How To Open Images In Photoshop CC

How To Open Images In Photoshop CC

Written by Steve Patterson. So far in this section on getting our images into Photoshop, we've learned how to set Photoshop as our default image editor for both Windows and Mac so we can easily open images into Photoshop directly from our operating system. In this tutorial, we'll learn how to open images from within Photoshop itself.

Opening images may sound like a no-brainer. But when you're dealing with a program as massive as Photoshop, even a simple task, like how to open an image, can be less obvious than you'd expect. And, in the most recent Photoshop CC updates, Adobe has added a new Start workspace that gives us new ways to open our images. So even if you've been using Photoshop for years, there's something new to learn.

There are actually two different ways to start working in Photoshop. One is to open an existing image. The other is to create a new, empty Photoshop document. In most cases, especially if you're a photographer, you'll want to start by opening an image, and that's what we'll be learning how to do here. We'll also look at the important difference between opening a standard JPEG file and opening a photo that was captured in the raw file format. We'll save creating a new, empty Photoshop document for a separate tutorial.

To get the most from this tutorial, you'll want to be using Photoshop CC, and you'll want to make sure that your copy of Photoshop CC is up to date. And with that, let's get started!

The New Start Workspace

When we launch Photoshop CC, we're presented with the new Start screen, or known officially as the Start workspace. If you've already opened one or more images, they'll appear as thumbnails in the center of the screen:

The Start screen in Photoshop CC showing thumbnails of recently opened files.
The Start screen in Photoshop CC showing thumbnails of recently-opened files.

If this is the first time you've launched Photoshop CC, or you've cleared your Recent Files history, you won't see any thumbnails. Instead, the Start screen will appear in its initial state, with instructions in the center on how to get started:

The default Start screen in Photoshop CC.
The Start screen without any Recent Files thumbnails.

How To Open An Image From The Start Screen

To open an image from the Start screen, click the Open button in the menu area along the left:

Clicking the Open button on the Start screen.
Clicking the Open button on the Start screen.

This will open a File Explorer window on a Windows PC, or a Finder window on a Mac (which is what I'm using here). Navigate to the location on your computer where your image is stored. In my case, my images are in a folder on my Desktop. Once you've located your image, double-click on it to select it:

Selecting an image by double-clicking on it.
Selecting an image by double-clicking on it.

The image will open in Photoshop, ready for editing:

The image opens in Photoshop.
The first image opens in Photoshop. © Steve Patterson.

Closing An Image

To close the image, go up to the File menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen and choose Close:

Choosing the Close command from under the File menu in Photoshop.
Going to File > Close.

Re-Opening A File

This returns us to Photoshop's Start screen where we find a thumbnail of the image we just opened in the Recent Files area in the center. If we need to re-open the image for further editing, all we need to do is click on the thumbnail:

Clicking the thumbnail in the Recent Files area of the Start screen.
Clicking the thumbnail in the Recent Files area of the Start screen.

The image instantly re-opens in Photoshop:

The image re-opens in Photoshop.
The first image re-opens.

The Hidden Recent Files Panel In Photoshop CC

How To Open An Image From The File Menu

I'll leave my image open this time and I'll open a second image. Since my first image is still open, I don't have access to Photoshop's Start screen. But that's okay because another way to open an image in Photoshop is by going up to the File menu at the top of the screen and choosing Open. This is also how you can open images if you have the Start screen disabled:

Selecting the Open command from under the File menu.
Going to File > Open.

This re-opens my Finder window on a Mac (File Explorer on a Windows PC). I'll select a second image to open by double-clicking on it:

Selecting a second image.
Selecting a second image.

And just like the first one, the second image opens in Photoshop:

The new image opens in Photoshop.
The new image opens. © Steve Patterson.

Opening An Image From The Keyboard

We've seen that we can open images in Photoshop either by clicking the Open button on the Start screen or by choosing the Open command under the File menu. We can also open images directly from the keyboard. Just press Ctrl+O (Win) / Command+O (Mac). This once again re-opens my Finder window (File Explorer on a Windows PC) where I can choose a third image to open by double-clicking on it:

Selecting a thid image.
Selecting a third image.

And here, we see my third image open in Photoshop:

The third image opens in Photoshop.
The third image opens. © Steve Patterson.

Switching Between Multiple Open Images

I now have three images open. Photoshop places each new image in its own separate tabbed document. They're called tabbed documents because each document has its own tab along the top. Each tab shows the name of the image along with other information. To switch between your open images, simply click the tab of the image you want to view.

