own way.
Short story: To make the labels you assign in Lightroom show up in the same colors in Bridge, go into Bridge preferences, choose Labels, and then change the text string for each to be simply the color ("Red" for red, "Green" for green, and so on).
The Bridge mechanism is powerful and flexible, but it’s always caused some amount of confusion. Maybe we can refine it in the future (e.g. storing both the color name & the assigned text string in metadata, then containing to display the color separately even if the label doesn’t match & therefore has to show up as white).
* Update: Thanks to Peter Krogh for pointing you that one can indeed modify the values of labels in Lightroom, by choosing Metadata->Color Label Set->Edit. The dialog even contains a note about Bridge compatibility (screenshot).