Today’s Question: I’ve heard you talk several times about using star ratings and color labels as options for marking your photos in Lightroom Classic. Is there a reason you don’t use pick flags instead of star ratings to identify your best photos?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The key reasons I prefer star ratings over the pick flag are that the pick flag and the related reject flag are not supported as a standard metadata field, and star ratings provide the ability to stack-rank photos.
More Detail: The main reason I don’t use the pick flag attribute in Lightroom Classic is that this option is not part of an established metadata standard. That means the pick (and reject) flag is only supported within the Lightroom Classic catalog. Other software would not be able to see the pick (or reject) flag, and if I lost my Lightroom Classic catalog I would lose these attributes altogether.
Because of this issue, I treat the pick and reject flags as “temporary” settings, because I would lose them if I ever lost my catalog. I use a reject flag to mark photos for deletion, but I don’t use a pick flag to mark favorite photos.
Instead, I use star ratings to identify favorite photos. Another key reason I prefer star ratings for this purpose is that they provide a stack-ranking capability, meaning there is a difference between a “favorite” photo and a “very best” photos.
As a very broad way of thinking about the way I use star ratings, I start with a one-star rating for any image that is a “keeper”, meaning a photo I think I might possibly use for some purpose. A two-star rating represents a favorite from a given photo trip or outing. Three stars is for images that can be thought as being a best photo of the year, while four stars is the rating I think of as being “best of the decade”. A five-star rating to me signifies “best of all time”, meaning an image I would put in my portfolio of very best photos.
I also use color labels as a supplemental tool in my workflow, with a red color label being used to mark photos (and folders) that still need to be reviewed to identify favorites and outtakes.
Once I’ve reviewed all photos from a given trip or outing I will review the photos I marked with a reject flag, and delete those photos once I’m confident I really don’t need to keep any of them.
By the way, I cover my full workflow for identifying favorite photos versus outtakes in the “Identifying Favorites and Outtakes” lesson included in my “Lightroom Lectures” course featuring long-form lessons on key topics in Lightroom Classic. This course is included in the “Mastering Lightroom Classic” bundle that you can find on the GreyLearning website here: