Lightroom Tips

3 (and a half) Reasons to Use Flags Instead of Ratings in Lightroom

Are you a flagger or a rater in Lightroom? You know, how do you sort your photos? If you’re a flagger, you go to Photo > Set Flag and choose Pick, Reject, or Unflagged. If you’re a rater then you to to Photo > Set Rating > and choose 1 to 5 stars. So which do you use? Personally, I stopped rating a long time ago and just use flags.

First, I think flagging is just simpler. You’ve got 3 choices. I like it. I don’t like it. Or, I’m just not sure yet. In many cases, simple is better, and I think this is one of them.

Next, when it comes to finding your favorites, flagging makes it easy. If it’s flagged, it’s a favorite. If you use ratings, it get’s a little more complex. For example, let’s assume 5 stars means it’s really really good. Well what does 4 stars mean? It’s really, pretty good? So when it comes time to filter so you just see your favorites, what do you want to see. Your really really good photos or your really, well, kinda pretty good photos? 🙂

Now come the rejects. We all have them (well, I don’t – but I’m sure most of you do – KIDDING!!! Totally just kidding!!!). So we’ll assume 1 star means it sucks, right? Does 2 stars mean it kinda sucks? Maybe not totally sucks but pretty close. With flagging, you press X when you don’t like a photo to reject it. That’s it. I hate it and I want it gone. Then it gets an X. And don’t even get me started on what a rating of 3 means 🙂

If it doesn’t get a P (for Flagged or “pick”) and it doesn’t get an X (for reject) then it’s unflagged. Which, in my book, means I just can’t decide right now. I’ll come back to it later. And most likely you’ll reject it anyway. There’s just something about it that you can’t bring yourself to reject right now.

The Half Reason
Oh yeah, there’s a half reason why I think flags are better. In Lightroom if you go to Photo > Delete Rejected Photos it automatically removes all the rejects from your library. Notice there’s no Photo > Remove 1 Star Photos menu item there. That means the guys making the menu’s in Lightroom even like flagging better 😉

So what are you? A Flagger or a Rater? Or both?



  1. Cindy Quinn 1 April, 2021 at 05:42 Reply

    I flag and rate and color code for different things. I color code to determine what size the image is.
    1 star is a delete
    3 stars is a maybe
    5 stars is a winner.
    We flag the 5 star one that will be edited and that they will pay for.
    You need a system

  2. thomas tulinsky 25 December, 2016 at 16:34 Reply

    After a few years you will have hundreds or thousands of Pick flagged photos. How do you find the dozen or so really, really good ones? Thats what 5 star ratings are good for.

  3. Robert 30 July, 2011 at 16:41 Reply

    Rater & Flagger:

    First run through, I reject all the pictures that are obviously crap (not in focus, weird face expression of the subject etc.).

    In the subsequent runs I rate. First I assign one star to all the ones that I like. Then I progressively narrow it down. From two or three star onwards, I judge photos not by themselves but start comparing them against each other. My goal is that for each rating I have less than half of the pictures than the one before. In the end, even if the original set is hundreds of pictures, 4 stars should be 10-20, 5 stars 0-5 pictures. If I arrive at 4 stars with more pictures, the rating of all pictures get downgraded by one and I start another run.

    The 4 stars usually go to my website, one of the 5 stars additionally to my blog.

  4. robert 2 June, 2011 at 05:51 Reply

    I primarily use flags to sort for exporting but I use star ratings across an entire year’s worth of photos to pick my favorites out of those that I’ve flagged.

  5. Andrew Lavin 30 May, 2011 at 15:18 Reply

    I just developed my own system using both:
    reject all photos out of focus, blown out, too dark, or just plain boring or bad.
    then mark with a 3 rating all that have potential.
    filter to “rated only”
    develop the 3 stars and boost their star ratings after I develop them to a 4 or 5. If they are still a 3, it means I’ve edited them but am still not sure about them. 5 is the portfolio shots, the absolute best, and 4 means I really like it, but it’s not quite perfect.

  6. Laurent 27 May, 2011 at 10:43 Reply

    I believe that the use of flags to be volatile because they are local to the collections, are not stored in XMP and benefit from features to keep them alive and then disappear as CTRL + ALT + R then CTRL + Backspace. It’s a way to purge a collection of image gradually.

    Finally, the application of labels and stars can get a view of its non-binary images.

  7. Stefan 23 May, 2011 at 07:40 Reply

    I’m using a mixture of flags, stars and colours for different purposes and I guess my workflow is a bit too overcomplicated here but it works for me. However there is one question I have, which relates somehow to the star topic but in relation to virtual copies and smart selections.

    I have a picture which I really like and where I assign let’s say 3 stars.
    Now I create one or many virtual copies for the post processing, since I want to play around with it. The final result of the virtual copy get’s 4 stars.

    Now I have to issues which I cannot really solve
    1) Sorting by star rating
    As far as I concern LR would always pick the star rating of the original but not of the virtual copy. In this case my 4 star copy would show up between all the 3 star pictures because of the lower rating of the original.

    Is there a way to split this, so the higher rating rules or original and copy are sorted separately?

    2) Smart collections
    I use smart collections to pick all 3 to 5 star pictures from my catalogue. When using a virtual copy as described above the collection would obviously show both the original and the virtual copy. However in most cases the copy is the one that matters and that I want to share.

    Is there a way to define a rule like
    in collection = (copy, if virtual copy exists) and (original, if no virtual copy exists)

    Sorry for being a bit off topic here but maybe somebody here has figured out a way to work with star ratings in relation to virtual copies.

  8. Barry McConnell 21 May, 2011 at 21:27 Reply

    Flags are “short term” – pick/reject lets me quickly come back to shots I need to work on/export right then & there, or stuff to be deleted right away.

    My rating system is pretty logical:

    5* deserves an enlarged print for portfolio or wall (11×14 or 20×30)
    4* goes on my website (good enough for public viewing)
    3* candidate for the annual family printed album
    2* casual snapshot suitable for showing to friends sitting in front of the Mac
    1* no short term value, but don’t want to delete, may be of historical interest eventually or to someone else
    0* at the end of each year, I quickly scan all the non-rated pics, bump some of them up, and immediately delete the rest (the passing of time lets you be more ruthless with discarding unneeded pics)

  9. Lucas Martling 20 May, 2011 at 14:34 Reply

    Thanks Matt. This is actually a great way to think about workflow. We only have our “PICKS” and “REJECTS.” The final product will never be a 3 or 4 star’ed image.


  10. David Lara 20 May, 2011 at 10:43 Reply

    I’m totally a Rater. Here is how i use it.

    At first I very quickly go through shots and give them either a 1 star or none. no stars means its a reject. 1 Star means you’ve made the first cut and and i’ll take a second closer look at you

    2 STARS
    Once I’ve removed the non contenders I proceed. I go over the 1 stars and select the ones that will move into some sort of editing. Also where I chose which photo out of a series of similar shots I like the best.

    3 STARS
    Once a photo in the 2 Star category has been edited, it gets bumped up to 3 stars helps me when i have to step away from my editing for a bit and come back, no guess work what hasn’t been edited or not.

    4 STARS
    These are my favourites of the whole group. These selected usually end up on FB and sent out as teaser photos to clients

    5 STARS
    If I’m really in love with a particular shot, never more than one or two photos get this distinction, they get a 5 star rating. This grouping is my “All time favourites”. This category gets looked at as a whole (from all projects) every 6-9 months and adjusted. This will ultimately end up as a printed portfolio book at some point.

