Lightroom 3 Pt. 2, Sorting and Rating

This time I want to explain more about my workflow after I have imported all the images (find part 1 of this tutorial here). As I have said before it’s not unusual to come home with 1000 photos or more after a wedding so streamlining the whole editing process is important. After working as a film editor for over ten years, how do I streamline my process? By reducing the overall number of images first and keeping everything as organised as possible.

To begin with there is one simple step that will make your processing life a lot easier and quicker, especially if you do it as soon as possible. You will want to render your individual image previews. If you do this straight away (either during or after importing) it will only take about 30 minutes and you won’t have to wait for each image to load when you want to look through them quickly. You can set this option in the import dialogue or go to “Library > Previews > Render Standard-Sized Previews” in the menu bar. Then you can go have breakfast.

In the Library module you can use hotkeys to switch the view of all your images from grid view (G) to loupe view (E). I always go to loupe view, which essentially means looking at a single image and simply use my arrow keys to quickly go through all the images. I then follow these five steps to cull and rate all the images as time efficient as possible:


I roughly sort out all blurry and unusable images. Luckily this normally isn’t more than 30 out of 1000 images (thank you, Nikon auto-focus!) but deleting them from my hard drive completely means I won’t ever need to look at them again. Note: If you are in a collection deleting images will only remove them from the collection. Deleting images from your hard drive works best if you are looking at “All Photographs”.

Just quickly go through all your images and hit “x” (reject) for photos that you can’t use, then go to “delete all rejected” (use command + delete on a mac). This will show you all images marked as rejected and ask you if you want to delete them from your hard drive or simply remove them from Lightroom.


I mark all images I like by flagging them. This is a step that you don’t have to do as you can just jump straight to rating photos and marking them that way. From my film editing days however I like to narrow down the overall number of images in a very quick way, so I’ll never have to look at 30% of the photos ever again if I don’t want to. This minimises the time you spent judging the images. Flagging doesn’t transfer into collections, so I sort all my images into collections first. Simply follow the steps in my last tutorial.


For my weddings I like to use collections based on locations and light situations, for example “bride preparations” will get a different collection to “wedding breakfast” even though they are both inside. The room the bridal preparations take place in will be completely different to the room the dinner will take place in. Grouping images by the way they are lit will make batch processing much faster and easier. It also helps to judge images according to how many other images you have of the same setting.

I also have one collection titled “favourites” which is pretty self explanatory. These are all the images I love best and mostly will be somewhere between 40 and 70 photos. Later on they will be used for my blog post, the slideshow and as suggestions for images to be included in the album.




Then go through each collection quickly and flag the images you like (“P” for picked or “U” for unflagged if you accidentally hit P without meaning to. You know, fast finger syndrom, I’m sure I am not the only one suffering from this?). Just ask yourself “yes” or “no” when looking at a picture and you’ll be really fast. This normally reduces my number of images down to 400 to 600 out of 1000.



Look at only your flagged images in each collection by clicking on the little flag icon above your bottom photo strip. You’ll see that you are now only viewing the flagged photos by the number indicated to the left of that flag icon. You can also toggle this filter on and off by using the little switch next to it or using the drop down menu for more options.


Now you can rate the reduced number of flagged images in a second round by using the star rating (just hit the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5). Ideally you’ll have a list in your head which number means what to you before you start rating them. My list is somewhat like this:

1 = usable, but not loving it
2 = technically good but angle/light/facial expression off
3 = good photo
4 = very nice photo
5 = the best, loves it!



As a last step I apply the colour coding (hotkeys for this are the numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9) depending on what I’ll use the images for: blog, album, CD or slideshow. This is ususally done after I am done processing all my images, however.

You can’t use two colours for one photo, so I use blue to mark a first round of images and then purple as an “upgrade”. For example I’ll use about 20 photos for the blog but 50 photos for the slideshow – all 50 will be labelled “blue” but only 20 out of that will be labelled “purple”. Clearly purple is a step up from blue.
The other three colours are used in a traffic light system, according to the amount of work I need to do on them: green = ready to be exported; orange = not yet exported and still need work; red = done, have been exported.
Now you can choose to filter your images however you like and batch edit the images in one go. More on that next time!

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2 Comments. Leave new

Another great post on Lightroom 3. Love it! Thanks!!


Thanks, Linda! Glad you are still enjoying this. :)


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