You’ve had a great vacation, and having dumped the suitcases on the bedroom floor, you head straight for the computer to start uploading your photos. 100… 200… 300… 1000… how many photos did you take?!?
Sound familiar? You can’t possibly ask your friends and family to sit through hundreds of photos of your feet, as you laid by the pool watching the kids play. It’s time to start sorting through them and narrowing it down to the best ones – the ones you’d be proud to show off.
Lightroom offers two different rating systems – star ratings and flags. (If you haven’t used them before, there’s an easy introduction to rating your photos in my free Lightroom 5 Quick Start Guide.)
Star ratings are usually used to record the quality or value of the photo, with 1 star photos being poor, and 5 star photos being the best you’ve ever taken. They’re standard across almost all digital asset management (photo cataloguing) software, so if you chose to use other software in the future, you won’t lose your work. Grading the photos gives you more information to help you find the best photos again later. The downside is if you’re indecisive, you could spend ages trying to figure out whether a photo deserves 2 stars or 3, and as your photography improves, your older 3 star photos might only count as 2 star photos now.
Flags are much simpler, having just 3 states – flagged, unflagged or rejected. It’s quicker to decide whether you like the photo or not, so if you find yourself dithering between 2 and 3 stars, flags might be the ideal system for you.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can do two passes through the photos, firstly with flags to determine which photos are worth keeping, and then again, this time grading the keepers with star ratings.
If you’re wondering what I do, here’s my system for my personal photos:
0 stars/unflagged – haven’t sorted them yet
Reject flag – delete it
1 star – not quite bad enough to delete, but will probably never see the light of day again, so no extra time spent on it. Yes, I’m a packrat. 😉
2 stars – average photo which might be used to set the scene in a photobook someday, so it’s worth adding a few keywords and other metadata, as well as a quick pass through Develop
3 stars – good photo, will be shared with friends and family, so plenty of metadata to help find it again in the future, and edit it more carefully in Develop
4 stars – great photo, may end up as a large print on the wall, likely retouched in Photoshop. I only add 4 stars on a later pass through the 3 star photos, so there are very few that qualify as 4 star photos.
5 stars – reserved for the best photos I’ll ever take
What’s your system? Do you use flags or stars? Or a mix of both?