#CreativeFriday – Ranking and Selecting your Photos with Lightroom

What is this tutorial designed to do.

This tutorial will explain how to use Lightroom to help select photos for editing using two methods, the Pick/Unpick method as well as the star rating system.

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The Lightroom filmstrip

Lightroom has a filmstrip built in to it and is available in every mode (i.e. Library, Development, Print etc). The filmstrip will be used to navigate over the pictures within this tutorial. The Lightroom filmstrip is a fast way to refine the pictures that need to be work on in the final edit, it will also shows visually what is happening to the pictures.


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The Lightroom Filmstrip

Lightroom has a filmstrip built in to it, and is available in every mode (i.e. Library, Development, Print etc). We will use this tool for this tutorial. The filmstrip is a fast way to refine the pictures that you may want to work on in the final edit, it also shows you visually what is happening to your pictures.

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There are many different ways to select and refine images for an edit, the two I am going to explain here, are based on my workflow and are open to customization, however they will provide a good starting point.

Auto advance

Lightroom has been designed to make processing pictures really simple and includes powerful automation tools within it. One of these tools is the Auto Advance feature. Auto Advance will automatically move the picture that is being shown in Lightroom to the next one when a key is pressed. To turn on Auto Advance in Lightroom go the Menu toolbar and choose Photo / Auto Advance whilst in the Lightroom Library mode.

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Two methods for selecting and choosing your pictures.

The two methods we are going to look at for selecting and choose the pictures to work on are: –

  • Pick and Unpick Method
  • Star Rating system


The Pick and Unpick method will allow the selection of images and can be used to show the ones that are great, or the ones that are to be rejected.

The Star Rating system will give greater control, as well as a customized approach to the image selections and ranking. The star rating method can be used to see how your photography is improving.

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Hiding the Lightroom panels and hood

To make it easier to select images in Lightroom and make the selection,  the hood and panels in Lightroom can be dimmed using the in built ‘Lights Out’ mode.

Lights out has three states and is enabled by pressing the ‘L’ multiple times: –

  • Default – not applied,
  • ‘L’ is pressed once, 80% dimmed
  • ‘L’ is pressed twice, the interface around the image is 100% hidden


The picture that is shown in the middle of the Lightroom interface, may not be large enough to see properly, to increase the size, you are able to hide all panels by pressing the Shift+Tab keys (pressing Shift+Tab once more will re-show the panels). If there are many pictures in the view and just one is wanted, the ‘E’ key in the Library mode will move Lightroom into the Single image view and the ‘G’ will move Lightroom into the Grid view.

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Full screen mode

Lightroom 5 introduces full screen mode, which can be turned on using the ‘F’ key at any time. This is a very slick way of seeing the picture in its full glory.

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Pick and Un-Pick Method

The Pick and Un-Pick system is a useful tool to mark pictures for the edit (images can be selected for un-pick and removal using this method).

The Pick system is available at anytime while inside Lightroom by pressing the keys ‘P’ = Pick, ‘U’=Un-Pick, ‘X’ = for Reject. This system can be used when inside the Full Screen mode, or when the hood and panels are hidden, even when using ‘Lights out’ mode.


Star rating system

The star rating system is more flexible than the Pick and Un-Pick method, therefore is slightly more involved, but can be highly effective.

The process described here and in the video tutorial will be performed twice over the pictures.

The first time through the images will be a quick selection using an emotional response to the picture (i.e. you like it, or you don’t).

The second time around will be more of a critical approach, looking at the picture quality, composition etc. (I personally find that the second selection process enables a refined selection and only the best pictures will be selected for the edit).

The star rating system inside Lightroom has 5 stars and enabled using the number keys 1-5 (on the keyboard). All of the 5 stars can be used to rate the pictures, however, an alternative approach is too leave room growth by just using 1 to 3 (i.e. assigning 1 as OK, 2 as good ‘B’ roll (maybe work on at a later stage after the main edit has been completed) and 3’s are to be included in the main edit. The 4 and 5 stars are left for future growth.


Change the filmstrip view to show just the refined selection

On the right hand side of the filmstrip view there is a small combo box filter (see below), this is used to show just the pictures that have been selected in the selection/refine activity (described above). Flagged can also be used to show just the ‘Picked’ pictures, or select ‘Rated’ to show the pictures that have been allocated stars (when showing the star rated pictures. A further filter is available that will specify the number of stars to include. When you select a combo box option, the filmstrip contents will change.


Survey mode

Once the selection has been performed there will most likely be a much smaller number of images to work on, however, there may still be images that are very similar to each other and individually are very strong or it’s challenging to choose an image in a range of images.

Lightroom has a view called ‘Survey mode’. Survey mode will show images side by side or as a smaller collection. This view will enable the selection of strong images to work on.

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Pictures are now ready for the edit

So there are two ways to refine and select photographs. The ‘Pick and Un-Pick’ system is very simple and effective, and the ‘Star Rating’ method is very flexible, but will take a little more time to complete.

The Selecting and Refine process is a very important part of the editing process and will enable a focus on the very best pieces of work.

One Response to #CreativeFriday – Ranking and Selecting your Photos with Lightroom

  1. Bojan says:

    Thanks, there is always something new to learn from your tutorials.