    In terms of flags I’ve used them as temporary marking for a particular session with a client. But soon after removed. Haven’t found a good way to use them in my workflow yet, but hope I’ll read how someone else uses them and I can integrate it to mines as well.

  11. chi 20 May, 2011 at 10:01 Reply

    I’m a rater.

    Just b/c they give you 5 stars to choose from doesnt mean you have to use them all.
    I use 3 stars for everything I would send to the client and 5 stars for blog worthy pics. That’s it. I guess that’s the same as flagging but the stars stick with the image
    Anything without a star gets deleted after 30 days.

  12. RZ 20 May, 2011 at 08:52 Reply

    I think you are a little bit oversimplifying the workflow in photography, focusing on the final product, instead of the process of getting to the final product. Here is what I do.
    Flags: Rejects – total failure (delete anything that is of no further use).
    5 stars: hangable on the wall, suitable for a cover
    4 stars: good for photo albums, the ones I like
    3 stars: needs editing, or has sentimental value, or could tell a story with other photos
    2 stars: parts of a photo (people) can be used in photoshop or needs heavy editing.
    1 star: textures, backgrounds, etc.

  13. Craig Beyers 19 May, 2011 at 22:30 Reply

    I flag, then create a collection with my picks. I’m starting to do a better job of marking the rejects, if only to recover the space on my laptop’s HD that’s going to waste storing reject photos. I shoot a lot of volleyball, especially in 3 to 5-shot bursts, so i take a lot of “almost but not quite” action shots. I’ll never do anything with them, unless I’d already planned to do a series. Those rejected shots are just space wasters. Since I back up my Raw files to a portable HD on import into LR, I can always retrieve shots if I need to–and I haven’t yet in 5+ years of shooting VB.

  14. Angel 19 May, 2011 at 18:51 Reply

    I am a rater but I think you may have just converted me. I’m new to lightroom and I use the ratings to “pick” my photos. I go through my group of 100 or so from a shoot and hit “1” for every one that’s not blurry, out of focus, etc. Then I review the “1s” and look for the ones I think will really stand out… whittling down to a manageable number of 20-30 or so. Then I go through again and pick “3” for anything that I’m ready to process and publish. See…. already this is way too complicated. Plus… what if I like all my 2s, then I never even get to 3. If I go back, my 3s aren’t really any better than my 2s. Sheesh. But for the record, it is pretty easy to select “unrated” and just delete them all.

  15. Greg 19 May, 2011 at 15:52 Reply

    My problem with flags is that they are more difficult to use with keyboard shortcuts. If I am ranking I can easily change that rank with 0-5 numbers on my keyboard. When flagging its not as easy, having to use the ` key or CTRL + up or CTRL + down to change the flag status. I can use my left hand for most shortcuts and keep my right hand on the mouse, decreasing editing time.

    I actually use both…X key to flag as rejected for my first pass after initial import and 1 stars go to the client. I then hit CTRL + Backspace to delete rejected photos. Starts work better when working with a client IMO, being able to work up to 5 stars for best of the best and final images. Best of both worlds for me, but YMMV.

  16. Matt Rupp 19 May, 2011 at 15:50 Reply

    I use both ratings and flags. I use flags for all of the reasons that you mentioned and for most commercial and portrait work. I use stars for weddings. I really only need three stars but here is my system:

    1 star = reject (could just use the reject flag but once I’m using the keypad this is just easier)

    3 star = any image with greater than 3* goes on the high-res DVD if purchased or included in the package

    4 star = any image with greater than 4* goes in the album

    5 star = these go in the online gallery

    Great post. I’m always like to see other people’s workflow.

  17. danfoy 19 May, 2011 at 13:30 Reply

    I’m primarily a rater, but flags have their purpose too. I shall explain.

    Lightroom seems to be heavily influenced by ‘The DAM Book’ by Peter Krough, which is pretty much the bible for digital asset management. Lightroom is excellent because it keeps a catalogue of all of your images to be brought up quickly, using a mixture of keywords and ratings – even when the photos are on a harddrive not attached to the computer you’re using.

    Krough’s methodology is this: for each import, go through the photos and quickly give any photo you like a 1* rating. You can do this really quickly in lightroom and is a great way to sort your photos as you have described above with the flagging method. However, with flags you can only have ‘flagged’, ‘unflagged’ or ‘rejected’.

    However, now you have a set of 1* photos, you can easily filter to show only these 1* images. This could easily narrow your selection down by 50-80% (depending on how harsh you are). So now you have a much smaller number of photos to look at. It will take even less time to skim through these and set your favourites to 2*. If you still have more images than you need for a client, the truly great photos will be given 3*.

    On my library I can select all the photos I’ve taken for the last 5 years and drill down to my picks, my best, or my very best. This cuts 50,000 photos down to, say, 1000, 500, or 100. Then I can go through those 100 and choose 4* for portfolio. Then in 15 years time I still have a redundant 5* rating I can use for my career bests. The * metadata is stored in the file.

    The beauty of this is that you can also use it along with keywords and EXIF. So for instance I could search for the 2* photos from a certain location, or the very best photos I’ve taken with my 100mm macro. Suddenly, folders become redundant.

  18. Debi Anderson 19 May, 2011 at 13:28 Reply

    For new photos, no question – FLAGS ONLY – FLAG is pick – hit the X key – Reject – delete when i’m ready – I loved your tip on delete all REJECTS at once.. that is a super cool tip…..

    But, I do use color labels as i go thru my work flow – especially on my photo restorations to let me know where i am in the process.
    Red = original
    Yellow = Completed with restoration
    Green = printed
    Blue – watermarked and ready for flickr and for copyright file basically these are done.
    Purple – is reserved for animations for digital photo albums
    So, I have a list on my mac of how each is used.. and they go into their respecitve collections

    i have no use for the star system..

  19. Doug R 19 May, 2011 at 13:12 Reply

    I’m both.
    I really enjoyed a post on Chase Jarvis’ blog of March 3rd (written by Scott) and have borrowed his system of using stars as a way to filter photos in the sorting process. I use the ‘reject’ flag to nuke the duds.

    As a hobbyist, and especially as a father, there are photos on my drives that I would never post online, but that are meaningful to me.
    I eventually want to work on using the color labels a little bit too, but for now the reject flag and 5 stars is enough for me.

    Great discussion everyone!

  20. Jill 19 May, 2011 at 11:12 Reply

    I use ratings. (Not that I don’t use flags, but that another issue).

    Typically, I start by uploaded all my photos and putting them in the catalog. The reason I like to rate them is because a lot of the time my jobs are so big that I can’t edit them in one sitting and I have a horrible memory.

    First pass, I rate all of the sucktastic photos a 1 and anything that has potential as a 3. This tells me the number of photos to edit.

    Then I work through the 3s. If I discover that I dont’ like it or have an identical photo next to it, I rate it a 2 so I know where to find it if I do end up needing it for something. I also do a lot of retouching (which creates a completely new file when I come back to lightroom) so the orginal file gets a 2 and the new file gets a 4. Any originals that I want to keep get a 4.

    When all the editing is done, I look through my 4s and pick the best and my favorites that I want to use for promotion, marketing, sneak peaks, etc and they are rated 5. All fours and fives go into the client proofing.

