Written by Steve Patterson. In the previous tutorial, we learned how to open images in Photoshop CC using the Start screen, the Recent Files panel and the more traditional Open command found under the File menu in Photoshop. While these methods do allow us to open our images, they all have two big drawbacks in common; they force us to use our computer's operating system to navigate to our files, and they limit what we can do with our images once we've found them.
There's nothing technically "wrong" with using File Explorer on a Windows PC or Finder on a Mac to navigate to our photos, but it's certainly not the best way to do it, especially when there's a much better way thanks to a powerful companion program to Photoshop known as Adobe Bridge CC. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to use Adobe Bridge CC to navigate to, select and open our images into Photoshop! And if you're thinking, "Great, something else I need to buy", don't worry. Adobe Bridge CC is already included as part of your Creative Cloud subscription!Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs!
What Is Adobe Bridge?
Adobe Bridge is what's known as a digital asset manager, which means its whole purpose in life is to make it easier for us to find, organize and open our images. Adobe Bridge CC is the latest version, but Bridge has been around for quite a while. Bridge is a file browser, just like your operating system's file browser, but it's also so much more.
With Bridge, not only can we view thumbnails of all the images in a folder, but we can make those thumbnails as big or as small as we need. We can then select any image and view a larger, even fullscreen-size preview of it for a closer look.
Bridge lets us view all kinds of information about our photos, like their pixel dimensions and file size, the type of camera that was used, the exposure information (F-stop, shutter speed, ISO value), and lots more. We can review, rate and label images, add keywords, filter images by keyword or other criteria, and even create custom collections that act as "virtual folders", letting us group related images together and view them all in one convenient location, even if those images are scattered across different folders or even different hard drives.
There's so much we can do with Adobe Bridge, but in this tutorial, we're not going to try to cover every feature. Instead, we're going to focus on one specific task; how to open our images into Photoshop from Adobe Bridge.
Downloading And Installing Adobe Bridge CC
As we'll see, opening images from Bridge is easy, but before we can use Bridge, we first need to make sure it's installed. I mentioned earlier that Adobe Bridge CC is included with your Creative Cloud subscription, but unlike previous versions of Photoshop which installed Bridge automatically, Bridge CC needs to be downloaded and installed separately. If you haven't yet downloaded it, check out our How To Install Adobe Bridge CC tutorial for more information.
Opening Adobe Bridge CC
Since Adobe Bridge is its own separate application, it can be opened the same way you would open any other program on your computer. On a Windows PC, you'll find it in your Program Files folder. On a Mac, it's in the Applications folder. But you can also open Bridge from directly inside Photoshop, which is the way we'll be using here.
To open Bridge from within Photoshop, go up to the File menu (in Photoshop) in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choose Browse in Bridge. If you're the type who likes keyboard shortcuts, you can choose the same command by pressing Ctrl+Alt+O (Win) / Command+Option+O (Mac). That's "O" for "Open":
Adobe Bridge will open as a separate application on your screen:
Navigating To Your Files
The Adobe Bridge interface is made up of a collection of panels. Each panel performs a different and unique task. There's a panel for previewing our images (the Preview panel), a panel for adding keywords (the Keywords panel), another for viewing detailed information about an image (the Metadata panel), and more.
The large area in the center is the Content panel. It's where we view the images and other files that are inside the currently-selected folder. Of course, before we can view our images, we first need to be able to find them. That's where the two panels in the upper left of the interface, Favorites and Folders, come in. We use these two panels to navigate to our images.
The Favorites and Folders panels are nested together in the same panel group. We can easily switch between nested panels by clicking the tabs along the top of the group:
By default, the Favorites panel is the one that's open, and it's there to give us quick access to common file locations for our images, like our Desktop, as well as our Documents and Pictures folders. To quickly jump to any file location in the Favorites list, simply click on it to select it. The contents of that file location will then appear in the Content panel. In this case, I've selected my Desktop from the Favorites panel, and the Content panel now shows the two folders that are currently on my Desktop. We can also add our own file locations to the Favorites panel, and we'll see how to do that at the end of the tutorial:
While the Favorites panel is convenient, the Folders panel is our main way of navigating to our images in Bridge. I'll switch to the Folders panel by clicking its tab:
The Folders panel works much like your operating system's file browser. It starts by showing you top-level folders and directories. To navigate to your images, click the triangle to the left of a folder or directory's name to twirl it open and view the next level of folders inside of it. Then continue drilling down through the file structure until you reach the folder that holds your images. Once you've reached the folder you need, click on its name to view its contents in the Content panel.
