This post is part of an ongoing series related to how I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you haven’t read it yet, check out How I use Lightroom: Getting Photos In
In the previous post I described how I use the Import window. As I mentioned, I don’t exclude any photos at that stage. I bring everything in and then quickly make a pass where I figure out which need to be deleted.
Shift + X, Shift + U, Shift + P
At this stage I’m using Lightroom’s flagging capabilities, which have 3 options: Flag as Rejected (black flag), Unflagged, and Flag as Pick (white flag) which correspond to the keystrokes X, U, and P respectively.
Tip: you can get to all of the photos imported during your most recent Import by selecting the Previous Import pseudo-collection in the left-sidebar.
I then double-click the first imported photo to bring up the single-photo “loupe” view. If the photo has obvious flaws (unwanted focus or motion blur problems, terrible exposure that I have no interest in keeping, etc.) I mark it as a Reject by pressing X. If the photo stands out as being very good, or one I want to make sure I come back and notice/edit later, I mark it as a Pick with the letter P. Everything else I just leave unflagged.
Here’s where the shift key comes in. Instead of hitting X and then arrowing to the next photo, pressing Shift-X will Mark as Reject and automatically advance to the next image. Same for P and U. So I can just hold down the shift key and press X, U, or P and make a quick pass over everything.
Delete Rejected Photos
Why not just hit Delete on each image? Well once you have all of the bad ones flagged as Rejects, you can just select Photo -> Delete Rejected Photos… from the main menu.
The grid will be filtered to just those you’ve marked for rejection and you’ll be prompted for a delete confirmation.
I always choose Delete from Disk because I want everything in my Photos directory (see previous post) to also be in Lightroom. I don’t want any orphans here, which is what Remove would do – remove the Lightroom pointer and metadata about the photo but leave the actual file on disk. These are crap photos and I want them gone, so I never use Remove.
After I’ve thrown out the bad photos, this is the point where I’ll do tagging (if the keywords applied during import weren’t sufficient). I go back into Grid mode for the photos, slide the Thumbnail Size slider so that more images fit on the screen, and then use the Painter tool to “spray on” keywords.
One More Pass
After I have deleted the terrible photos, I make one more pass using Shift + U and Shift + P to make sure I have all of the edit candidates picked out. I won’t do any more deleting from here on out, mostly because I’m a bit of a digital packrat. This pass is solely for Picking out images I want to include in the final, edited set.
I’m not going to go into the edit process in this post, but will probably write some articles on specific editing tips and techniques as I think they’d be useful to share. Let’s just assume I’ve gone through and edited everything I Picked here.
I recommend filtering the photos to only those you have Picked. This can be done with the Filter Bar at the top of the grid.
Star Ratings and Color Labels
In addition to flagging, Lightroom provides Color Labels (5 or so colors you can tag on images) and Star Ratings. There’s no “right way” to use them, they’re just there as other ways to help you sort and manage your images. Here’s how I use them.
I treat colors as temporary markings. Specifically, if I’m creating a set of files to be sent off to for printing, I use the various color flags to indicate which photos I’m going to crop/print at 8×10 versus 4×6 versus 5×7.
Tip: I like to do the cropping of images myself. But instead of cropping my “master file” in Lightroom, I create a Virtual Copy and crop it appropriately. I do this so that I can alwyas see the full-size image while browsing and next to it will be the various cropped copies. You can Stack these together to simplify viewing, I may touch on that at some point.
So after I’ve exported the various cropped images, the colors don’t really mean anything to me anymore. I could remove the color label, but I often just leave them as-is.
Only after I’ve finished editing do I go and apply star ratings. Rating photos is very subjective and can be influenced by so many moving factors (time of day, mood, etc) that I treat these as very rough, relative values. Most photos, even edited ones, won’t get any stars. Those that do tend to follow something like:
- 1 Star: decent picture, one I want to be able to find later
- 3 Stars: good picture, but usually something compositionally missing/wrong which keeps it from being really good or one I want to show others.
- 4 Stars: Good all-around photo, technically and artistically. OR it’s a family photo, and one of the better in the set.
- 5 Stars: A photo I could stare at for a long time and think others may like too.
I often go to my full library and use the Filter Bar to just view All 3-Star Photos or greater. These are the ones i tend to share with others or get printed.
More to Come
Well that was a quick introduction to how I handle the basic culling and filtering of photos before and after editing. There’s plenty more to say on organizing everything, mainly the Collections feature. I’ll get to that a few posts down the line.
Next up will be getting your photos out of Lightroom so you can, you know, actually use them elsewhere. Stay tuned!