    If I used flags, I would constantly get lost because as I mentioned earlier I have a horrible memory and I would end up sorting through photos trying to figure out where I left off each time. With my way, I just have to look at the 3s to know where I left off.

  21. logge 19 May, 2011 at 10:59 Reply

    i’m using rating almost exclusivly. the first time i go through a shoot i give every shot one star that i want to keep. then i delete those with no stars (my rejects). then i go through the shoot again and give two stars to those that i like more. i repeat this adding one star procedure till i narrowed my shots down enough.
    then i give the one shot i like best a 5 star rating and that one goes to my blog. 4 star shots are considered keepers (maybe 2 or 3 per shoot) (my 4 star and above shots are what i let circle on my photoframe) and three star shots (and above) are what i put into the gallery part of my homepage (usually groups of 16 shots as this fill a page in my gallery nicely). the two and one star shots i just keep, but most of the time i could delete those as well

  22. Rachel Owens 19 May, 2011 at 08:53 Reply

    Great post! I’m definitely a flagger for all the reasons you just mentioned. I especially love the command+delete function to get rid of all those awful shots. As always, thanks for writing!

  23. Iza 19 May, 2011 at 08:25 Reply

    I used to be a “flagger” as it was saving a lot of time and energy. I stopped when I moved to Lightroom 3. The reason for that is the the flag ratings is not “transferable” between full library and collections. I am often creating collections for an even, then sub collections for different car or airplane models or day, and then I start choosing picks, rejects, and “leave for now”. I need rating which is viewable in all situations, and flags just don’t cut it anymore. I was very disappointed to see that feature gone with LR3.

  24. Michael Marz 19 May, 2011 at 06:14 Reply

    I am both a flagger and a rater..

    Flagging and Rating on the first pass and it’s done REALLY quickly. Nothing gets more than three stars. Then I use Delete Rejects to dump all the rejects. Nothing is left unflagged.

    Then I often go back and use Refine and rate them more critically. After a few weeks I go back to anything that is one or less stars and delete it.

    This said, my workflow surely could be streamlined.

  25. Usman 19 May, 2011 at 01:54 Reply

    I’m a flagger! it really helps me selecting photos when I come back from a shoot, I flag the photos that I would be processing and mark the rejected ones which I end-up deleting later

  26. Andreas Exner 18 May, 2011 at 20:45 Reply

    I have been a flagger for quite some time but with my photography shifting more into wildlife and landscape as the main subject, I wanted more choices for my multi-pass selection process. Now I use star rating for my workflow:

    0 Photo hasn’t been viewed.
    1* Rejected, will be deleted.
    2* Considered, Will be kept, Still a chance to go up or down later.
    3* Photo with potential, Picture may get processed but no decision about publishing has been made.
    4* Photo has been selected for publishing in my online gallery, for my blog, or for printing.
    5* Only reserved for the very best and to make it easy to find them, the 5th star will be removed if I feel a particular image doesn’t deserve it anymore.

    I saved a filter preset that I called “1star Goners”. This makes selection of all photos rated with only one star and deleting them very simple.

  27. Mark 18 May, 2011 at 19:52 Reply

    Both. Unless I’m missing something, stars persist between collections, and flags are only valid within a collection. So if I want to see things I like between collections, I have to use stars… Right?

  28. Dav 18 May, 2011 at 19:26 Reply

    These are for candid family holiday shots, not professional or ‘artistic’ shoots which would be different. I don’t get to do ratings print as often as I would like, so these happen every month or two:

    Flagging is a quick review phase:
    – Flag Rejects (out of focus, walking feet, failed test shots, duplicates from burst mode etc) for easy removal

    – Flag Picks, which will most likely move to 3 * below

    – Any unflagged at the end of this will be ok, and be moved to 1 or 2 * below

    Then move from Flags to *s as below (depending on mood and time, might have gone straight to stars anyway)

    1 * for OK shots that I don’t want to do anything with, but the family might like
    2 * for better shots that I would like printed, but no need to process
    3 * for better shots that I would like to process (interim flag)
    4 * for processed shots that are great, and will be printed (some 2 * might be moved here)
    5 * for processed shots that are fantastic, and will be printed (some 2 * might be moved here)

    I will also use Colours to highlight photos ready to be printed in the next batch. These get removed after printing, ready for the next batch in a month or two’s time

  29. Chris Wray 18 May, 2011 at 18:24 Reply

    Not sure anyone will read even further down the page.

    Flags for keepers and trash, then use the stars when clients choose wedding images based on the ooh and ahh noises. Then colour rating for album choices.

    I’ve noticed that flags and star rating will transfer between my laptop and desktop when exporting/importing a catalogue, but not the colour ratings. Does anyone else find the same issue ?

  30. Rijk Rijksen 18 May, 2011 at 16:38 Reply

    I use both,

    I flag the photo’s i want to keep. When i did my work in LR I rate them with one star so I van al alway’s see how many photo’s is still need to work on.

  31. Neal 18 May, 2011 at 16:27 Reply

    A rating of 3 means everything…if, like me, you never use 4 or 5 stars.

    Like = 1 star
    Really Like = 2
    Super Duper = 3

    I use flags and colors for selecting certain photos for certain tasks. Once complete, I remove them. Although I do use colors to indicate which photos have been uploaded to Flickr and (gasp) exported for use with Aperture.

  32. Lou Wheeler 18 May, 2011 at 16:27 Reply

    I have for the most part used ratings. It helps with my multi-pass approach; here’s what I do, and some of this has changed just recently with the addition of online proofing in my workflow (yeah, I know live proofing is better usually, but my time is rather scant):

    – After importing, I go through and 1-star anything usable even remotely. I leave obviously bad shots untouched
    – Sometimes I decide to do another pass, make all of these 2-stars, and 1-star back the cuts in the second pass
    – I used to skip directly to doing a further star rating, but now with clients, I upload all of the 1-star shots to my proofing system, they will then send back their selection, which I then edit for the client within the guidelines of delivered images previously agreed to
    – The selects from the client gets Flagged as a Pick, and then these are edited and delivered to the client
    – Here I make another pass through, 3-starring the main group of images (Pick and Unflagged)
    – The 3-stars now get edited–well, which ever images I 3-star that weren’t picked by the client and have already been edited, that is
    – Depending on the results, or what I’m using these for personally, another pass will be made, 4-starring the absolute gold. If there’s something so incredibly exceptional, it will get 5-starred, but this almost never happens.

    Weird, slightly cumbersome in ways, but it works for me. It allows me to make choices in chunks or layers, and speeds up the process for me.

  33. Martin Chamberlain 18 May, 2011 at 15:50 Reply

    I can’t believe anyone is still reading this far down the page, but if they are:

    I use X to flag the absolute rubbish (accidental shutter release etc); then star ratings: no star means I haven’t looked at the image, then everything gets 1 star or 2 stars. I look through the 2 stars and increase the best of them to 3 and so on. I often end up deleting the 1 stars much later. Oh yes, I also use the red label to indicate that it will need some work in Photoshop (eg cloning, or localised curves). I never use flags.

  34. Mathias Lindskog 18 May, 2011 at 15:36 Reply

    I always start with a quick X-flag run
    followed by one or two more swipes.
    Then I do the pick-flag.

    Then comes keywording.