Viewing Your Images
In my case, since the photos I need are in a folder named "photos" on my Desktop, I've twirled open Desktop to get to the "photos" folder. Then, I clicked on the "photos" folder to view its contents in the Content panel, where we see that the folder contains four images:
The Content panel displays your images as thumbnails. To make the thumbnails larger, drag the slider along the bottom of the Bridge interface towards the right. Dragging the slider to the left will make the thumbnails smaller:
After dragging the slider to the right, my thumbnails now appear much bigger:
Selecting An Image
To select an image in the Content panel, click once on its thumbnail. Here, I've clicked on the first image (upper left). Bridge will highlight the thumbnail so you know which image was selected:
Once you've clicked on a thumbnail to select it, a preview of the image will appear in the Preview panel in the upper right of the Bridge interface. We'll come back to the preview in a moment:
You'll also find lots of information about the selected image, like the exposure settings, the pixel dimensions and file size, the type of camera and lens that were used, and much more, in the Metadata panel directly below the Preview panel:
Viewing Fullscreen Previews
I mentioned that the Preview panel in Adobe Bridge shows us a preview of the selected image. Unfortunately, the preview it shows us isn't all that useful because by default, it's rather small. In fact, it may even be smaller than the thumbnail you clicked on in the Content panel.
You could make the Preview panel bigger by clicking on the border between the Preview panel and the Content panel and dragging the border towards the left. But there's a faster and easier way to see a much larger preview of your image, and that's by pressing the spacebar on your keyboard. This will instantly jump the image to a fullscreen preview:
If you click on the image while in the fullscreen preview, Bridge will zoom in on the spot you clicked on, allowing you to preview it at its actual size. You can then click and drag the image with your mouse to pan it around and view other sections. Click the image again to zoom back out, or press your spacebar again to exit out of the preview and return to the thumbnails:
Opening An Image Into Photoshop
To open an image into Photoshop from Bridge, double-click on its thumbnail (single-clicking selects an image, double-clicking opens it). Here, I'm double-clicking on the same image I had previously selected:
And now, if I switch over to Photoshop, we see the image opened and ready for editing:
Closing The Image
To close the image when you're done working on it, click the small "x" in the tab at the top of the document. On a Windows PC, the "x" is located on the right side of the tab. On a Mac (which is what I'm using here) it's on the left:
Returning To Bridge
To then return to Adobe Bridge to select another image, go back up to the File menu (in Photoshop) and choose Browse in Bridge as we did earlier, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+O (Win) / Command+Option+O (Mac). This returns you to Bridge where you can choose the next image to open:
Opening Raw Files From Bridge
The previous image I opened was a standard JPEG file, and as we saw, JPEG files open directly from Bridge into Photoshop. But if the image we're opening is a raw file (that is, it was captured by your camera in the raw file format), it will not open in Photoshop. Instead, it will open first in Adobe Camera Raw.
To show you what I mean, I'll double-click on a raw file in my Content panel to open it. We know it's a raw file because it has a ".dng" extension at the end (rather than the ".jpg" extension we'd see with a JPEG file). The extension ".dng" stands for Digital Negative which is Adobe's own version of the raw file format. Each camera manufacturer also has its own version of the raw file format with its own three-letter extension (Canon, for example, uses ".cr2" and ".crw", while Nikon uses ".nef"):
Double-clicking the raw image opens it in the Adobe Camera Raw dialog box. Camera Raw is a separate plugin where we can do initial work on the photo before sending it off to Photoshop:
Camera Raw is a whole other topic that goes well beyond the scope of this tutorial, so we won't cover it here. Instead, to send the image off to Photoshop, click the Open Image button in the bottom right:
This closes the Camera Raw dialog box and opens the image in Photoshop:
Switching From Bridge To Photoshop Without Opening An Image
I'll leave the image open and switch back once again to Adobe Bridge by going up to the File menu and choosing Browse in Bridge, or pressing Ctrl+Alt+O (Win) / Command+Option+O (Mac):
This returns me to Bridge:
Now that I'm back in Bridge, what if I decide I don't really need to open another image? What if I just want to work on the image I've already opened in Photoshop? To get back to Photoshop from Bridge without opening an image, go up to the File menu (in Bridge) and choose Return to Adobe Photoshop.
Notice, though, that the keyboard shortcut for the Return to Adobe Photoshop command in Bridge is Ctrl+Alt+O (Win) / Command+Option+O (Mac). Does that keyboard shortcut look familiar? It should, because it's the exact same shortcut for selecting the Browse in Bridge command in Photoshop! That means you can use the same keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Alt+O (Win) / Command+Option+O (Mac), to jump from Photoshop to Bridge and back again:
You can also click the boomerang icon in the upper left of Bridge to return to Photoshop without opening an image:
Adding A Folder To The Favorites Panel
Finally, I mentioned earlier than we can add our own folders and file locations to the Favorites panel in Bridge. Let's say that I know I'll be coming back to the "photos" folder on my Desktop quite a bit. Rather than navigating to it each time in the Folders panel, I can just save it as a favorite.
To do that, I'll right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on the name of the folder in the Folders panel. Then I'll choose Add to Favorites from the menu that appears:
I'll switch over to my Favorites panel by clicking the tab at the top, and now we see my "photos" folder listed as a new favorite. The next time I need to access it, I can jump straight to it by selecting it in the Favorites panel:
If you ever need to remove a folder from the Favorites panel, right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on its name in the Favorites panel and choose Remove from Favorites:
And there we have it! That's the basics of how to navigate to, select and open your images using Photoshop's powerful companion app, Adobe Bridge CC, included as part of your subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud!