Lightroom’s star ratings are for your long-term evaluation of a picture’s quality, flags for much more temporary pick/reject decisions, and labels are for whatever makes sense to you.
But how you evaluate your pictures is bound to change over time. I am not really thinking about day to day mood swings, but over a longer period your experience should make you more critical, and your needs may change. Pictures you once considered worthy of 5 stars may seem barely worth 3 when you examine them with a couple of years under your belt. Alternatively you look more closely at a picture and appreciate something you’d not noticed first time round. That’s perfectly normal.
It doesn’t mean ratings have no long term value – just that they aren’t set in stone – but I’ve always felt that it’s a good idea to give them a measure of consistency by defining what your star ratings actually signify.
Of course, it’s highly subjective. For example one photographer might define 5 stars as being fit to hang on the fine art gallery walls, while a stock photographer’s evaluation might be rooted in terms of simple saleability and might not include artistic merit, or a picture of a lost relative may have enormous sentimental value. Whatever your definition may be, consider writing it down – something as simple as a post-it note on the screen’s side may help.
Alternatively, with a tiny bit of imagination the decorations at the bottom of Lightroom’s panels – so often derided as a waste of programming time – can be made to serve more than their admittedly-trivial purpose.
These panel end marks are simply png files, so you can create your own in Photoshop. To get you started, here are some I’ve made. One is the one I actually use in my own catalogue, which you see on the above right, while the others were made for a couple of busy London photographers. And one is going to be tweeted for April Fool’s Day!
- Download and expand this zip file of panel end marks
- In Lightroom, go to the bottom of the left or right panel in Library
- Right click and select Panel End Marks > Go to the Panel End Marks folder
- Save my png files in that folder and close Explorer / Finder
- In Lightroom, right click the panel end mark and choose the image you want to use.