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Quickly Assess Photos Using Star Ratings

Photos Workbench seamlessly integrates with Apple Photos, providing powerful tools to help you organize, name, and compare your photos. The star rating system is one of the most effective tools in this suite.

The Importance of Star Ratings

Star ratings are invaluable for organizing and culling your photos and videos. They help you identify your best shots and classify images by relative quality or relevance, with ratings ranging from 1 star (worst) to 5 stars (best).

By rating your photos, you can streamline your library by removing the poor shots. This process makes deciding which pictures to share, publish, or print easier. Once your photos are classified, finding specific images becomes a breeze. Browsing your library to rekindle memories is also much more enjoyable when you can focus on the ★★★★ and ★★★★★ images.

Making the Process Enjoyable

While rating photos is an excellent opportunity to revisit memories, it can also be tedious work.

Assuming a 5-star rating is reserved for your best shots—those worthy of National Geographic—it should be relatively easy to identify them at first sight.

That would leave the 4-star rating for the best shots in the current album. However, determining the best photos without constantly comparing them can be challenging. The same holds for the 3-star rating for the best shots in a series of similar photos.

Assigning a rating can feel arbitrary. Would you give the same photo the same rating if you rechecked it the next day?

A structured workflow can simplify the process of assessing the relative quality of your photos.

Star Rating Workflow With Multiple Passes

Start with a first pass through your photos. Scan through your photos in Grid mode, occasionally switching to Single mode for a closer look.

Give all the keepers a 2-star rating. Use a 1-star rating to reject photos.

Command-click to select several photos and then assign them either a 1-star or a 2-star rating. Use the star rating control in the Info pane, the “Ratings” keyword palette, or custom keyword keyboard shortcuts.

During the first pass, the main decision is whether to keep or delete each photo. Repeat this process until all photos have been rated. At the end of the first pass, all photos should be categorized as either keepers or deletions.

Photos rated ★★ or better
Photos rated ★★ or better

For the second pass, filter Grid or List view to show only photos rated “★★ or better”. Those are your keepers. Switch to Single view to assess the photos individually. Use the arrow keys to navigate.

Assign a 3-star rating to the better photos. When comparing similar shots, identify those with flaws (e.g., closed eyes or someone looking away).

The second pass also is about sorting photos into two buckets: good and better. Don’t worry if you end up with several similar shots in the ★★★ category. You are deciding which shot does not deserve the three stars.

Allow yourself to be sidetracked during this pass. Use keywords to categorize photos, mark locations, events, and people, and flag photos you plan to edit.

For the third pass, filter Grid or List view to show only photos rated “★★★ or better.” Again, navigate Single mode using arrow keys to view photos one by one. By now, you will have seen each photo at least once and you’ll be familiar with your photo collection.

Assign a 4-star rating to the photos and videos that stand out. Now that the number of photos is reduced, you may also jump back and forth between pictures to get a direct comparison.

In this assessment pass, assign a 5-star rating to the particularly memorable photos: your best-ever shots.