Stars versus Colors


Today’s Question: Do you recommend using star ratings or color labels for identifying your best photos from a photo trip?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I recommend using star ratings rather than color labels for identifying favorite images. Part of my reasoning is that star ratings have a more obvious inherent meaning. In addition, color labels are not implemented consistently with different image-management software tools.

More Detail: Star ratings have what I feel is a somewhat clear inherent meaning. The better the image, the more stars you would assign to it. Color labels have some degree of inherent meaning in terms of the “priority” indicated by the color, but this isn’t as obvious to interpret as it would be for star ratings.

Perhaps more importantly, color labels are implemented differently in different software. In fact, by default, color labels assigned in Adobe Bridge won’t appear correctly if the images are imported in Lightroom.

The color label field in metadata isn’t really a color at all, but rather a word. In Lightroom, for example, the word “Red” is used to represent a red color label. In Adobe Bridge the word “Select” is used instead. This can lead to potential confusion, needless to say.

So, I consider star ratings to be preferable compared to color labels, though I certainly use color labels for supplemental purposes, such as to temporarily identify images for a project.

Note, by the way, that it is possible to resolve mismatches caused by assigning color labels with two different software applications. You can also easily transition from the use of color labels, for example, to star ratings. In the context of Lightroom, both of these topics are addressed in my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom” video course, which is available (with additional bonus courses) in the “Mastering Lightroom” bundle available here: