Today’s Question: I accidentally chose the “Refine Photos” menu item in Lightroom when I was looking for the “Rename Photos” command. The description that came up didn’t make any sense to me. Can you explain what this feature is and why I might want to use it?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The “Refine Photos” command enables you to use a two-pass approach to reviewing your photos using the Pick and Reject flags in Lightroom.
More Detail: When you use the Refine Photos command, all of the photos in the current folder or collection that do not have a Pick flag assigned to them will be assigned a Reject flag. Images that already had a Reject flag will retain that flag. Images that had a Pick flag assigned to them will then have the Pick flag removed.
In other words, after issuing the Refine Photos command you will no longer have any images in the current folder or collection with a Pick flag assigned to them. The overall behavior of the Refine Photos command is one that many photographers get a little confused by.
With the Refine Photos command you can use a two-pass approach to reviewing your photos to identify favorites versus outtakes. You can start with a first pass, assigning a Pick flag to any image you think might be a favorite. With a two-pass approach to reviewing photos, you can err on the side of assigning a Pick flag to any image that you think might be a favorite. Along the way, you can also assign a Reject flag to any photo you’re sure is an outtake. But you can also simply skip over any outtakes, since the Refine Photos command will cause images without a flat to receive a Reject flag.
Once you’re finished with your first review pass, you can issue the Refine Photos command. At this point all of the images you assigned a pick flag to will have no flag at all. Any images you skipped over (or rejected) will have a Reject flag. You can then perform a second review pass, reviewing only the images without a flag, and deciding which of those you want to assign a Pick flag to. In other words, with this second review pass you can scrutinize the photos a bit more than you did during your first pass.
You could continue working in this way, gradually reducing the number of photos that have a Pick flag, so that you can cull your photos down to your true favorites based on two (or more) review passes.