Imaging: How To Flag Your Best Photos Using Adobe Lightroom

Not all photos are contest winners. Cut down on the underachievers in your image library by flagging keepers versus clunkers right of the bat as Lightroom imports them.

You only need to remember three letters on your keyboard: “P” for Flag, “X” for Reject and “U” for Unflag. Getting in the habit of making a quick first pass every time you import will keep your catalog lean and mean. You can get to work immediately after hitting the Import button. There’s no need to wait for the import to complete, or for previews to finish rendering.


Select an imported image and hit the space bar. You’ll be looking at a single image in Loupe view. Is it a keeper, a clunker or a can’t-decide?

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: Flagging and Rejecting Photos

Erin Quigley

If it’s a keeper, press the “P” key to flag the image as a pick. A small white flag appears in the tool bar, and also in the upper-left corner of the image thumbnail in Grid view.

If it’s a clunker, press the “X” key to set the image as rejected. This time you’ll see a small black flag, and the Grid view thumbnail will be grayed out. Note that hitting “X” does not delete the image but simply marks it as rejected.

If you can’t decide whether the image is a keeper or a clunker, skip it and use the right arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next image. If you change your mind about an image that you’ve already flagged, hit the “U” key to unflag it.


Once you’ve made it through the entire import, do away with the duds. Either go to Photo>Delete Rejected Photos in the top Library menu or use the keyboard shortcut Command-Delete (Mac), or Control-Delete (PC) to gather the rejected images together for deletion.

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: Deleting Rejected Photos

Erin Quigley

In the Delete Rejected Photos dialogue box, make sure to choose Delete from Disk, and not the default choice, Remove. If you choose Remove, the images will be removed from the Lightroom catalog but will remain on your drive, cluttering up your library and lying in wait to cause chaos and confusion later on.


When you have to decide between very similar images or pick the best from a series, Lightroom’s Compare and Survey views are there to help. Compare view shows you two images side by side; Survey view tiles multiple images on a single screen.

Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: How To Compare And Survey Photos

Erin Quigley

To use Compare view, select two or more images and click the Compare view icon. The keyboard shortcut is “C.”

By default, the left preview is Select and the right is Candidate. Click on an image to activate it. You’ll see a narrow, white frame around the active image.

The Select preview is fixed; the Candidate preview can be changed for comparison with Select. Clicking the right or left arrow replaces the Candidate with the next image in the folder in the direction of the arrow, allowing you to see if there’s a better Select. If you find one, click on the Make Select or Swap icon, then continue the process until you’ve found the best Select.

To zoom in on both previews simultaneously, make sure the lock icon on the tool bar is closed and slide the Zoom slider right next to it. Unlocking the lock icon lets you zoom in on only the active preview. Pressing the Sync button matches the zoom on both previews. I use this all the time to compare eye sharpness.

To use Survey view, select a group of photos. Click the Survey View icon or use the keyboard shortcut “N.”

Click on an image to select it in the Survey window. Roll the cursor over it to reveal flagging and other rating options. Clicking the “X” in the bottom-right corner of the preview removes a photo from the group but doesn’t flag it or delete it from Lightroom, so make sure to flag rejects before removing them. Eliminate photos one by one until you’ve narrowed them down to just the best.

Erin Quigley is an Adobe ACE certified digital-imaging consultant and an award-winning shooter. provides custom tutorials and one-on-one instruction for the underwater photographic community.

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