For example, I'm currently viewing my "old car.jpg" image. To switch to the first image I opened ("flower.jpg"), all I need to do is click on its tab:

Switching between open images by clicking the tabs.
Switching between open images by clicking the tabs.

This hides the "old car.jpg" photo and returns me to the previous "flower.jpg" image. All three of my images are open, but by default, Photoshop only lets us view one image at a time:

The first image is visible once again.
The first image is visible once again.

How To Close A Single Image

To close an image without closing any other photos you've opened, first select the image you want to close by clicking its tab. Then, go up to the File menu and choose Close. Or, a faster way is by clicking the small "x" icon in the tab itself. On a Windows PC, the "x" is found on the right side of the tab. On a Mac, it's found on the left side:

Closing a tabbed document in Photoshop.
Click the "x" to close a single image without closing any others.

Closing All Open Images

To close all open images at once, rather than closing individual tabs, go up to the File menu and choose Close All:

Choosing the Close All command from under the File menu.
Going to File > Close All.

With all of your images now closed, you'll be returned once again to Photoshop's Start screen. Here, we see all three photos now appearing as thumbnails in my Recent Files area:

All three images now appear in the Recent Files area.
All three images, ready to be re-opened.

How To Open Raw Files In Photoshop

So far, all of the images I've opened in Photoshop have been JPEG files. We know they were JPEG files because each one had a ".jpg" file extension at the end of its name. But what about raw files? That is, images that were captured using your camera's raw file format?

I'll press Ctrl+O (Win) / Command+O (Mac) on my keyboard to quickly re-open my Finder window (File Explorer on a Windows PC). Then I'll double-click on a fourth image to open it. Notice, though, that this image I'm about to open has a different file extension, ".dng". DNG stands for Digital Negative, which is Adobe's version of the raw file format:

Opening a DNG raw file into Photoshop.
Opening a raw file instead of a standard JPEG.

Each camera manufacturer has its own version of the raw format, each with its own unique extension. Canon raw files, for example, typically have a ".cr2" extension. Nikon uses ".nef", while Fuji uses ".raf". And as we've seen, Adobe also has its own raw format with a ".dng" extension. Raw files are beyond the scope of this tutorial, but you can learn more about them in our Raw vs JPEG For Photo Editing tutorial.

When we open JPEG files, they open directly into Photoshop as we would expect. But when we open a raw file, something different happens. Rather than going straight to Photoshop, raw files first open in Adobe Camera Raw. Camera Raw is a separate plug-in included with Photoshop that launches automatically whenever we open a raw file.

Camera Raw is often thought of as a digital darkroom because we use it to develop the raw image (correcting exposure and color, adding some initial sharpening, and much more) before sending it off to Photoshop. Here we see my image open in the Camera Raw dialog box:

Photos captured as raw files open in Camera Raw.
Photos captured as raw files open in Camera Raw.

Camera Raw is a whole other topic that we'll be covering in detail in other tutorials. For now, if your image opened in Camera Raw, simply click the Open Image button at the bottom of the dialog box:

Clicking the Open Image button in Camera Raw.
Clicking the Open Image button.

This closes Camera Raw and opens the image in Photoshop:

The image open in Photoshop.
The image moves from Camera Raw into Photoshop.

I'll close the photo by going up to the File menu and choosing Close:

Choosing the Close command from under the File menu.
Going once again to File > Close.

This once again returns me to Photoshop's Start screen where all four of my images now appear as thumbnails in the Recent Files area:

Back to the Start screen.
Back to the Start screen.

Switching Between Thumbnail View And List View

One last feature we should look at in the new Start screen is the ability to see our recently-opened files either as thumbnails or as a list.

So far, we've viewed them as thumbnails. But if you'd rather view the files as a list, click the List View icon just above the thumbnails on the left. To open an image in List View, simply click on its name:

Clicking the List View icon in the Start screen in Photoshop.
Switching from Thumbnail View to List View.

To switch back to thumbnails, click the Thumbnail View icon:

Clicking the Thumbnail View icon in the Start screen in Photoshop.
Switching back to Thumbnail View.

And there we have it! That's how to open images from within Photoshop using the new Start screen, the File menu, and a keyboard shortcut, as well as a quick look at the difference between opening a JPEG file and a raw file! In the next tutorial, we'll learn how to make finding and opening your images even easier using the free file browser that's included with Photoshop and with every Creative Cloud subscription, Adobe Bridge.