How I Use Lightroom - Ratings, Flags and Labels

Now that I've covered how I get images into Lightroom, I figured I would cover how I (try to) identify my images and where they are in the post-processing workflow.

After importing all of my images, I will go through them in the Loupe view of the Library module.  Even though there are three different flags available, I almost always use only two.  Upon import, all images are Unflagged.  As I go through, if I see an image where the focus was off, I accidentally pressed the shutter and took an image of something I didn't intend, or the exposure is too far off to even attempt to recover (usually because I forgot to check the light meter in the camera between shots), I will press 'X' to reject it ('R' is for the crop tool).  After I go through the images, I'll delete from the disk all images marked as Rejected.  On the occasion where I have two or more similar images and don't see anything about any of them to require me to mark it as a reject, I'll pick one of the images over the others using the Pick flag by pressing 'P'.  If I ever accidentally mark an image as reject or pick when it shouldn't be, I can unflag it by pressing U.


After I've removed the rejects, the rest of the images are given a star rating of one star.  Even though I can go up to five stars, I haven't gone above three stars for any of my images.  To assign a star rating, I just press 1-5 on the keyboard.


I have the same problem assigning a star rating to an image that I have to assigning a star rating to a song in my iTunes library.  A song (or image) I really like today may get 3 stars but a year from now, it may only get 1 or 2 stars.  Now that iTunes has added a like/dislike rating option (similar to flagging), I'm thinking about replacing my star rating with flags.  The only downside to this is that flag values are not written to metadata so if I ever switch from Lightroom to another post-processing program, the flags won't come with the images.  Star ratings, however, are written to the metadata.

Upon import, all of the images are given a red color label.  There are five different color labels available but only four can be assigned by a keyboard shortcut.  The four colors, with their respective keyboard shortcuts are:

  1. Red
  2. Yellow
  3. Green
  4. Blue

The last color, Purple, is only accessible via a right-click menu.


I use the colors to identify where the image is in my post-processing workflow.

  • Red = the image has not had any post-processing done to it
  • Yellow = the image has had some post-processing done to it but is not yet complete
  • Green = the image is done with post-processing but has not been published anywhere (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Blue = the image is done with post-processing and has been published (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Purple = the image is done with post-processing, and is part of an HDR or Panoramic image

Since I don't do a lot of HDR or Panoramic images, it isn't a bother having to right click to choose the color.