Rating images as part of a digital workflow

This content is 13 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Earlier this week, I was at my local camera club meeting and fellow geek Haydn Langley was presenting on digital asset management (together with a few technical tips and tricks for photo editing).

One particular “lightbulb moment” was when Haydn put up an example of rating images (e.g. in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom). I’ve never been able to get my head around this because, over time, my idea of what makes a good image changes (as I, hopefully, get better at it). Now I think the key is to adopt a system that works and stick with it – any rating will be subjective but at least you’ll be consistent.

Haydn suggested rating images using a system similar to this (based on a system proposed by Mark Sabatella):

  • 1 star: images that are of no real quality (e.g. out of focus) and won’t be missed if deleted.
  • 2 stars: acceptable image but not one of the best. Nothing special, but could be kept as a record shot.
  • 3 stars: one of the better images of a subject. A “keeper”.
  • 4 stars: one of the best images: worth sharing with others (e.g. on Flickr), or printing large.
  • 5 stars: comparable to pros that we admire. Worthy of competition entry.

I might adapt this slightly, but it’s a good starting point.

He also suggested using colours to indicate where a particular image has reached in the workflow, for example:

  • Red: stage 1 – ingested (i.e. imported, renamed, etc.)
  • Yellow: stage 2 – global metadata assigned (copyright, etc.)
  • Green: stage 3 – survived initial cull
  • Blue: stage 4 – post-processed, survived final cull
  • Purple: stage 5- image-specific metadata assigned (keyword tags for subject/content/style, etc.)

As I’m approaching 10000 shots since I bought my D700 2 years ago, I’ve got some work to do to “sort everything out” but this system should help a lot.  I guess I should also think about renaming images on import rather than storing them as _DSCnnnn.NEF!

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