Next to attaching keywords to digital photos, rating them in any digital management program is a necessary hassle. And it doesn’t make the process any easier when you have hundreds or thousands of images to rate on a regular basis.
So for this post, I thought I’d share my current ratings process. I’m always looking for better, faster methods, but this approach seems to work best right now.
Though most digital management rating systems typically offer some range of 1-5 stars, I found that it takes too long figuring out if an image is a 2 or a 4 star photo. Three and five stars are easy, but ratings in between are just an agonizing waste of time. So for my purposes, I rate photos either as Reject (the number 9 on the keyboard), 3, or 5. No Command key needed. Click and rate. That simple. However, even though the clicking is easy, it’s still a challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So here’s how I make the process a little faster.
Delete, Delete, and Delete Before Import
First off, I try to reject as many photos as I can before the importing into Aperture. As I’m shooting, I’m constantly looking back when there’s a lull in the shooting process and deleting photos that will absolutely not make it. We all know what those photos look like. They’re underexposed like burnt crisp toast. They’re overexposed like a white sheet of paper. They’re the ones with drooping and closed eyes; the back of someone’s head dead center; a fuzzy out-of-focused shot that has no redeeming creative value; or deep shadows that undermine the photo so badly there’s not a single feature in Aperture that will save it.
So I delete, delete, delete as often as I can. And sometimes when I start the import process in Aperture, I take a quick look at the selections that I may have missed and deselect them so they won’t get imported.
Reject, 3, or 5 Stars
Next, I wish Aperture had a way of rating photos as they are imported. But not yet. So after I import my photos into a project, I select all of them. I check to make sure the Primary Only feature is de-selected (the S key or Edit>Primary Only), and then I just hit the number 3 key to give all my photos for a project their first rating. If I need to quickly find if there are any unrated photos in a project, I just click Control-7 or select Unrated in the Search field at the top-right corner of the browser.
Most nearly all my photos for wedding projects are and will be 3 stars. That means they are on average okay shots and are acceptable for nice 4×6 prints. Many of the reception dance shots and candid group shots fall into that category, whereas portrait shots or powerful candid captures often get rated higher.
For my particular purposes as a wedding photographer, 5 star photos are ones that I think will stand out for my clients. They’re ones that I think might work well in an album or in a frame. They’re ones that I might include in a slide show or blow up for larger viewing. These favorite photos are rated from the perspective of my clients. Most of them don’t make the cut for my portfolio collection, but they stand out amongst the hundreds of other photos I took.
Because I only rate photos as Rejects, 3, or 5 stars, there’s no need to run a slideshow to rate individual photos. I’ve tried the slideshow rating system in the past and I simply found it a laborious method, even if I listened to my favorite music while doing so. Also, because I set up a Smart Albums to capture only 3 and 5 star photos, all the rejected ones disappear and show up in the Rejects Smart Album.
After rating all my photos with 3 stars, I either start selecting and adjusting photos that I think qualify as 5 star favorites, or I might (and should) keyword them all first, set up Smart Albums based on the keywords, and then work from there to Reject or increase the rating as I make adjustments.
The only other way I can think of to rate photos a little faster is to use a program like SteerMouse where I can configure my mouse to select and assign say a 5 star rating with a click of one of the mouse buttons. It’s something that I haven’t tried yet, but I’m always on the lookout for tricks that will reduce the time. Perhaps a programer will figure out a way to make a rating feature in which end users rate images based on what corner of the image they click. Not sure if that’s possible, but I’m sure there will be faster methods in future versions of Aperture.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear your approach to rating images. This is an area of my workflow that I’m always looking to improve, and I bet I can learn lots from you.