How I rate photos in Lightroom

It occurs to me that it may be helpful to share my “rating”-workflow in Lightroom. I go through the following sequence:

  1. Import everything as 2 stars
  2. Go to grid view and step through them, and reject any that are technically bad (e.g. out of focus or badly exposed, or the subject is blinking). They get an “X” marking. I exclude X from my view.
  3. Go through them again and rate any that “could possibly be used” as 3.
  4. Go through the threes again and rate any that are “great in this shoot” as 4.
  5. Go through the fours again and give any that are “great and can be used even outside this shoot as portfolio shots” a five rating.
  6. Then I select just the 4 and 5 stars rate them all as PICK.
  7. Then I step through the 3 stars and decide with of them I want to use; I rate those as PICK also.
  8. Then I check for doubles and unpick those.
  9. Then I do any post on my picks.


Here’s a couple of (unedited)  4-star images from yesterday’s Toronto Island model shoot:



(70-200 f/2.8 IS lens on 1D MkIII, manual exposure -2 stops from ambient and key flash though umbrella, fill flash on camera.)

5 thoughts on “How I rate photos in Lightroom

  1. I appreciate your posting your workflow. In LR I do something a little diff.

    I import all no rating
    In library loupe mode I give one star to images that are “keeps”, all others are deleted.
    Then I review my one star images to select picks by flagging
    Of the flagged images I choose 30 to polish in PS

    whole prcess with 8oo photos from a wedding will take on hour.

  2. Similar process. I have trouble whittling it down from 800 to 30, especially if 750 are technically great and 400 are wonderful photos. I think we should all farm this out!

    It seems that he one difference between yours and mine is that I also rate 5-stars for “general keepers”, i.e. portfolio shots.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Michael, surprised to see that you were using 70-200mm lens on this shoot. Any reason as to why you decided with this lens. Just looking at the thought process here…I never would have thought that using that lens would also be an option for shoots like this.

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