How To Use Stars To Sort Your Photos Like A Pro



Photographer Chase Jarvis is one of those photographers who employs staff. Yeah, that’s when you know you’ve arrived.

Anyway his lead assistant Scott Rinckenberger wrote a great blog post back in March, explaining how the pros in an office like his plough through many thousands of images to pluck out the best stuff.

As someone who finds it hard to summon the motivation to go through 100 or so photos from a family get-together, I found his advice really useful.

The trick is to go through your entire shoot in sweeps. Each sweep narrows down the selection criteria for the next. You start off just filtering out the completely unusable photos, and end up with a small handful of the very best of the best.

Scott wrote:

…Years of photo editing for one of the heaviest trigger fingers in the industry have honed my skills. And like a young ninja student who feels the sting of every misstep but grows to be a master, almost untouchable, oblivious to pain, I have conquered the edit. You can too.

It’s not necessarily about the how of using stars – cos it’s a pretty simple concept to grasp, after all – it’s the why.

  • prof_peabody

    I don’t think anyone that would call themselves a “pro” would use star ratings at all.  

  • Moownalkerhm

    Why not? It’s a good practice for filtering.

  • MacGoo

    Looks like Bridge to me, which is definitely a pro tool. Haven’t used stars a lot myself, but I’m open to the idea. Don’t look down your nose at the stars, or you’ll shoot yourself in the foot…I think that’s how the idiom goes! ;)

  • Chase Jarvis

    not true, professor peabody.  I’ve been a pro for 15 years and star–or label–ratings are the foundations of large work edits…   When you have 10,000 images or 500 film clips, just picking “the one” isn’t necessarily what you’d think it would be.

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    I think I have it.
    1. Is the photo not complete trash?  +1 star.
    2. Does the photo show off the color of the subject (in this case butterfly in the image above)?  +1 star.
    3. Is the subject in an interesting position? +1 star

    And so on…

    You’ll get to 5 stars you’ll probably have 3 of the 1000 photos to show the boss man.

  • prof_peabody

    Interesting.  I was assuming that since stars are mostly only used in situations with amateurs on the audio side of things that the same would be true of photo editing.  I hate stars myself, so perhaps I have a bias as well.  

  • Anon

    Interesting. I guess what we do at home isn’t far off the mark then…

    We have about 30-40K pics (maybe more), and use a combination of tags/labels, stars, and (with Picassa) facial recognition. When we need a pic of something or someone specific, multiple filters help to narrow it down, then it’s still a matter of looking at them one at a time.

    Not that I am keen on starting to organize the pics in a new system, but is there a better one out there (using iMac with pics stored on external RAID drive for security, so needs to be OS X compatible, and able to access external storage)?


    • Victor Engel

      I use stars in Lightroom to select the best photos. I’ve just started using PhotoMgrPro to display galleries on my iPad. Unfortunately, thumbnails are displayed with the star rating. Now I’m trying to figure out how to disable that.