  35. Craig 18 May, 2011 at 14:57 Reply

    I’m a rater, but what I’d really like Lightroom to offer is a way to delete from disk WITHOUT deleting from the catalog. Once I’ve picked my selects, I like to do a backup, then delete then non-selects from the disk. But, I’d like to keep them in the catalog so that I can go back to them from the backup if I need to, and it does happen at times.

    There’s no direct way. You can write the XMP files, then use bridge to select and delete all unrated, or you can select them in LR and move them to another directory, then delete them there. I’d like a “Delete file from disk but keep in catalog” option in LR.

  36. Richard Davis 18 May, 2011 at 14:03 Reply

    I’m both.

    After seeing MK in the flesh in Houston I adopeted Flagging on the first pass to quickly weed out the rejects and delete them.

    As a long-time follower of Peter Krogh and his approach to DAM I rate to signify my preferred shots to show my clients and my portfolio-worthy from the rest.

  37. Allen 18 May, 2011 at 13:53 Reply

    I am not a pro, just for fun good amateur.
    I delete totally bad ones. I use only one, two or 5 stars plus maybe a flag.
    One star for all I’m considering. Two for definitely keeping after reviewing one stars. Now after complete tuning of two star photos, a flag or five stars as a keeper for print or post.

  38. JJ Casas 18 May, 2011 at 13:40 Reply

    My system uses rejects (x) to remove the photos that are for sure heading to the trash. While going through the shoot on Lightroom, I’m also labeling my picks (pressing 6) to do so (customized to read “Selected by Photographer”). After I go through the shoot and removed the rejects, I then use a 5-star rating for the ones that are my sure favorites and that are bound to get post-processed via Photoshop. If I ever needed to go back and see my other picks, I can always just filter to view the labeled ones and/or 5-star ones.

  39. Dharmesh 18 May, 2011 at 12:39 Reply

    I am a rater but I think I will switch to flagging soon. Why? Your article confirmed my dilemma with rating. I was rating 1 star for the keepers, then 4 stars for all photos that are good, need minimal processing, and finally 5 stars that I want to export. If there are some personal photos that I don’t want to send to everyone then they remain at 4 stars, but that doesn’t mean they are any less than 5 starers 🙂

    I think the use of flagging in my case will simplify the process by a lot 🙂 and won’t have to go through all the photos..

    I still see a use of staring system in case of clients, where I have clicked 200 photos but only need to present say 30-50.. staring system will help in elimination process.

    So may be a hybrid is good.. You have 5 stars available but that doesn’t mean you have to use all 5 🙂

    My 2 cents..

  40. Kevin Behringer 18 May, 2011 at 12:24 Reply

    I prefer using flags, but I have switched to using numbers for one reason. I keep my photos on a Drobo and link to them on my laptop and my desktop. If I use numbers instead of flags, it’ll save in the file metadata and I can sync the folder on each machine and see my “selects.” Flags won’t follow to each machine the same way…at least not that I’ve found.

  41. TonyJ 18 May, 2011 at 11:26 Reply

    For me, two choices to rate is too limiting (the 3rd choice has deleted your images so your remaining images are rated with 2 levels). A reject today may be next year’s keeper…storage is cheap. Then again, this enables hoarding…may be I need therapy.

  42. Keith Skinner 18 May, 2011 at 11:24 Reply

    Matt, you’re raking far too simple of an approach with you rating scenario. You see, you need to combine stars with labels to give yourself the widest gamut of classifications. So five star yellow really rocks while a one star blue should be deleted immediately before someone else sees it. This sophisticated rating system also proves hours of fun in designing filters to find your @&$% photos, saving you from having to go out and shoot more one star blues.

    All that I just said is bs – I’m a hardcore flagger.

  43. Everardo 18 May, 2011 at 10:36 Reply

    I’ve been a “flagger” since I first started using Lightroom but I do use ratings to separate which ones to use on my website, blog, marketing, etc

  44. SJCT 18 May, 2011 at 10:36 Reply

    Since I’m new to Lightroom (I know, I know, welcome to the new millenium buddy!) I’m neither a flagger or a rater. I also subscribe to the “Keep It Simple Stupid” theory and therefore will be using the flag system going forward.

  45. Kayla 18 May, 2011 at 10:19 Reply

    I use both. I think each have their distinct purposes and how you use them really depends on how you use your catalog.

    I only use flags for projects. When I first go through my photos, I quickly hit x on my keyboard to reject the photos I don’t want and P for my favorites. I also will use P to flag as a pick when I am sorting through photos for a particular project.

    Now for ratings. I don’t rate anything with a star unless I like it. One star means it is a good photo I can see myself creating something with, 2 stars is something I definitely want to create something with and 3 stars is one of those photos that when you download your eyes are riveted to it because it is such an amazing shot.

    The reasons for ratings in my book is over time my photo collection is growing by leaps and bounds – when I sort through my catalog looking for photos for projects or finding things, it is great to bring up the criteria but then to additionally sort by ratings so I can find the best of the best or just the great speeds up my workflow considerably.

    Over time the catalog will grow, which is why I have reserved those 4-5 stars. I can see that as my collection grows, I will expand into those higher ratings.

    Ratings are basically the way to help you find your needle in the haystack. They help you stack the hay…

    I learned most of what I do from Peter Krogh’s DAM book which is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to truly utilize the awesome metadata capabilities of Lightroom.

    Also – your flags don’t stay with the metadata – so that is another reason I use them only to cull through images and delete or sort for projects.

  46. Randy Matthews 18 May, 2011 at 10:02 Reply

    I use both. If the picture get any stars then it is a keeper. No stars or not pick flag means I cannot decide yet. If it is not good (and there are plenty) then it gets a reject and deleted from the hard drive.

  47. Nat Coalson 18 May, 2011 at 09:39 Reply

    Three reasons maybe not to use flags as your primary attribute for editing:

    1. Flags don’t stick when making instances of photos in other image sources. For instance, if you flag a photo in a folder view and then add it to a collection, the instance in the collection is set to unflagged. Same if you add a photo to multiple collections; in each case, the new instance will be unflagged. This makes using flags for editing tricky.

    2. Flags don’t get saved to XMP metadata. As others have pointed out, if you save out your metadata and then bring those files into another catalog, they will be unflagged.

    3. Since flag status doesn’t get saved to the files on disk, other programs won’t recognize them either. With stars, even your OS will recognize and display the ratings if they’ve been saved to the files.

    All this having been said, I agree that the yes/no status of flags is helpful for making editing decisions. I use stars for my main rounds of editing, starting at one then filtering and progressively going to higher stars with each round until I’m done. If I need to differentiate between two similar photos I might flag the one I picked before adding the final selects to a collection.

    Also, I do use reject flags extensively for the reason Matt mentioned as the “half” reason… the Delete Rejects command is extremely efficient.

    In short, yes I use flags, but I use stars a lot more.

  48. Ryan Miller 18 May, 2011 at 09:34 Reply

    I use stars as a way to filter up to the best of the best. This way I can do a quick swag of all my favorites (your picks) and come out with a handful of shots. But if I want to filter even more to get a finer selection, they get the two star treatment, and that goes on and on. In preparing a wedding photo album I was able to get ~2000 images filtered to about 200 that were REALLY worth saving (4 stars) and ~80 I wanted to put in an album (5 stars). I like the granularity.

