I’ve seen too many photographers these days shoot portraits at 20 frames a second or more. But beyond that, they then need to sift through all those images in post-production. These days though, it’s becoming increasingly ridiculous, with cameras shooting way more images than you possibly need. Years ago, I used to go through and manually delete those photographs to clear up space on my memory cards. But these days, there’s another camera trick you can use that will become much more important: star rating.
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The Camera Trick
The camera trick is none other than star ratings. I’ve been using it for years but haven’t seen many photographers using it too. However, it truly does help. Other photographers have used the “protect” feature on their images. But then it’s annoying because those can’t be deleted, so you often need to unlock them afterward when you format the card. With star ratings though, you’re telling yourself that the image you’re rating is one that you think is a winner beyond the others. It can help you cull 1,000 images down to 120 photographs instead.
Compared to several other journalists that test cameras, I don’t tend to shoot nearly as much. But even if I only have 300 images, I don’t want to sit there sifting through all of them. So when I’ve got a spare moment, I’ll look at the images. Then I’ll zoom in and make sure that they’re in focus. If they are acceptably so, then I’ll add a star rating. And even if it isn’t, I’ll add a star rating if it’s a nice enough photograph.
Often, this has more involved, though. If I’m shooting portraits or photographs of a human, it’s all about capturing an emotional moment. The same goes for photographing pets. But if I’m photographing food, a cityscape, or something else, then it’s all about eliciting a feeling in the image. If I can get a feeling from that photograph, then I roll with it.
And if really needed, then I can fix it in post-production. However, I shoot in a way that I often don’t need to do so. This is still really helpful when shooting wildlife, sports, weddings, events, etc.
How to Use the Star Rating Function on Your Camera
Every camera manufacturer does this camera trick differently. However, here’s how I’ve set it up with different camera manufacturers over the years.
- Canon: I use the rate button. If the camera doesn’t have one, I program it to something else. If you keep pressing the rate button, it will give it more stars. For example, it’s different on the R5 vs the EOS R.
- Nikon: I rewired the protect button to star rating.
- Sony: I often rewire one of the buttons to do this during playback. It works like Canon.
- Leica: Usually, when reviewing photos, Leica cameras let you do this by default with the push of a button. I can usually just give something a star or not.
- Fujifilm: It’s the most complex here. You have to choose the image, then choose a menu setting, and then assist the star rating using a combo of the buttons and the dials.
- Panasonic: I set a button to automatically give the image three stars when pressed.
- OM System: I assign a button to do this. Usually, it’s the protect button
It’s always a lifesaver when it comes to looking at images later on.
What to Keep in Mind
Here are some things to keep in mind when using the star rating camera trick.
- Make sure you’re viewing the image from the memory card that you intend on importing the photographs from. When you make your star ratings, the ratings will often be applied to this card and not always the other one.
- I’m legally blind, and a lot of photographers say that they want to view the image on a bigger screen before making their final selections. But if I can do it, then I’m positive that most other photographers can, too.
- The mindset here involves cutting down on timing. You could just not shoot as many images, to begin with, and get better at understanding the moments in front of you. But an AI algorithm can only really understand what’s in focus or not. We’d know; we’ve tested a bunch. It doesn’t understand the moment — and it really doesn’t understand the context and how it relates to your client or the intent. So, if anything, you can star rate those images yourself or have an assistant do it.
This year, camera manufacturers are just going to keep plugging in all these features that older generations have asked for, and not those that younger photographers have. So get ready for a world where there are tons of frames being shot per second.