3 Ways to Use the Star Rating in Sorting Your Photos

3 Ways to Rate Your Photos

To rate your photos with one to five stars, starts with a more basic question: what do you want to do with your photos?  The most common reason to rate your photos is to quickly find your best, or favorite photo.  What if you used the ratings to indicate what you plan on doing with an image or one more way to narrow a search?

Here are three ways to use those Stars in rating your photos: Rate the image quality, what is the best photo; Use the ratings for your workflow, marking each image based on what you want to do with it; Finally, use the ratings as an additional sorting tool based on personal criteria for your collection of photos.

The real key is to decide on why you are rating the images!  How will it help you find, use, and enjoy your photos?  Once you’ve answered that question, stick to the system that works for you.  It is helpful to write it down and have your criterion visible when sorting.

I must admit that I didn’t really use the star ratings in my photo organizing software much until recently.  Most organizing software has them and people use them in a wide variety of ways.  Rating your photos is a way to help you find those special photos fast.  Let’s look at three ways to use the star ratings so you can choose what works for you.


Image Quality Pyramid

Using the start ratings to identify your best photos is fairly popular.  In order to do this you need to keep the highest number of stars for the truly outstanding photos!  How can you do this as your collection of images continues to increase?  Keep a pyramid with many one star photos, fewer two star photos, even fewer three start photos, still fewer four star photos, and only a handful of five start photos.  In fact I would suggest that you keep about a 10 to 1 ratio between each level.  You might not even have any five star images until your photo collection is over 10,000 or possibly 100,000 images.  You might think, ‘I have more great photos than that!’  You may, but if you don’t keep some ratio between the different levels, you will end up with many “special” photos and not be able to tell which are the truly prize winning images.  As Buddy says in The Incredibles, “when everyone is special then no one will be special.”  Keeping the ratio consistent between levels will help you keep a pyramid and not end up with a light bulb.

Image Quality with too many 5 Stars

You may need to go through your collection of photos from time to time, say once or twice a year, to check and see if you need to move some images up or down in their star rating.  As your collection grows, you may find some images that were really great need to be dropped a level as you improve your photography skills.  This is ok and there are other ways to note a photo was your best at one point in time.  Don’t be afraid to change the star rating on an image if you are using it to get to your best photos quickly.  This method is popular among professional photographers and avid amateurs who take a ton of photos.  You can read more about it in The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh.


Star Ratjings for Work Flow

I’ve used the stars to help me sort digital images using the ABC’s of photo organizing.  This is more about work flow than quality of the photo.  An image that I think should be in an album or book gets three stars.  An image that needs to be kept, but may not go in a book gets two stars.  If an image is going to be deleted, it gets one star.  (This way I can go through all the images before deleting the bad ones.  If I get interrupted, I still know what has and hasn’t been looked at.)  The images that have stories popping out get four stars.  Then I can look and see all the photos that have stories at a glance.  I usually look for themes or groupings and then start with the four star photos when making a book or slideshow, filling in with the three star photos as needed.  I get rid of the images that have only a one star rating so everything in my collection has at least two stars.  If I use a photo in a book, I change the rating to five stars.  This tells me what the images have been “Printed”.  Now I can tell what photos still need to get back into my life by looking at the three and four star photos.


Star Rating with Personal Criteria

The great thing about the star ratings is that you can decide what you want to use the stars for and then go for it!  I’ve seen people use the stars to denote how many people are in the image, if it’s a face full front, full body, or close up.  Others use the stars to tell if an image needs or has been edited.  (I prefer to show if a photo has been edited in the file name.)

The trick is to decide on your criterion, write it down and stick to it!  Use the stars to mark your best images.  Use them to manage your workflow.  Use them to sort photos based on your own preferences.  Just make sure to rate, tag, categorize so you can find the photo you’re looking for easily.

Do you use the Star Ratings?  If you do, share how you rate your pictures in the comments below.  If you have questions, ask away.  If you’ve found this helpful, please share on your social networks.  Thanks.

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