    Of course the issue with that is the level of stars changes based on the complexity of the shoot and number of photos. So it really only works from folder to folder and isn’t consistent across my whole library.

    I use flags to flag client picks (usually temporarily until I can work on them.) So my system allows me to whittle down the junk and know what ones my clients prefer.

  49. Dennis Zito 18 May, 2011 at 09:20 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    I’m a flagger! I started flagging when I got Scott’s Lightroom book! I like simple and hitting P and X is pretty simple to me. I have a habit of taking three shots of the same image. I do that just to make sure one of them is sharp and in focus. Flagging makes picking the keeper much easier. Once I’ve made up my mind … the rest are gone. Only keepers remain on the hard drive. I’ve learned to let go of the maybe’s, which means that sometimes no photos make it.

    Thanks … good conversation!


    PS: I’m headed to Canada in two days for vacation. I’ve heard you kidding around with Scott and others about your photo in Banff. Can you tell me where in Banff you took the photo? Can you show me your photo? Just curious!


  50. Tobias Zimling 18 May, 2011 at 08:56 Reply

    I do both. When I import i rate all photos with 1 or 0 stars. The 1-star rated are the keepers. I then filter the 0-star rated and i then flag the 1-star rated photos I choose to edit.

    The 0-star rated are kept for an year and then deleted. They are kept for so long just to make sure I won’t regret a deletion.

  51. Eric 18 May, 2011 at 08:48 Reply

    I’m both. All of my photography is for me, so what I rate it matters. I also work on several computers and use XMP to sync between them, so picks are worthless for that. When I first run through my photos, I’m a rejecter (not a picker, that’s gross). I do my workflow in a number of steps and reject along the way.

    When I’ve got things whittled down to what I want to save, then I rate. Briefly, 1: I only use this for signs explaining what I’m seeing or maybe a shot taken specifically to set white balance. 2: Something that really didn’t turn out well, but I’m not likely to ever see again (I do some wildlife photography). 3: A standard shot that I like but it’s not one of my best. 4: A very good shot. It gets synced to my iPhone so it’s in my “wallet.” 5: My absolute best photos.

    I put together a few presentations a year and filtering on my 4 stars is a good place to begin those.

  52. Joe Viger 18 May, 2011 at 08:32 Reply

    I’m a devout flagger. The first review from a shoot is just as Matt describes… Pick, reject or undecided. I then use the delete rejected photos option to thin the herd. From that batch of picks, final selects get a red color tag. I find this is the easiest way to see the selects in all modes as it shades the border of the photo red. For me, that’s more obvious than looking for the small flag icon when reviewing a grid of thumbnails.

  53. Neil 18 May, 2011 at 08:20 Reply

    I’m a flagger…sounds a bit dodgy that..

    I tried ratings and hated it. I could never remember exactly what each rating meant and it would honestly vary from shoot to shoot. Also I’d end up keeping all my bad shots. Not the really out of focus or just plain terrible but the bad, the one’s I’d never print for sure.

    Now the first thing I do after a shoot is delete all the obvious ones. Next I flag all the obvious picks. I then look through the unflagged and decide do I really want this shot? Most of the time these end up being deleted too. I really only want to store picks otherwise I’m wasting disk space for images I’ve no intension of printing.

  54. Jim Bullard 18 May, 2011 at 08:09 Reply

    I’m a rater. I use flags as temporary markers to select photos for specific projects/collections like photo submissions. I run a search on the entire database for the project criteria using keywords and/or other metadata which may include my rating. I then use flags to mark which are in or out for the project. Once final selections are made and the project is done I “select all” and remove the flags in order to start clean for the next project.

  55. Philipp 18 May, 2011 at 08:02 Reply

    I use Flags and Rating

    I mark each photo with a P or an X.
    The photos with an X will be deleted in Januar.
    I also check all photos which have no star.
    The photos which are flagged with P I gave each of them also Rating’s

    * It’s ok but, , I will not delevelop it
    ** It’s ok, , I will delevelop it
    *** The best photos from the series which are developed
    **** Photo which will also edited in PS
    ***** Photo for the Customer

  56. Eyal 18 May, 2011 at 08:00 Reply

    I shoot landscapes and my kids and will use rating and flagging…
    First cull I rate photos as 1 star (to be used in pano/hdr), 2 or 3 stars and reject the bad ones.
    Second cull I flag the good ones to be processed/posted and reject a few more
    End of the year I’ll look through my ‘picks’ when putting together a book of my kids and push up those that make the cut to 4-5 stars

  57. Kevin - Orlando Wedding Photographer 18 May, 2011 at 07:45 Reply

    I’m a hybrid, but I’m an organizational freak too. Rejects are for pictures that will be deleted and should have never been taken. Then I use the ratings to show where a picture is in my workflow (5-profile, 4-ready for show, 3-possible, 0-never making daylight but worth keeping). And, you didn’t mention it, but colors also get pulled in to separate blogs, b&w, etc.

  58. Piet Van den Eynde | 18 May, 2011 at 07:33 Reply

    There’s actually a fourth reason / difference: flags are local, while star ratings are global attributes: that means the same picture, used in different collections, will always show the same ratings, i.e. you cannot rate the same picture with two stars in one collection and with three stars in another collection. You can however flag a picture in one collection and not flag that same picture in another.
    Personally, I use a combination of flagging (as rejects) and star ratings. I just prefer the flexibility of having up to 5 different levels.
    A cool way to help remember yourself what your star ratings mean (and to be more consequent when using them) is to make a small PNG file with their explanation, and use that as a custom Panel End Mark in Lightroom. (In the interface tab of the Lightroom Preferences).

  59. Dustin Grau 18 May, 2011 at 07:08 Reply

    Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve found that flags do not persist in the XMP sidecar files, which I rely on heavily. I can’t have all of my photos in LR on my laptop, so I only work with the most recent. I do flag, but only to prepare for ratings and weed out any rejects (blurry beyond use, total black frames, etc.). A pick for me implies at least 1 star, with better work getting higher stars. But once I’m done processing and organizing, I back up my work and remove the photos from LR. If I want to process them later, I will usually import into a master catalog on an external disk…but the flags don’t get imported (though everything else does). Hence, I rely on both flags and ratings. Of course, that’s just my workflow.

  60. Frederik Balcaen 18 May, 2011 at 07:05 Reply

    Hi Mat,

    Flagging is fine as long as you do not need/want to see the flag attribute in your collections. Flagging is localized. If you flag a photograph in a folder, and place it later in a collection, you will not see the flag in the collection. Julieane Kost recently had a blog post that describes this behavior (see So that is something to keep in mind.

    I personally use a combination of both. I first go through my photographs to make a rough selection: the ones I don’t like get rejected (and should be deleted afterwards), the favorites get picked. What’s left is those I want to keep, but which are not my favorites.
    Later I use ratings to further refine my photos. Picked ones get 4 or 5 stars and are the ones I show to the public, the rest will get 1, 2 or 3 stars and are more for personal use or to show to family and friends only (together with the 4 and 5 stars of course).
    To define what rating a photograph gets is (for me) based on how and where I want to use that picture. If it is a photograph that I really like and would definitely show a large version in an exhibition, it gets 5 stars. If I only keep it as a personal archive, it only gets one star. The ratings in between have similar criteria. For me the most important thing is that I have clear criteria which I can use consistently now and later.

    Your way of working is faster, but I personally prefer using ratings and I certainly want to see my ratings in my collections. But in the end, what ever method you use, you should pick the one that suits you best.

