The Editing Process Part Two | Image Rating

The pond surrounded by houses in the centre of the idyllic village of Hongcun in Anhui Province, China.

Some of your may have already read my previous post titled The Editing Process Part One which spoke to the need to delete images as part of an ongoing and efficient workflow. Today's post will discuss the topic of Image Rating in Lightroom. While I do make use of Color Labels and Flags within Lightroom most of my image organization, other than through Collections, is achieved by assigning images with a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Here's the logic that I apply to this system.

Five (5) Star Rating

Unlike a lot of folk, I apply this rating extremely sparingly. For me a 5 star image is one of my very best, not from any particular job, but from my entire library of images. Needless to say I have very few 5 star images, though I'm certainly working hard to add more every year.

Four (4) Star Rating

These are images that I've processed to a high standard and that I consider finished and of a quality worth sharing and publishing. You could call these my final images from which numerous image collections and portfolios are produced.

It is from my 4 star images that I choose a much, much smaller selection of 5 star best of photographs.

Three (3) Star Rating

3 star images are simply photos, from any given photography outing or session, that I feel are worthy of processing. Usually a processed file makes the cut and, that version of the original 3 star RAW file, is elevated to a 4 star ranking.

So, while most 3 star images that I process end up as 4 star images, there are many more images assigned the 3 star rating that I'm yet to process.

Two (2) Star Rating

Once an image has been assigned with a 2 star rating I'm very unlikely to look at it again. An image that I've assigned a 2 star rating is, to my mind, not much good. It's either technically poor or simply just not interesting. The critical difference between a 1 and 2 star image is that I may actually need the 2 star image one day.

For example, it might be the only image of aging Aunty Flo with her pumpkin scones. And Murphy's Law Of Photography states that the day you get rid of it will be the day someone wants it. However, Murphy was a drunkard prone to exaggeration, so I never let her ramblings stop me from deleting images I've assigned the 1 star rating.

Learning The Right Lessons

Once the rating process has been concluded for a particular download/folder of images within Lightroom I make sure that, on subsequent visits to that folder, I have it filtered to only show me images that are 3 stars and above. It's just so important that we only surround ourselves with what we do well. Failing to do so will only remind you of what you do badly and likely contribute to you doing more of the same into the future. Habits are, after all, built through repetition.

One (1) Star Rating

An image that achieves only a 1 star rating in my workflow is destined for the trash. It's going to be deleted at the end of working through the rest of the files from that particular download/folder.

I usually don't delete images as I move through a bunch of files for the first time. That's because, not knowing what comes next, it's difficult to know, on the very first run through, whether an image is a 1 or 2 star. And I wouldn't want to delete the only image from the day of Aunty Flo. Whether I show it to anyone is another thing. But I know it's there, probably as a 2 star image, if and when it's needed.

Zero (0) Star Rating

An image without any rating is, by default, a zero star image. And it's important to note that that's neither a good nor a bad thing. It could be the worst image I've ever made or the very best image I'm ever likely to make. A zero star rating simply means I haven't made up my mind yet. In fact it probably means that, while the images have been imported into Lightroom, I just haven't had the chance to rate all of them yet. Therefore, I NEVER DELETE an unrated image.

How’s your shoebox of images going? Perhaps it could do with a clean out and re-organization. The star rating system in Lightroom can be a great aid in helping you to both sort and then find your images. You're welcome to adopt my method or, alternatively, come up with your own. Just be sure to take your time to think it through carefully before you commit to one workflow or another.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru