Skip to main content

How To Get and Stay Organized in Lightroom

Lesson 6 of 11

Color Labels and Star Ratings

Tim Grey

How To Get and Stay Organized in Lightroom

Tim Grey

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

6. Color Labels and Star Ratings


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Storing Your Photos Duration:06:03
2 Understanding the Catalog Duration:10:18
4 First-Time Import Duration:19:43
7 Assigning Keywords Duration:03:41
8 Updating Metadata Duration:02:21
9 Intro to GPS Metadata in LR Duration:05:23
10 Filtering Your Photos Duration:09:07
11 Light Room Organization Q&A Duration:09:19

Lesson Info

Color Labels and Star Ratings

Color labels, color labels air interesting you could only apply one color label to an image well, that makes sense. We could only assign one star rating to an image we can only assign one pick flag over checked flag to an image. The problem is that color labels don't necessarily have an inherent meaning originally they related to priorities. Red is really important. This is a rush we've got to get this out the door right now but it's less meaningful. I will give you one little warning about color labels as well light room color labels it's not really a color it's actually a word. So when we add a color label really what's happening is a word is being added the metadata in that color label field so that light room can show a color based on that word. This seems a little silly. I know, I understand, but for a red color label like room puts the word red in med, it'd go figure and for yellow, yellow, green, green get the idea. I know this seems like, you know, something I shouldn't have to...

