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Using Pick and Reject Flags in Lightroom

December 09, 2008 | | Comments 25

The Pick and Reject flags in Lightroom can be a powerful tool for quickly sorting through batches of photos. This article will describe the way these flags work (and don’t work) and includes a video on how I use the flags to quickly edit a shoot.

Some Important Notes

Pick and Reject Flags

  • An image can have either a Pick Flag, a Reject Flag, or no flag. It cannot have multiple flags.
  • Pick and Reject flags don’t carry over from one folder view or collection to the next. In other words, if an image exists in more than one Collection and you’ve flagged it in Collection A, it won’t automatically be flagged in Collection B.
  • Pick and Reject flags don’t go along with images when they’re viewed outside of Lightroom. If you view an image in Bridge, it won’t have a Pick or Reject flag, even if it is flagged in Lightroom.
  • In the Loupe View and Develop Module, you can set a Pick or Reject flag from the Tool Bar below the image.
  • Tool Bar

    Tool Bar

  • Choose View -> View Options from the Menu to get the Library View Option dialog box. Under the Grid View tab, you can check the Flags checkbox under the Cell Icons section to see Pick and/or Reject flags in the upper-right corner of Grid View thumbnail images.
Keyboard Shortcuts
  • P – Flag an image as “Picked”
  • X – Flag an image as “Rejected”
  • U – Remove any flags from an image
A Pick and Reject Flag Workflow

Like anything else in life, there are a number of very different, very valid ways to use Pick and Reject Flags in Lightroom. Here’s a brief walk-through of how I use them to edit down images from a shoot.

In this example, I’m importing a memory card’s worth of images (99) and quickly editing those down to the keepers.

First, I’ve created a Custom Library Filter to automatically hide any rejected images from my view. It makes more sense in the video below, but hiding those rejects helps me quickly identify the best image in a series. Follow these steps to create your Custom Library Filter:

  1. Tap G to make sure you’re in the Grid View of the Library Module.
  2. Tap the backslash key (\) to view the Library Filter bar above your photos.
  3. Library Filter Bar

    Library Filter Bar

  4. Click on Attribute to view the Attribute Filter Options.
  5. Attribute Filter

    Attribute Filter

  6. Click on the first (Flagged) and second (Unflagged) flag icons. This will filter your view to show only images with a Pick Flag or no flag. In other words, hide your images with a Reject flag.
  7. Click on the Flagged and Unflagged Icons

    Click on the Flagged and Unflagged Icons

  8. Click on the Custom Filter link on the right-hand side of the Library Filter Bar and select Save Current Settings as New Preset.
  9. Choose Save Current Settings as New Preset

    Choose Save Current Settings as New Preset

  10. Name your preset and click Create. I’ve named mine “Hide Rejects.”
  11. Name your preset and click Create.

    Name your preset and click Create.

  12. Now your new preset is available from the Custom Filter menu in the Library Filter bar.
  13. Your new Custom Filter Preset

    Your new Custom Filter Preset

One other tweak that I find useful is Auto Advance. When enabled, Auto Advance automatically moves to the next image once you’ve applied a Flag, Label, or Rating to an image. To turn this feature on, make sure it’s checked in the Photo -> Auto Advance menu.

Photo - Auto Advance

Photo - Auto Advance

Once you’ve created that Custom Library Filter (you only have to do it once), you can continue on with these steps:

  1. Import your images. I like to let the Standard-sized previews build so I can go through and edit more quickly.
  2. Import Photos

  3. Bigger is better, so tap the F key twice to get to full screen mode.
  4. Full Screen Mode

    Full Screen Mode

  5. Tap E to get to Loupe View.
  6. Loupe View

    Loupe View

  7. Tap Shift+Tab to hide the top, bottom, and side panels.
  8. Tap Shift+Tab to hide the Panels

    Tap Shift+Tab to hide the Panels

  9. Tap T to hide the Tool Bar at the bottom of the screen. This gives us the largest image size available for judging the quality of an image.
  10. Tap T to hide the Tool Bar

    Tap T to hide the Tool Bar

  11. Now, use your right arrow key to navigate through your images. In a shoot like this, I have more rejects than I do keepers, so I’ll go through and apply a Pick Flag (using the P key) to any image that deserves a second chance. Every image that I don’t flag will get deleted.
  12. Tap P to Flag as a Pick

    Tap P to Flag as a Pick

  13. Choose Library -> Refine Photos from the menu.
  14. Choose Library - Refine Photos

    Choose Library - Refine Photos

  15. This will cause the unmarked photos in this folder or collection to be marked as rejects then change the Pick Flagged photos to Unflagged. A dialog box warning us of this will appear. I click Don’t show again then Refine.
  16. Refine Photos

  17. Tap the G key to see all of your remaining (not-soon-to-be-deleted) photos.
  18. Unflagged Photos

    Unflagged Photos

  19. If you want to get one last look at your rejected photos, change the options on the Library Filter Bar or choose Library -> Filter by Flag -> Rejected Photos Only from the menu.
  20. Choose Library - Filter by Flag - Rejected Photos Only

    Choose Library - Filter by Flag - Rejected Photos Only


    Rejected Photos

    Rejected Photos

  21. Go back through and take a look, if you’d like. When you’re convinced that they’re ready for the trash, tap Cmd/Ctrl-Delete and choose Delete from Disk.
  22. Delete from Disk

    Delete from Disk

  23. Go back and choose your Hide Rejects Custom Library Filter again.
  24. Tap E to get back into Loupe View so we can further refine our images.
  25. Now, I’ll flip through my images and tap the X key to reject those that need to go. The advantage of this technique is that I can easily compare similar images and choose the best. As soon as I reject a photo, it disappears from my view, helping me narrow things down. You can see more of this in the video at the bottom of the post.
  26. Once I’ve finished my rejecting, I’ll hit Cmd/Ctrl-Delete again to delete those rejected photos.

Important: Make sure you practice with the Refine Photos command before you go to town on your precious photos. It will mark any unflagged images as Rejects that are in the current view. In other words, if you’re viewing “All Photographs” and choose Refine Photos, you may end up inadvertently rejecting lots of photos. In my workflow, I’m working one folder at a time, or with the “Previous Import” only.”

Also, if you’re working within a collection rather than a folder, the Cmd/Ctrl-Delete shortcut won’t allow you to actually delete images…only remove them from the collection. Not so useful in this specific instance.

Workflow Video

This video demonstrates how I use Pick and Reject Flags in Lightroom when editing images from a shoot. Your results may vary.

In case you’re curious, the photos used in this tutorial are of a cute little mammal called a fisher (Martes pennanti). I took these photos at the Triple D Game Farm in Kalispell, MT. Want some really cool animal photos for your portfolio? Keep an eye on the Workshops section for some upcoming wildlife workshops.

Do you use the Pick and Reject flags differently? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: Scott Rouse is an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE), photographer, teacher, and graphic- and web-designer in Missoula, MT. His photography focuses on wildlife and adventure sports and can be viewed at ScottRousePhotography.com. His design and consulting work can be seen at ScottRouseDigital.com.