Managing Digital Images: Applying Ratings and Keywords
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I use the labels in Bridge to apply the following negative ratings and status designations (I also use the same designations within my cataloging software). The number and color in parentheses are the label assignment key and the label color in Bridge:

Unrated (6, red label)

This status tag indicates that the image has not yet been evaluated. This designation is very helpful from an evaluation standpoint, because it lets me distinguish between an image that is neutral (deserving neither a good nor a bad rating) and one that has no rating because it has never been evaluated. From a workflow standpoint, the Unrated label can also be useful as a marker to show where you left off when evaluating images.

If you are on a tight deadline and are able to evaluate only a small subset of the entire shoot, use the Unrated tag to note which images still need rating. Additionally, I sometimes use this tag to remind myself that an image needs to be rated for critical focus issues in Camera Raw, where I can get a full-sized preview of the image. I often also apply this tag to personal images, because they have less "deadline pressure" associated with them—I tend to save these for a day when I can go through them at my leisure.

Outtakes (7, yellow label)

This is the first of the negative ratings. This designation is for images that I probably won't need, but I'm not ready to trash just yet. I use this designation for images that I expect to erase eventually, but that may contain a useful element such as a hand, an item of clothing, or a part of the background (Figure 2-12). An image that is backfocused, for instance, might be useful to copy and paste elements from. In general, this designation is for images that can be tossed once the job has been delivered.


Figure 2-12. One reason to delay throwing away outtakes is that you might need to use an element from one picture in another picture. In this case, the client wanted the sign removed from the final photo. The best image to clone this area from happened to be an image that was an outtake.

TrashMe (8, green label)

This rating is for images that are to be thrown away immediately. Of course, you could throw away images individually, but there are a couple of reasons not to do this. First, it takes more time to throw away individual images as you edit, and it breaks the workflow pace. Additionally, if you are throwing out many images, you might find yourself accidentally throwing out the wrong one as you move through a set. Third, and most important, using the TrashMe label lets you view your trash selections in the context of the entire shoot, and confirm that you do indeed want to delete the designated images forever. You can confirm, for example, that you are keeping a photograph from every situation—all the pictures of Jim may be pretty bad, but you may decide that you want to keep at least one.

Temp (9, blue and purple)

I save the last two labels for temporary usage. If I want to make some kind of selection of images, I can assign one of these labels a temporary value and use it to quickly apply a designation to the pictures. For instance, if I am looking over a shoot with a client, I can temporarily define the blue label as "Client X Select" and apply it to the images that he likes. I might also use this label to designate an "Alt Pick" (an image that I like, but that I don't think the client will want to use).

Getting the proportions right

As we think about the designation of ratings—what they mean and how to apply them—it's useful to go through a little bit of math. In order for the star ratings to be of value (and to keep the ratings pyramid from turning into the ratings light bulb), make some mental notes about how many image files should be getting a particular rating. I'll use my own collection as an example. (These are rough numbers.)

Table 2-1 shows the current breakdown by rating of my current collection of digital originals, taken in the last three years. If I keep the shooting rate and the rating system constant over the next 30 years, I could expect to see a collection with the numbers listed in the righthand column. You can see that putting a bunch of images into the high rating categories would make these divisions much less useful in the long term.

Table 2-1. Breakdown by rating of my current and projected collections
Star rating Year 2005 Year 2035
Total images 135,000 1,350,000
Neutral (no stars) 68,000 680,000
1 star 50,000 500,000
2 stars 15,750 157,500
3 stars 1,000 10,000
4 stars 250 2500
5 stars 0 500

Using a disciplined rating system will enable you to find the images you want more quickly and easily. If you cross-reference a simple rating system with bulk metadata, or with keywords (see the next section), you'll be able to search for your needle in a much smaller haystack.

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