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One of the key reasons to review your images in Lightroom is to identify your favorites, so you can focus your energy on optimizing and sharing those favorite images with others. That obviously requires that we have some way to identify the images that are favourites, and perhaps those that are not all favorites. And for that there are actually three different tools in Lightroom. These include the Pick flags, Star ratings, and Color labels. Let's take a look at all three of these, so you can get a better sense of which option, or perhaps multiple options, might make the most sense for your when reviewing your images.
Once I've navigated to a set of images that I'd like to review, then my typical process is so start with the very first image in that group and then hide most of the panels. At this point, I've typically already complete my overview review in the Grid view, so I'll simply be working in the Loop view... I then want to hide all of the panels except the Film strip, so I'll press Shift+Tab in order to hide all of the panels, but then I'll click on the stub for the film strip panel to bring that up.
I can now navigate among my images an identify my favorites or perhaps not so favorite images. We'll start with the Pick Flags. With the Pick Flag, you're basically making a yes or no decision for an image. You can mark an image as picked, as unpicked, or as rejected. And in my view unpicked means you haven't yet made a decision. That helps to avoid any ambiguity. If an image does not have a Pick Flag, then you know that that image simply hasn't been evaluated, as a picked or rejected image. You can assign Pick and Reject Flags to your images, using the controls on the toolbar.
If those controls aren't visible over on the right side of the toolbar, you can click the popup menu and choose the Flagging option. You can also assign Pick Flags by going to the Photo menu and then choosing, Set Flag, and either Flag, Unflag or Reject It. I prefer to use the keyboard shortcuts for this. You can press the letter P to assign a Pick Flag to an image. You can press the letter U to remove a Flag from an image. And you can press X to mark an image as Rejected.
So, I can go through the images and identify those that I think are picks versus rejected images. This one looks fine. So, I'll press the letter P and you can see that the Pick Flag has been added. I can then press the Right Arrow to move to the next image. And this one is somewhat interesting. So, perhaps I'll assign a Pick Flag to that as well. The next image, is of an interesting subject, this is ancient cobblestones blended with new cobblestones, but I don't feel the image is all that strong. So, I might assign a Reject Flag to that, by pressing the letter X. If, at any time, I decide I'm not exactly certain whether I'm happy with that pick or reject flag, I can also press the letter U, to remove the flag from the image.
In this way I can go through the images and decide yes or no, will I keep an image and possibly work with it and share it with others. Or am I going to possibly get rid of the image. And if I do assign a reject flag to images, then later I can delete all of the rejected images by choosing Photo > Delete Rejected Photos, from the menu. I don't need to delete any images at the moment. But that gives you a sense of how the pick flag option works. Pick flags are a good option for photographers who prefer to edit relatively tightly. Every image gets a yes or a no vote and you only want to keep your very best images.
Another option is to use Star Ratings. Star ratings provide a little bit more subjective control over that rating process. We tend to think of star ratings with 1 being a bad image, and 5 being a great image. But I suggest that you modify that just a little bit, in order to make greater use of the 5 star system. What I mean by that is that I suggest that you use one star to represent an image that could be used. Maybe not your best image, but not a bad image either. In other words, all images that have a star rating are images that you might use.
The one stars you might not use as often, and your five stars are your favorite images, with varying levels of quality in between. To assign Star ratings you can again use the controls on the toolbar, clicking on that popup menu if you need to add the rating controls onto the toolbar. But once again, I prefer using keyboard shortcuts. So when I come to an image an I decide for example, maybe this is a three star image, I can press the number three on the keyboard, and that will add three stars to that photo. I'll then press the right arrow key to move to the next image, an perhaps this one I'll give a four star rating to.
That one maybe only two stars. Perhaps this one only gets one star, etcetera. I can continue moving through the images, assigning a star rating based on my perceived quality in the image. Obviously later we'll be able to filter or sort images so that we can see just our best images from a particular photo shoot. The final option for tagging our images is the Color Labels. The color label controls are not shown on the toolbar by default. So I'll go to my popup menu and choose color labels so that I can see those controls.
Color labels are arbitrary in meaning. They simply assign a color to the image and that means you can decide for yourself what those colors mean. Keep in mind that you can only have one color label assigned to an image. For example, it would not make sense to have one color, mean that you need to print the image, and then another color label, meaning that you need to share the image on your website. Because some images you might want to both print and share on the website. Allow me to explain how I use color labels. I have a system that I've developed over the years, and it just makes sense to me.
It might not work for you but it will hopefully help give you some sense of how you can think about color labels. For me, a red color label indicates an image that I like, that I'll probably use in some form. Whether that means putting it in a book, using it in a magazine article, printing it to hang on the wall, it's an image I'm happy with from a particular photo shoot. A yellow color label is very similar to a red color label. I use this to identify images that I might use for a particular project, but for me, yellow means an image that is usable, but is part of a group of images.
For example, an individual frame in a composite panorama, or one of the several images captured for a high dynamic range image. The green color label I use to mark images that I want to share with someone else, but I don't plan to use myself. For example, if I'm out photographing and I see something that I think someone else might find interesting, but otherwise I really wouldn't photograph it. I would assign a green color label to that image, so that I can filter those images and send them via email for example to whoever it was I thought might find it interesting.
So far, I've not identified any use for the blue and purple color labels, so I don't put them to use. I can assign a color label simply by clicking on the control here, but I can also use keyboard shortcuts for this. I can press the number 6 to assign a red color label, I can use 7 for a yellow color label 8 for a green color label, 9 for a blue color label. And unfortunately, purple does not have a keyboard shortcut, because zero, which is the next number on the keyboard, will remove star ratings from the image.
As you can probably appreciate each of these controls can be used by themselves or in combination with the other controls. For example, you might identify the images that you are happy with using a red color label and then further refine those selections using star ratings. You might use all three of this options for labeling your images or you might settle on a single option that works best on you. The key is to have a consistent system that makes sense for you in your particular workflow. Obviously, what we're really focused on is being able to locate our best images at a later date.
So consider the various benefits of each of these options and decide what works best for you. And then use that approach consistently for all the images you review in Lightroom.
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