Pick Flags or Star Ratings

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Today’s Question: How do you distinguish between the use of star ratings and pick flags [in Lightroom] when identifying your favorite images? Do you use pick and reject flags for the first pass of review and then star ratings to “grade” the images with a second review?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I actually avoid the use of pick flags altogether, because pick and reject flags are a Lightroom-specific feature and thus these flags can’t be viewed in other applications such as Adobe Bridge. Therefore, I only use star ratings to identify favorite (or not-so-favorite) images.

More Detail: While I certainly anticipate that I will be using Lightroom to manage my photos for many years to come, I still prefer to avoid the use of metadata fields that are not part of an established metadata standard. This is the key reason I use star ratings instead of pick flags.

It is worth noting that I also prefer the “stack ranking” approach of star ratings, rather than the “yes or no” approach of pick and reject flags. But the primary reason I use star ratings in favor of pick flags is that I can view star ratings in any application that allows me to browse the metadata for my photos, and I also then don’t need to worry about any potential transition to another application in the future. My star ratings will be visible to virtually any image-management software, while pick flags will not be.

For these reasons, I recommend that photographers consider the use of star ratings rather than pick flags. If you prefer the “yes or no” approach that are embodied by pick flags, you can simply adapt your approach to using star ratings to provide this type of solution. For example, you could use a workflow where a five-star rating represents a “pick”, a one-star rating represents a “reject”, and a three-star rating represents a “not-yet-reviewed” rating. You could then assign all new captures a three-star rating, and move from there during your review process.

But the bottom line is that I use star ratings as my primary (and really exclusive) tool for identifying my favorite images from a given trip or photo shoot.