Assigning Flags, Star Ratings, and Color Labels in Lightroom Classic

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Flags – After selecting the “best” image from a shoot (the best portrait from a series for example), I will typically assign a “Pick” flag . Likewise, I might flag any images that  I want to delete with the reject flag. 

• Tap the “P” to add a Pick flag, “X” to apply a Reject flag, and “U” to unflag an image. 

• Use Command + up/down arrow (Mac) | Control (Win) + up/down arrow to increase/decrease the flag status. 

• Tilda (~) toggles between Pick/Unflag  – a very handy shortcut as you only need to tap one key to pick/remove a flag.

• When you apply the Reject Flag to a photos (X), the rejected thumbnail is dimmed in the Grid view. When you Pick a photo (P), Lightroom displays a  highlight around their thumbnails to help identify them.

• Use the Refine Photos command (Command + Option + R (Mac) | Control + Alt + R (Win)) to demote Unflagged images to Rejects and Flagged images to Unflagged. Images that already had the Reject flag applied remain as “Rejects”. Warning: the Refine Photos command applies to ALL of the images in a folder/collection, not only the selected images.

Stars – When I need several different levels of distinction between images (editing a wedding for example), I’ll assign Star ratings (three stars for hero images and two stars for supporting detail shots for example). 

• Use the numeric keys 1-5 to apply star ratings and the“[“ and “]” to decrease/increase star ratings.

Labels – When I’m trying to remind myself that a file needs special attention, I use the numeric keys 6-9 to apply Color labels (sorry, purple doesn’t have a shortcut). 

• If you prefer to show a small, square color label in Grid view (instead of tinting the image thumbnail’s frame), uncheck the option to “Tint grid cells with label colors” and  check to “Include color label” in the Expanded Cell Extras under View > View Options (Command + J (Mac) | Control + J (Win)). 

• You can assign different names to color labels for Images, Folders, and Collections by selecting Metadata > Color Label Sets. To find images with labels from other sets, use the Metadata option in the Filter bar (in the Grid view in the Library module) to quickly search on different labels applied to images from different sets.  You can also see what Label is applied to each image in the Metadata panel. 

• Note: if you have created Smart Collections based on images that have a color label (such as “red” ) and then change the name of the images color label (to “Portfolios”, for example), all images that were previously labeled with the color red will change to the color white and any Smart Collections that are set to match “Color Label > Is > Red” will become empty (although they can still be found by selecting the Metadata tab in the Library Filter bar and setting the column to Label).

• To maintain compatibility with color labels in Adobe Bridge you will  need to use the same names in each application.

Auto Advance – Holding the Shift key or turning on the Caps Locks will auto-advance to the next image after applying a color label, flag or rating.

The Painter Tool – you can use the Painter tool to assign Flags, Stars and Color Labels.

• Command + Option + K (Mac) | Control + Alt + K (Win) selects the Painting tool. Choose an attribute and click on an image thumbnail in the Grid to apply that attribute. Click -drag across multiple thumbnails to quickly apply the attribute to multiple images.

• Option -click (Mac) | Alt -click (Win) with the Painter tool to remove the attribute. 

• Tap Escape to dismiss the Painter tool.

The video below discusses Loupe, Compare, and Survey view as well as the best way to assign  flags, stars, and color labels.


Adobe Lightroom Classic

Posted on 03-27-2019


  • By Brandon Bibbins - 1:39 PM on March 27, 2019  

    Thanks for this post Julieanne! Im a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles and im currently looking for ways to make more workflow more efficient. When dealing with thousands of wedding photos, I would like to know when do you find best to use color labels? What classifies it as “special attention”?

    • By Julieanne Kost - 11:41 AM on March 30, 2019  

      It’s really up to you – maybe you need to tag some images to print, or to be retouched. Colors are just another way to gag a photo and makes it easy to filter and access…

  • By Irwin Strowe - 12:28 PM on March 30, 2019  

    Love your post and have followed your Lightroom posts for years. Just FYI it’s tilde.

    • By Julieanne Kost - 8:04 AM on April 4, 2019  

      Oops! Thank you for pointing that out! : )