  61. aleksarus 18 May, 2011 at 07:04 Reply

    Step 1: I tag all photos as flaged, unflaged, or rejected as you 😉
    Step 2 (it may be a few days) I put a rating of 5 stars for the best photos are included in their portfolio. Will automatically be included in the smart kolletstion this photo. And 4 stars for best photos for clients.
    Colored tags I use for marking or panoramic sets for special purposes.

  62. Adam Bowie 18 May, 2011 at 06:50 Reply

    I just about only flag. The only time that I use ratings is when I want to make a different selection for another reason.

    So the flagged photos might end up Flickr while the rejected photos get deleted. The remainder are those “I’ll hold onto anyway” pictures.

    But sometimes a different cut is needed – perhaps at a social situation where the photos are going to end up on Facebook and I’m being less discriminating. Then I might use the stars (or a star) just to produce a secondary cut.

  63. Marcus 18 May, 2011 at 06:33 Reply

    I use both, actually. I use flags to determine simply whether or not an image is worth keeping. Once I’ve flagged all images in a set, I’ll process the “picked” images. Once that’s done, I’ll star images that are “above” merely just keeping. 3 stars for photos I would consider to be really good, 5 stars for photos I feel are print-worthy.

  64. wirehunt 18 May, 2011 at 06:29 Reply


    The other day it was a big for me shoot. Images for uploading plus ‘a few’ for media. So one star was an uploader, 2 was media. Can’t do that flagging and have them trackable. 😉

    But as a rule flags, fit for purpose.

  65. Wayne 18 May, 2011 at 06:24 Reply

    Flagger. I use keyboard shortcuts to the good with ‘p’, the unknown are left unflagged and the rejects get the ‘x’. I delete the rejects, then make a second pass at the unflagged where they are picked or rejected.

  66. Mike McCarthy 18 May, 2011 at 06:15 Reply

    I use both…

    I quickly run through the images with [CapsLock] on and one hand on the 1-2-3 keys.

    1 – Crap
    2 – Possible Keeper
    3 – Definite Keeper

    Once I go through a shoot this way, I delete the 1’s. If I have a lot of 3’s – which doesn’t happen often! – I [P]ick the better ones on a second pass. I then process the flagged 3’s and increase the final edited copies to 4’s for exporting for the client. Anything that I want in my portfolio gets made into a 5 and automatically added to a smart collection.

  67. Christian 18 May, 2011 at 05:46 Reply

    I’m a “X-Rater”! 🙂
    To reject photos I use flags, it’s easy to press X and delete the rejected photos afterwards.
    But select photos, I use stars. The reason for this is exactly that I have this fine tuning possiblities here:
    2 * = Photo is picked, I will delevelop it
    3 * = I like the photo
    4 * = I really like the photo -> maybe only 5-10 pics per shooting…
    5 * = My best shots, maybe 10 pics per year
    –> I will look at my 4* photos at the end of the year and select some of it to 5 *

    With this workflow, I have the following advantages:
    – Differencing between my “picked” shots
    – Easy way to show my best pics over severeal years
    – Stars in opposition to flags can also be exported as jpeg-metadata and can be read by other programs or website scripts, so I don’t lose this information.


  68. Warl0rd 18 May, 2011 at 05:21 Reply

    My workflow:

    I go thru all photos, mark favourites as Pick, mark not so good as Rejected. Leave some as undecided (unflagged). Really bad ones (or duplicated) get deleted immediately.

    Then I work on all the photos.

    After that:

    Picks are kept in raw format, exported to small jpg to be published online
    Unflagged are kept in raw, but not published
    Rejected get converted to jpg full size, then raw are deleted, and the jpg re-imported and remarked and rejected.

  69. Simon 18 May, 2011 at 04:37 Reply

    Definitely a flagger here ! Just really nice and quick and simple. I then use collections for grouping together sub-sets of the ones that I’ve picked. Always a bit nervous about deleting the rejected ones though because we all have different tastes and quite often the family will like ones that I would reject.

  70. Peter 18 May, 2011 at 04:36 Reply

    I use colors, because it is the easiest and most visible distinction in Lightroom as far as I am concerned.

    On my first edit, all rejects get red color, the ones I like on the first glance get green. Then I filter red and look through those quickjly again. If they are still all rejects, they get deleted now. On the second edit, I mark some more green and mark the ones that stand out from the green in blue.

    So, I basically use the color scheme red, green, blue, which blois it down to the three choices that Mark also has, but it is visually more present for me.

  71. Frode E. 18 May, 2011 at 04:30 Reply

    I use both, but use flags for control of work flow.

    Flags: Picked means I have completed both editing and entering all metadata (keywords, collections, location). Rejected is used as a trash bin, before exiting Lightroom I always delete all rejected photos.

    Stars: Use 3-5 stars on the photos I really like.

    This way I can filter on which photos I have work to do on (the ones unflagged), and later I can get all the best photos from a collection.

  72. Vlad Dodan 18 May, 2011 at 04:27 Reply

    0. Rename the hell out the pictures to limit the keywords necessity. (this will come in handy when using smart collections)
    1. Flag the picks and rejects.
    2. Make collections (in collections sets) based on Pick Flag and other various criteria.
    3. Rate 3*/4*/5* based on where the picture is going to end up (Facebook -> blog -> Website / Client)
    4. Develop the pictures in Lr (thus receiving the green color label) and then Photoshop. After PS, that picture gets a red color label. If there are green labeled pictures that don`t need PS, they get the red color label after a thorough analysis.

    • Tasmin 6 July, 2011 at 22:30 Reply

      Once you come back into Lightroom from editing several pictures in Photoshop do you track them down and change the colour? I cant figure out the workflow after the edit. My filter view may show only green pictures (from your example) and I have to hunt down the “Copy made with Lightroom adjustments” in unfiltered view to make it red. The copy doesnt inherit the colour. Your response would be appreciated.

  73. AMANITO 18 May, 2011 at 04:23 Reply

    It’s simple, firs I’m using rating and after all I use flags for photos that client is happy with. There is another scenario too: when I need more than rating and flagging there is another option, that is color filtering, and when I’m not satisfied whit that too there is always keyword option 🙂 I just love Lightroom options.

  74. Horngyih 18 May, 2011 at 04:06 Reply

    I’m a Flagger first then a Rater – however my use of rating is a bit different.

    I flag Pick on photos that are acceptible, keep it unflagged if I’m undecided, reject means it’s on it’s way to the recycle bin.

    Rating is used instead for me to indicate which stage the photo is at :-
    1 star – it’s been given the basic post-processing treatment
    2 star – uploaded to flickr/facebook
    3 star – used by some party.
    ( haven’t figured out another two stage to promote the photograph to 4 o 5 star yet )

  75. Raymond 18 May, 2011 at 04:02 Reply

    Rater here. I rate 1 to the photos I’ll keep and then sort the folder by rating when I’m ready to edit. As I import photos to individual folders, I don’t get confused with a heap of photos from different events. From there, I will decrease the rating back to 0 for duplicate photos or if I changed my mind. Easy.

    Sometimes I’ll use 2 or 3 stars to the ones I will either post online or would like to separate the photos from the other ones, so it’s not necessarily used because they’re “better” but more to be able to sort the photos out in different sets.

    Hope that makes sense.

