Assessing photos isn't the most titillating task on the planet, but it's mission critical if you ever want to find certain photos in your expanding collection. Happily, most photo management apps — including iPhoto, Aperture, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Bridge — provide you with myriad marking methods such as flags, keywords, colored labels, and star-rating systems.
Even with these helpers, developing an easy-to-use assessment strategy is tough, and while a star rating system can be efficient, you can quickly run into trouble. For example, let's say you look through imported photos and find a great shot so you give it three stars. You keep perusing photos and find an even better shot, so you give it three stars and then you backtrack to find the previous three-star shot and give it 2 stars instead. Repeat this time-consuming horror for an hour and you'll vow never to use star ratings again. In fact, Photos for OS X, which replaces iPhoto and Aperture this spring, ditches star ratings for favorites, just like Photos for iOS.
Until then, here's one possible solution to such star-rating madness: Give all the keepers a 1-star rating, filter the photos so you see only the 1-starred shots and then reassess from there, adding a 2-star rating to the best ones. When you're finished, filter the photos so you're seeing only the no star or 1-star shots, select them, and delete them en masse. Here's how that might go in iPhoto, though you can easily use similar steps in other apps.
Maximize your viewing area
As soon as you import photos, click Last Import in the Source list. (If you're way past the point of import, choose an event or a date in Photos view.) Turn on star ratings by choosing View > Ratings or by pressing Shift-Command-R. Enter Full Screen view by clicking the green maximize button at upper-left of the iPhoto window or by pressing Control-Command-F.
Next, adjust the Zoom slider in the iPhoto toolbar so you can see at least five thumbnails to a row (try seven if you've got a wide display). That's big enough to determine whether each photo is a keeper, but not so big that you get distracted and (gasp) enter Edit mode, where you'll spend 30 minutes messing with a shot that may not be the best of the bunch.
The first assessment
Now, make your first pass through the photos, Command-clicking the thumbnails of all the keepers. Give them all a 1-star rating by pressing Command1.
Next, click the Search icon at the lower-left of the iPhoto toolbar. In the field that appears, click the tiny magnifying glass and from the resulting menu, choose Rating and then click one star. You should now see only photos from the last import (or whatever event you're in) that have a 1-star rating or higher.
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