How I Use Lightroom’s Color Labels

I primarily rely on Pick Flags and just the singular 5-star rating to tag photos in Lightroom Classic, but there’s a particular situation where I use Color Labels as well, and thought you might find it handy, too.

Here’s a typical use for me: I’m doing a shoot (could be in-studio like this shoot above, or out on location where I’m shooting tethered), and there are multiple people working on this shoot. Maybe a model, a hair stylist, a makeup artist (MUA), maybe a fashion stylist, the client, and so on.

To set up my Color Labels to use on this shoot, I want to give them names that work with what I’m doing. To do that, go to the Library module, under the Metadata menu, go to ‘Color Label Set’ and from the pop-out menu choose ‘Edit,’ (as shown above).

When the Edit Color Label Set appears, it shows you the default names of Red, Yellow, Green, etc.. While you’re here, take not of the keyboard shortcuts for each of these color labels: Press 6 to add red label to a photo, 7 to add a yellow, 8 for green and so on. There’s no shortcut for purple.

I rename the labels so I can tag my client’s favorite images, the model’s, the Makeup Artists, and the Hair Stylist’s images from that shoot (and yes, they will all have different choices. The client may be looking for one particular type of look; the hair stylist wants shots that really show off the hair. The Makeup artist wants ones where the makeup looks amazing, so you have (in this case) four other people beside the photography who want to make their picks for shots that they want from this shoot. By typing in their titles in this box, I won’t accidentally send the wrong person the wrong images.

Once I’ve made up this set, if I think I’ll be using it again, I save it as a Color Label Preset by choosing ‘Save Current Settings as New Preset’ form the Preset pop-up menu at the top of the window (as seen here).

Now, while we’re shooting if the Client sees a shot she really likes, I click on the thumbnail and hit the number 6 on my keyboard to add a red label to that image. Now I know which ones are the client’s favorites. If the Hair Stylist sees a shot she loves, I hit number 9 to assign it a blue label.

Later, after the shoot is over and I’m starting to process the images in Lightroom, when I went to get a batch to get ready to send over to the client, I go down to the Color Label filter swatches on the top of the Filmstrip on the right side and I click on the Red label. Now, just the shots my client chose will appear on screen. I can just click through the color label filters like this and quickly see which images I need to send to which person.

If I forget which color is for which person, I can go look in the Color Label editing window and I’ll see which close goes with which person. By the way — the image I like get a Pick Flag, so the Color Labels are for everybody else on the set.

Hope you found that helpful.

If you’re a beginner to photography, I’ve got a great free class for you to watch this weekend.

The details and the official class trailer are over on my blog today. Here’s the link.

Have a safe, fun, productive weekend, everybody!




  1. Vincent Paul Walter 21 November, 2022 at 10:18 Reply

    I use all the colors for my edits. I used to invoke Purple on Mac via a keystoke. I can’t figure out how to invoke Purple with a keystroke on Windows.

    We all edit different ways, I’m a commercial photographer and use the color labels for my specific processes.
    I think this thread makes a decent case of how somebody chooses to do workflow, no need to nit pick on why.

  2. David W Terry 29 May, 2020 at 14:17 Reply

    My use is simpler … One of the features that I miss from RawShooter Pro (the software that Adobe purchased and that was the predecessor to Lightroom) was that it automatically kept track of (and visually indicated) which images have been exported. This was useful because if I walked away from the editing session and had to resume later, I’d have to figure out where I left off. RSP made it easy, I could tell at a glance how far along I was. But Lightroom still to this day doesn’t include any kind of icon, badge, or anything (except history) to indicate that an image has been exported.

    So my solution since LR v1.0 has been to select a set of images for export, then right after that, right click and set the color label to green. Now when I come back I look at the images that are green and skip right over those. (I could also filter by unlabeled and that would show me which ones were not green, but just the visual clue is enough to let me know where to go to resume my work)

    I do sometimes use other labels … I might mark one red if there’s a problem that needs extra attention. Or purple if I created a virtual copy and did different edits on it. These are rare occurrences, but marking an image green after export is a daily occurrence for me in my workflow. I just wish LR had a built-in way to mark the images like it’s predecessor oh so many years ago did.

  3. Tim 29 May, 2020 at 03:41 Reply

    It’s a very weird way to label images. What color it will be if both the client and the model like an image?

    • Scott Kelby 29 May, 2020 at 11:48 Reply

      After each person;s picks, I use the Label filter to narrow it down to their shots — I make a Collection from those (like Client or Model), and then I return to the main shoot, so if the label changes now it doesn’t matter. I probably should have included that in the post.

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