  76. Glyn Dewis 18 May, 2011 at 03:49 Reply

    Yep…it’s Flagging for me combined with colour labelling…

    Quickly go through shots flagging up the Picks and Rejects. Then when working through the Picks in Lightroom, those that are ‘complete’ are labelled ‘Green’ and those that are going to be taken over to Photoshop are labelled ‘Red’.

    Nice and simple…just like me 🙂


  77. Jens Bengtsson 18 May, 2011 at 03:27 Reply

    I used to always flag my images, then I started to use Collections.. well inside the collection the flag dissapear which makes it hard to filter and see only the flagged ones. I have started to use rating more because of that and it works well.

  78. John Hobson 18 May, 2011 at 03:20 Reply

    Definitely a flagger here! I actually tend to just have either pick or nothing. I really should start rejecting and deleting the rejects to save on disk space….

    I will use stars or colours if I want to sub-select from those that are flagged, for instance if I’m selecting a few images of flowers to send to the florist from a wedding I’ll mark those with red.

  79. Michael Perlov 18 May, 2011 at 03:19 Reply

    Well, Matt I think you forgot one thing about flags which makes them better and worse at the same time: they are local to every collectionfolder.

    One can use it to flag photos among particular selection which is a plus but you can`t rely on them when you do a global search (smart-collection).

    Personally I use flags when I go through series of photos or making a selection for smth. but i rate all photos which got any treatment and have smart-collections for every star count. Then I regular go through starred photos above 2 stars and re-rate them cause through time 5 stars become 4 stars and etc.

  80. Marco G 18 May, 2011 at 03:08 Reply

    I use colour labels for that: red meaning rejects, yellow meaning ‘hmm’, green meaning good and blue meaning ‘portfolio!’. Quick and easy to apply using the keyboard shortcuts (keys 6 to 9) as well…

  81. Erol Diener 18 May, 2011 at 03:05 Reply

    I’m using flags and rating. But in a really simple way. My workflow works just fine for me (took me a long time to find that out 😉 )

    1.Basically flag all photos as rejects (“x”) Matt as you can see I’m basically assuming that all of my photos are rejects 😉

    2. Now I view the photos and flag the keepers (“p”) and un-flag the ones I’m just not sure yet (“u”)

    3. Process the flagged photos

    4. Set the rating for all flagged and processed photos to 1 (“1”)

    5. Increase the rating for best photos of that series to 2 (“2”) I try to keep the amount of those photos as low as possible to keep up the effect.

    6. Delete the rejected photos.

    7. Delete the un-flagged photos.

    8. Remove the flag from the keepers

    One thing I would really wish to have in LR is the possibility to lock your rating. So you can’t accidentally overwrite it. If a photo already has a rating, a confirmation message should pop up.

  82. Jesper Vasell 18 May, 2011 at 02:52 Reply

    I’m a flagger: Picks=the ones I choose for whatever it is I am doing. Rejects=will be deleted from my hard disk. Unflagged=Good enough to save, but does not qualify for what I am doing right now.
    The fact that flags are contextual, i.e., relates to a specific collection or slideshow or whatever, and makes it possible to make different choices in different situations (collections) are absolutely great.
    The only way I use stars is when I have, for example, 30 Picks for a slide show that can only have 20 slides. Then stars can be used to rank the picks, i.e., to find the 20 best among the 30. But I can only remember doing this once…
    I am definitely a flagger.

  83. Jason 18 May, 2011 at 02:21 Reply

    I do both and then use colors! Here’s my triple elimination process: flag, delete rejected, rate by stars, limit to 5 stars, then use two colors (red and blue) to determine the best of the absolute best. I end up with flagged red five stars and know I have the winners! I can always go back a level if I need more photos, but I find that I end up with keepers this way (usually works out to approx. 10% of my total images shot).

  84. Joop Snijder 18 May, 2011 at 02:06 Reply

    I’m a flagger and a rater. First flagging just as you described it. Picks for likes, rejects for deletion and I leave all others as undecided (mostly used to get back later and finally get picked or rejected).

    After initial flagging I use rating. 3 stars good enough for selling. 4 stars better than good and 5 stars for my personal favorites based on technique and emotion. The lower stars are used for ‘special’ purposes. 2 stars: photo is technically not good enough (but still not terrible) but has personal value, because of special moments, etc. 1 star means I get back later and most of the time these will result in rejects.

    BTW I’m a colorist as well. By including color labels I can make advanced selection and save them as smart collections. For example I create coffee table books and I have a smart collection selecting all 5 star rated photos with a blue color label.

  85. Art Zaratsyán 18 May, 2011 at 01:59 Reply

    Both ratings and flags are necessary for good workflow in my opinion. In my workflow I use flags for rejected shots and client’s final picks, while ratings are for the my rating of the shot, in which 1 star is a recommended shot for example, 2 stars is a great shot, 3 – maybe is the ultimate pick for the shoot, 4 – goes into portfolio and 5 – lifetime best (I haven’t given a 5 star rating to any shot yet, though)…

    Going with just flags, or just ratings is limiting in many ways. Using both is the best approach.

  86. Mike Padua 18 May, 2011 at 01:36 Reply

    I used to be a flagger exclusively–then I started using ratings. Now I use ratings for my professional stuff, and flags for my personal stuff.

    After a typical shoot (most of my business is theatrical production photography), the marketing department of a theater company wants the absolute best stuff to send out with press releases right away–as in within 12 hours of when I shoot it. So I’ll do a quick pass and rate stuff that MAY be delivered 3 stars. Then I’ll look at those rated photos, and cull them down even further to 4 stars (WILL be delivered but not right away), and then finally 5 stars (process and deliver immediately).

    Once the 5 stars are delivered, I have an agreement with my client that the remaining selects (4-stars) will be delivered within 3-4 business days.

  87. Sean McCormack 18 May, 2011 at 01:33 Reply

    I use flagging, but there is a downside: flagging is not written to XMP so it’s not recognised by Bridge (or other XMP aware programs), whereas stars and labels are.

    • yz 18 May, 2011 at 10:47 Reply

      And there’s one more thing. If I use flags after let’s say importing photos, once I put them in a collection – all flags are gone.
      While rating is always on and visible.

      • Sean McCormack 18 May, 2011 at 22:15 Reply

        Hi yz,
        that’s not accidental. Flags are local to wherever they are making them really powerful in the selection process, and that’s why I use them over ratings. If you’re making a collection, it should be prior to selection, or of the selects.

  88. Michael Goulding 18 May, 2011 at 01:24 Reply

    I use both. Flagging as picks for follow up or more work required, flag as reject to reject and delete. I also use stars to narrow down my selections, reference or test shots get no stars, 1 is keep, 2 is potential 3 is good and 4-5 are reserved for client picks and absolute favourites.

    This works for me!

    • FotografieBerliner 18 May, 2011 at 06:52 Reply

      This is also my style of working. 5 different ratings are too much, most of the time I only use 1-3, The best pic of the shoot gets sometimes a 4. Only ca. 10 times a year (-> Adams) I use the 5 stars. X is faster than deleting the photo directly.

  89. Victor Naumik 18 May, 2011 at 01:23 Reply

    I’m both. First do “Rejecting” on really bad photos (no focus at all, totally black with no flash fired, etc). That removes all technical trash.