say and that's because I shouldn't have to say it. The trouble is that adobe bridge had a different idea about what words should be used for those color labels so red they use the word select and yellow they use the word second and so if you have images to which you replied color labels from bridge, they will not appear with the correct color label in light room, they will appear with a white color level, which means something else a word I don't know, basically, and so I do recommend sticking with light room when you're assigning those color labels, it does create a little bit of a challenge if you've already signed color labels in bridge and now you need to update in light room there's ways to work around that we won't go into those details at the moment, but the point is that something you need to be aware and be careful of if you've been using color labels in the past? So when it comes those actual color labels, I usually just use them for supplemental purposes. So for example, maybe use a green color labeled identifying image I want to share with. I had somebody on a workshop with me, I took their picture taking the picture, they were taking a picture, I took the picture of them, I want to send that to them. I'm marked with the green color, but I'm not going to give it a star rating because it's not an image necessarily that I want to use for anything. But I would give it a green color label my case not because green means anything it's just what I've been using over the years for no good reason and so if you like to use color labels, the number six on the keyboard gives you a red color label seven gives you yellow eight gives you green nine gives you blue and I'm sorry purple but you don't get a keyboard shortcuts I know it's not right it's not fair, but those those keyboard shortcuts you can also access them from the menu as with so many things and software there's about twelve thousand different ways that you can do all sorts of different things but I generally prefer keyboard shortcuts for assigning these attributes all right? So star rating star ratings or how I really prefer to work with assigning images attributes toe define them as my favorites or not so favorites. So how am I actually going to go about that? Well, not in the way that you might think there's a couple of things that I do a bit differently from the sort of normal approach with star ratings first off I recommend not diving right in and the signing star rating start to finish for all your photos I recommend taking a little bit of a pass and take a couple of different passes to the images so it's highlight that with an example this image if you saw this photo let's change that if you saw me on the boat after I took this picture, what star waiting do you think I would give this picture five stars? Totally? When you first looked at this image, how many stars would you give it? You could be honest three, they said with the most generous sounding voice they could possibly muster up now what was the expo spear ian ce photographing this whale was how can we like do a double x factor and call it tenet ten stars if you notice down in the bottom right corner there's little evidence of a splash than there's another splash and then here's where he's, coming out of the water, he breached like three or four times it was amazing! It was like right near the boat we don't even know it was there was sleeping and I guess the boat woke it up and it started breaching except he's going away from me, it's dark it's really? I don't know if you'll be able to tell here, but it's really noisy because it's high igh eso it's just not a good picture? I mean let's be honest, it was a really cool experience, and so I try to separate the emotion of the photo from that review process this was five stars and it barely one and the only reason is getting one stars so I can use it I confined that easily went on to demonstrate this concept other photographers so again separating out the emotion from that process and so that's why I go through this sort of multiple past process and I also then on ly assign initially a one star rating or no stars in other words initially it's yes or no it's just do I like this do I think I might use this for each photographer the specific criteria might be a little bit different some photographers at it really tightly summit very loosely that's all fine the key is to understand the fundamental concepts so as I go through my images the star ratings pretty simple one star is number one on the keyboard two three four five to remove a star rating is the number zero so very straightforward in terms of the keyboard shortcuts but my initial pass my first passed through the images it's just a yes or no so do I like this photo yes or no salt at the studio audience here holler out whether this is a yes or no yes they say one star good rough to a good start and I compress the right arrow key to move on to the next image yes no I I like okay fine I did say that I was going to let you make the decisions so here we go to this executive. Yeah, so? So this image, then if I'm not going to assign a star rating to it, I'll just press the writer and move on to the next time and then this one yes course it's, acute seal. So we have to give it a star this one? No, right? Not so much, maybe it's ok, now, so you get the idea it's just one star or move on one star or move on, then let's just assume that we've gone through all of those photos and now we come back and I might even filter the images. I'm not going to talk about filtering right now, just so we can talk about all of the filtering stuff all at one time, but now and go back and maybe only look at my one star rated images, maybe the next day, maybe a couple of days later, ideally, give it some time. I realize sometimes you're on a deadline, you've got to get these images reviewed right now, but to the extent possible, give it a little bit of time again for that sort of emotional experience versus being a little bit more particular about your review, and then I might upgrade some of my images to a two or a three star rating that's it two or three and so do I have any particular favorites in here? Let's make it the seal just because everybody loves seals? Well, not everybody but most people, all the nice people love seals, so maybe I upgrade that to a three star rating and that's on my second pass. When am I going to use foreign five star ratings? Sadly, not very foreign five so I say for a little bit later, I want to live with the image a little bit. I want to apply some adjustments, maybe posted the facebook and see how many likes I get or make a print of the image, whatever the case, maybe spend a little bit more time optimized the photo in the developed module, whatever it might be, it'll vary for different photographers, but I don't assign a four a five star rating until I've really gotten to know the photo little better had a chance to work with the image so that at the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of whatever, I know that my five star rated images are the ones I really, really love. And so to me, that is just the approach that makes the most sense again, trying to break things up a little bit, taking a little bit more methodical approach, you might say to those star ratings.

Class Description

A consistent workflow is key to keeping your photos organized in Lightroom. In How to Get and Stay Organized in Lightroom, Tim Grey will help you develop a workflow that is right for you.

Tim will guide you through the essential components of an image-management workflow and recommend reliable systems for organizing your photos. You’ll learn how to import photos into your catalog, manage folders, and identify favorite photos. Tim will help you develop a functioning protocol so you can always find the photo you’re looking for.

Software Used: Adobe Lightroom 5


Michael Griffith

I've been using Lightroom for a number of years, but thought it might be helpful to review the program. Tim Grey does is an expert in the program and does a wonderful job of explaining the intricacies of the program. He uses a lot of self deprecating humor and his examples stick with you. The map feature is one LR tab I've never before used. Having updated some of the metadata tags, I can easily find my pictures of Costa Rica or Taos, NM. (plus its fun to see my travels plotted on a map)

Gary Hook

Tim has a great style and a wealth of knowledge. I appreciate that he not only talks about a technique, but takes the time to actually demonstrate the 'how' and the results. Although I've been using LR for some time, I came away with some great tips and insights in some areas such as using the Maps function as a search tool


I have discovered a new teacher I LOVE. I love the pace of Tim's teaching as well as his linear pratical advise. He stays on task as he teaches and is thorough. He even adds a little humor. This is a great to the point course!