A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Selecting Photographs in Lightroom

September 10 2012

by Philip Northeast

Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom has a number of tools to help photographers  decide which photos to keep, and which photos to trash.

Digital photographers easily create large numbers of pictures and this soon creates a photo library that needs help to manage. Lightroom’s main function is managing a photo library,  but it can also apply a range of everyday adjustments to photos. One of Lightroom’s key tasks is finding the photos you want very quickly.  

After importing digital photos into Lightroom, a common stage in the digital workflow is deciding which pictures to keep.

This culling process is an important step in managing a photo collection. It also offers photographers the opportunity to review their techniques and develop their compositional style.

Lightroom  screen shot

Selecting photos in Adobe Lightroom


Filtering the View 

Using filters to show only photos with specific attributes is an essential part of Lightroom photo management technique. In the selection process each photo is assigned attributes that Lightroom uses to present photos in related groups. This enables photographers to perform many operations on batches of photos.

Pick your favourites

Photographers use a number of attributes in Lightroom to organise and sort digital photos as part of the culling process.

While the ubiquitous star rating system is familiar and instinctively the first method to use there is a better way in Adobe Lightroom.   This is using indicators called flags.

Flags Indicate Keepers.

There are three options, flagged to indicate a selected photo, leave un-flagged as undecided, and mark the photo for deletion.

Once the import operation finishes Lightroom applies an automatic filter and only shows the new photos in the grid view. Navigate along the film strip at the bottom of the Lightroom window and click on the thumbnails to show a larger size preview of that photo in the central display area.

There are a number of ways to mark selected photos with a flag, possibly the most efficient is to use the keyboard shortcut, p, for pick.  This places a white flag in the surround of the preview. To flag as rejected the keyboard shortcut is x, and this shows a s a black flag on the thumbnail surround. To change a photo from rejected or flagged, use the u key to un-flag the photo.

Colour Label

We are still ignoring the star ratings

The next sorting tools are the coloured labels. In Lightroom labels are a coloured surrounds of the thumbnail in the grid view and the film strip along the bottom of the Lightroom window. They are useful providing sub groups among the flagged files.

In the example screen shot there are photos of different subjects imported from the same card.  The coloured labels are a quick and easy way to crete groups of pictures.  Then it is easy to filter the view on a label colour to perform batch operations on the photos , such as adding specific keywords for the grouped photos.

Colour Label Keyboard Shortcuts 


Star Rating

Rather than separating photos into groups, Lightroom’s stars are more suited to indicating relative quality within a group, or across groups of photos.

 Deleting Rejected Photos

Flagging photos as rejected does not delete the photos from Lightroom, or the computer. Flagging photos as rejected marks them for a Lightroom batch delete tool.  The rejected photos can be left until all the photos are properly evaluated and reviewed as Lightroom’s filtering options allows photographers  to hide the rejects while working on the selected photos.

In the photo tab on the Lightroom toolbar there is an option to delete rejected photos. This tool deletes all the marked files in the current and sub folders with one click or using  the keyboard shortcut CTRL and backspace keys on a PC or Command and Delete keys on a Mac.

Learning While Selecting

One of the advantages of digital photography is the camera settings are stored as part of the image data. While comparing the composition of their photos photographers can also contrast the variations in camera settings and the effect they have on the photos.


Share this article on Pinterest  



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *