Star Rating Strategy


Today’s Question: As a follow-up to yesterday’s question: I know you have covered your approach to star ratings in the past, but I can’t find that info. Could you summarize how you use star ratings, or point me to the info you’ve already published?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I employ star ratings in a multiple-pass review process. On my first review pass, I assign a one-star rating to the photos I like, with no star applied to those I don’t feel are my best. On a second pass I will “upgrade” photos I feel are deserving to a two- or three-star rating. Later, I might upgrade my very best images to a four- or five-star rating.

More Detail: There are several things that I consider to be key pillars of this approach. First, I don’t use star ratings in the “normal” way. A one-star rating represents an image I think I might use (or that I simply like) rather than a “bad” image. A two- or three-star rating indicates a photo that is among the best from a photo shoot. And a four- or five-star rating represents a photo that is among the best I’ve ever captured.

By taking multiple passes to review my photos, I feel that I’m better able to rank my photos in a way that is helpful to me. My first review pass is essentially a “yes or no” pass, where I decide which images I think are worth using for some purpose and which photos I’ll likely not use. In many respects this is the same approach you might use when employing the pick or reject flags in Lightroom. Later passes allow me to further evaluate my photos to decide which are really going to be favorites.

In addition, this approach provides a bit of time between review passes (when possible) so I can separate the emotion out of my review. Right after an exciting photo shoot, I might be a little more generous with my star ratings than I would be after waiting a day or two to perform an additional review.

I’ve written about my approach to using star ratings in more detail in the article “Star Rating Strategy”, which appeared in the November 2014 issue of Pixology magazine. If you’re not already a subscriber to Pixology magazine, you can get more details at