    Then I do what you call “Flagging” with 1 star — if I like it somehow, I put 1 star there. That usually marks half of the photos, removing all photographic trash, leaving just “ok” images, but may have multiple choices of one image.

    Then starring 2 stars, to mark the ones that I left multiple, to choose just one (or two). This removes duplicate takes almost completely, and 2-star is, roughly saying, the photos that I will give to the client.

    The 3 star goes to the images that I prefer more, artistically. I.e. if it is a wedding — we have some art, jaw-dropping photos, and have “please shoot uncle’s grandpa+grandma, for memory”. So here, all contemporary photos are “removed”, and just artistic ones get the third star.

    Then, if we get everything right — I’m left just with the photos I like to work with best. Just the pure juice. But if there are many — I can rate them even more. We may have duplicates, we may have some that are preferred on others. Or just we can have a thought that I can’t print all 100, I need less. So I give 4 star for the more preferred ones, or the ones that I will print.

    And the 5 star — it’s the best of the best of the best. The ones that can go to a 10 short-list for a blog, for example, or to my portfolio site. Just a couple of photos that will remind me of the best moments of this photo shoot.

    And when I got these ten 5-starred images — I can process them very hard, spend 30-60minutes on each one, to make them really-really sweet. Then copy some of this processing to 4-stars, with some corrections and maybe less local-adjustment. Then copy to 3-stars with no local-adjustment, and even less corrections. Then copy to 2-stars and give it away to client.

    That’s all.

  90. Rob 18 May, 2011 at 01:22 Reply

    Both 🙂 plus a colour labeler as well 🙂 Do I sound like a control freak 🙂

    First pass is flag/reject… Then I look at what is flagged only. I pick what I want to process – using colour label as a status of sorts – green=fully processed, red=rescan required (yeah that a 4 letter word – film) e.t.c. (I changed the label on the colours). Then if I really like it then I add a star from 1-5 based on feelings only. Those are portfolio candidates… the actual portfolio picks I add a keyword.

    I have a STACK of dumb collections based on what has stars, what is flagged but not fully processed e.t.c. to help with the management. One of these looks for the keyword of porfolio and pushes it to the web-site.

  91. Aaron Hockley 18 May, 2011 at 01:21 Reply

    I started out as a rater, but eventually discovered that I never looked at 1- and 2- star photos and that 3 and 4 stars usually meant the same fate as well.

    Now I’m a flagger. Reject (and delete) the crappy ones, Pick (and edit) the great ones, and keep the so-so ones around just in case they become interesting later due to subject matter.

  92. MagnusK 18 May, 2011 at 01:13 Reply

    I always use flags for the initial filter. It quick and easy to descried what to keep and what to throw. However After that I use rating to sort images. Private shots and ones Im not sure about now get a 3 te ones that are better get a 4 and maybe my top 50 get a 5. I regularly go thru my 4 and 5 shots and regrade them since my taste changes.

    Oh and to keep private shots I tag them with private and the family friends in it

  93. Chris Brooks 18 May, 2011 at 01:10 Reply

    I’m both, but I *always* flag and sometimes rate. I use pick/reject for all photos as a I process them, delete all the rejects. Sometimes I’ll rate if I plan on doing a deeper level of selection, like for an “end of season football book” or the like.

  94. HansLabyrinth 18 May, 2011 at 01:07 Reply

    I actually use flags, Stars and Colors. I do it all. I Flag when i cull down, and have multiple folders, Selects Picks and Finals, so i like that when i initially flag and move those into Selects it resets the flags in that folder, Then i go through again and flag again. and i also Reject bad pics with the black flag. Then i Use stars for doing client selects verse my selects, then the best pics get color coated, and i have Smart Collections that pull in Pics by Color and those are automatically linked to my Website, So it’s all automated. I am a huge fan of Smart Collections for my workflow to keep everything organized.

  95. David K. 18 May, 2011 at 01:00 Reply

    I prefer doing stars. Flagging gives me a negative vibe, like, usually (like, on the interwebs) something is flagged as being inappropriate.

    This is what I do. I shoot something, whatever it is. I dump them into Aperture (sorry) and go threw them. One * are what the client will see. Two *’s are what the Client orders, and 5 *s are portfolio worthy.

    For personal photos, one *s are what gets emailed to my mom. :-p

  96. Nicole Young 18 May, 2011 at 00:53 Reply

    I’m a “flagger”, but … recently also a “rater”. Since flags don’t stick w/ the metadata, if you lose your catalog (or have to reinstall your OS and wipe your computer like I did) even if you retain the metadata w/ sidecar XMP or through DNG files, you lose your flags.

    So, my solution is to flag, as usual, but every so often filter the entire Library and add a 5-star flag to all my “picks” as well. They have zero meaning to me, but are my “backup” in case something goes awry. 🙂

    • Matt Kloskowski 18 May, 2011 at 12:04 Reply

      Hey Nicole,
      You’re totally right. I should have mentioned that this system works fine for me, but I’m not a stock photographer. I know you are and I know ratings, flags, and color labels definitely have more of a use. I like to keep it simple, but then again, simple doesn’t work for certain things and I think stock is a perfect example. You need slightly more organization than, “I like it” or “I don’t like it” 🙂
      Thanks 🙂

      • Nicole 18 May, 2011 at 17:36 Reply

        I do stay pretty organized, but a “yes” or “no” is all I really need (even with my stock photos) … the ratings are just to make sure I don’t lose my picks if I lose my catalogue.

        I’m always curious how people use the rating system, though … maybe with clients or something? Or they’re trying to narrow down their shoot to just one single photo?

      • Matt Kloskowski 18 May, 2011 at 18:39 Reply

        Cool. I’ve seen some stock photogs use labels in an interesting way. They’ll label something yellow if it was submitted. Then Green if it was accepted, red if it was rejected and it won’t be resubmitted, but maybe blue if it was rejected but they will submit. I think color labels get REALLY detailed for sorting, but given that circumstance I could definitely see their use.

      • Michelle 20 May, 2011 at 22:32 Reply

        I used flags at first too until I realized they didn’t go to the metadata, as Nicole mentioned, plus the fact that flags won’t “travel” to a Collection! Here is a GREAT explanation from Julienne Kost (

        Lightroom has several different ways to tag images including flags, star ratings and color labels. Both the star ratings and color labels are global settings. If for example, you apply a star rating to an image in a folder, that star will travel with the image if you add the image to a Collection or Publish Services. The Flag tag (or attribute), on the other hand is specific to the folder/collection/publish services in which it is assigned. This “localized flagging” feature was designed so that you could flag images within a folder/collection/publish services independently of the other image’s other locations and so that you could then use that flag to further filter the images – to play for example, only a subcollection of images in a slideshow at any given time. The feature can, however cause unexpected results if you didn’t know that was the way that flags were designed to work.

    • Erol 19 May, 2011 at 11:57 Reply

      Did you ever accidentally changed or deleted some of your labels or ratings? This was happen to me in the past when I was marking all photos in a folder to apply something (template, sync settings, etc.). Days after I realized that all the ratings went lost. As from this time I took really care about applying something to a bunch of photos. But anyway I would really wish to have a kind of a confirmation dialog (Do you really want to change the rating? YES/NO). How about you?

  97. John Tucker 18 May, 2011 at 00:48 Reply

    I’m a “flagger” when initially culling for a client’s album. Once the client chooses their favorites, I rate them typically with a single star. For my personal stuff, I only flag.


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