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.)

What time is it?

When photographing a watch or clock, it is always nine minutes and 31-and-a-half seconds after ten. As in my watch the other day:


That way, watches look most appealing. Look for it. Almost every watch is photographed at this “rule of time” position.

yet another one of the ten thousand tips that make a photographer!

And can you see that I used a 35mm f/1.4 lens in available light?

Real Estate

When I was in Montreal a few weeks ago to bring my son back to school, my eye was caught by this closed-off street.


And then I realized what it was.

You see that missing concrete block three floors from the top, on the left? That is what killed the poor woman who was having an anniversary dinner with her husband in the sushi bar at the bottom. Bet you read about that in the newspapers. Terrible tragedy.

And a reminder not to have dinner under a building in Montreal, where bridges and buildings do have a tendency to keep doing this.

And a reminder -as if I needed that – to always carry my camera. My wide angle lens (20mm on my full-frame camera) allowed me to capture it all, from the missing block to the “sushi” sign below.

Another reason I was glad to have the camera: so I could photograph the mold on the ceiling of Jason’s new apartment’s bathroom. Mold that that landlord says does not exist, and he resent my implications and thinks I have ulterior motives and so on. Yeah right: bathroom ceilings and walls are supposed to look like this:


Feel free to zoom in. We’ll see about your protestations, M. Fattal!


How and why do I shoot a silhouette, like this one I shot recently in Toronto:


Why? To create a mood. In this case a serious, almost grim, mood suits the Gothic cathedral theme, and goes together well with the threatening sky, and the wide lens adds to this “closing in on me” feeling. I suppose if I were religious this would not be the sort of picture I’d make!

How do you do this? This is just an underexposed picture, in essence, so it does not really matter how you get there. Manual, or metering off the sky, or exposure compensation (negative). Or all three.

Me, I use my spot meter to meter off the sky. Then I lock that in using Exposure lock, after I perhaps add some negative exposure compensation. Or more likely, I use manual – again, using the spot meter on the sky as my starting point.

My aim is to get the building almost black – I prefer to do the last bit in Lightroom, because if I am too low, I have to increase exposure which adds noise. Decreasing exposure does not add noise that way.

Go shoot a few silhouettes, for fun!