The panel end marker I use in my own catalogue

The idea behind Lightroom’s star ratings is that they are for longer-term evaluation of a picture’s quality. We have flags for more temporary decisions like whether to pick or reject a photo, while labels are for whatever makes sense to you.

Star ratings may not be set in stone – you become more critical with experience or see something new in a picture – but I’ve always felt that it’s a good idea to aim for some consistency by defining what the stars actually signify.

What ratings mean is, of course, highly subjective. One photographer might define 5 stars as being fit to hang on the gallery walls, a stock photographer might ignore artistic merit and only consider saleability, while a picture of a lost relative may have enormous sentimental value.

What you want to minimize is inconsistency – on one day a prized picture is given 5 stars, but at another time an equally-prized picture gets 4 stars. Some consistency is helpful, and implementing it can helps you clarify your thought processes and decide what you consider important. So 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 you can exploit an often-forgotten detail of Lightroom’s interface – the “panel end marks”. These 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 to 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!

  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.