The panel end marker I use in my own catalogue

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.

How you evaluate your pictures is bound to change over time. I am not really thinking about day to day changes, but over a longer period as your experience makes you more critical or as your needs may vary. 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 – and 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.

That’s a highly subjective definition. For example one photographer might define 5 stars as what is 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 consider artistic matters. Whatever your mental definition, 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 largely-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.

  1. Download and expand this zip file of panel end marks
  2. In Lightroom, go to the bottom of the left or right panel in Library
  3. Right click and select Panel End Marks > Go to the Panel End Marks folder
  4. Save my png files in that folder and close Explorer / Finder
  5. In Lightroom, right click the panel end mark and choose the image you want to use.