PhotoLab helps us to evaluate images and control our processing workflow. It provides tools that we can use as prescribed or according to our own needs. We can use tags to pick and reject images, star ratings to refine our evaluation of picked images and colour labels to e.g. control our workflow.

Tags, stars and labels are independent of each other and can therefore be used (or not) at one’s own discretion.

Tags, star ratings and colour labels can be added with the respective (context) menu items – if we leave PhotoLab’s settings at their default. Disabling a feature will remove the respective (context) menu items.

Defaults: tags and star ratings are enabled and will show in the (context) menu
Modified: tags have been disabled and stars will only show when the pointer hovers over an image.

Tags: Pick and Reject Images with “Traffic Lights”

When we open a folder of new images for the first time, the images usually do not contain any information about their importance and technical or artistic value. Some images might be blurred or grossly overexposed, other images might be good enough for closer inspection and customizing. Tags come as follows:

Add a tag to an image to pick it for further inspection, or untag the image if you don’t want to use tags or aren’t sure yet on what to do with the image. Reject images that are beyond repair from a technical point of view, e.g. unsharp images, unless they have an important emotional value.
Add or change a tag with the (context) menu or the respective keyboard shortcuts shown above. Note that some of the shortcuts are the same as e.g. in Adobe Lightroom.

Star Rating

Add stars to your images. The better you like an image, the more stars it should get…but there’s more.

Click to enlarge – Alt+ < to return

– Select thumbnail rating icon with the mouse OR
– Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+ 0 to 5 /
0 à 5 for ratings (stars)
– Ctrl+ 7 for the green light, Ctrl+ 8 for no light and Ctrl+ 9 for the red light

– MacOS: P (Pick) = 7 green – U (Untag) = 8 – X (Reject) = 9 red
– Right and left arrows to switch to another Thumbnail

Star ratings and keyboard shortcuts as seen in PhotoLab on Mac:

Press a number key to add the respective rating.

One possible way to rate your images

One common way to rate images is, to do it in several steps or iterations.

  1. Iteration: Add one star to each image that looks interesting enough,
    then filter for images with one star
  2. Iteration: Add one star to filtered images that are better than their neighbours,
    Then, filter for images with two stars
  3. Repeat until you’re done, i.e. you found your best shots

Colour Labels

PhotoLab version 6 introduces colour labels, something that existed for a while already in other applications like Lightroom, Capture One, Photo Mechanic and many others. On Mac, the following colour labels and keyboard shortcuts exist:

Mac: press control + option + 4 to add a green label
Win: press control + alt + 4 to add a green label

Colour labels can be used to label images for whatever makes sense for us.
We are not bound to use a specific label colour for an exact purpose

Tag ColourMac ShortcutWin Shortcut
Nonectrl + option + 0Ctrl + Alt + 0
Redctrl + option + 1Ctrl + Alt + 1
Orangectrl + option + 2Ctrl + Alt + 2
Yellowctrl + option + 3Ctrl + Alt + 3
Greenctrl + option + 4Ctrl + Alt + 4
Bluectrl + option + 5Ctrl + Alt + 5
Pinkctrl + option + 6Ctrl + Alt + 6
Purplectrl + option + 7Ctrl + Alt + 7
Table of PhotoLab Colour Tags and Keyboard Shortcuts

Colour labels

  • show in PhotoLab’s Film Strip
  • are stored in PhotoLab’s database and as metadata in exported files
  • can be used to find labelled images using PhotoLab’s search field

We can use colour labels for workflow control – as a reminder rather than as something with technical consequence. We could use colour labels to log progress, e.g. red for images that have not been touched yet, orange for images with basic settings, yellow for images that have been properly sharpened etc.


Exchange of colour labels with other applications can work, but not necessarily in every case. There are several reasons why the exchange of colour labels might not work.

  • colour labels are written to a metadata field that was – and still is – meant for some short text, maybe a reminder or comment by the respective writer. Whatever is found in that field could be anything but a colour label!
  • some applications write and expect localised colour names, while PhotoLab reads and writes colour names in English…and “Orange” or “orange” can be misunderstood anyway.

Lightroom Classic: Uses localised colour label values, interoperability is therefore limited.
Capture One: Uses English label names, interoperability can be expected.
Other apps: Not tested.

Not all applications use the same colours. Unidentifiable colours labels are then replaced by grey or white tags – or however the respective app chooses to handle the issue.

Use colour labels if and whenever they help. Don’t expect to exchange them correctly with other apps
! – All rights reserved – tous droits réservés.

«             »