Keeping a structured file system on your hard drive is important but keeping images organized within Lightroom is just as important.

Rating images and using collections are great ways to easily locate and keep track of images but it’s not always enough. Sometimes you need extra information or better labeling to notice important details. That’s when color labels come into the picture.

I use color labels on a regular basis but, unlike keywords, not on each and every image. Instead, it’s something I use to remind me of which images from a series I’ll work with.

In other words, simply by looking at the thumbnails I can tell which images in a series I’ll focus stack or exposure-blend, or which images I’m saving for stock purposes.

I know… This still sounds confusing so let’s have a closer look.

How to Set Color Labels to Images

Before we get into the use of color labels, we first need to know how to create them.

Just like ratings (stars), labels are added by pressing a number between 6 and 9 on your keyboard, or by right-clicking and choosing Set Color Label from the drop-down menu that appears.

Color Labels Lightroom
Set Color Label by right-clicking on the image and selecting “Set Color Label” from the drop-down menu

Using the numbers on your keyboard is a quicker method, especially if you’re going through bulks of images that need different labels (if they will be given the same color, select all and follow the first method).

Simply press a number between 6 and 9 after selecting an image to designate a color:

  • 6 = Red
  • 7 = Yellow
  • 8 = Green
  • 9 = Blue

I recommend taking some time to decide on a specific color for a specific purpose. For example, I always use a red color label on images that are focus stacks or exposure blends. Exactly which color you use doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistent.

The purpose of doing this is to help organize so it’s better to set specific colors for specific purposes rather than just setting random colors each time.

Filtering Based on Color Labels

Now that you’ve set a color label, how do you use it?

Notice the thumbnail preview of images at the bottom of the frame (regardless of which module you’re in). Just above the image previews, you have a few icons as well as the name of the selected file. To the right, you’ll find a Filter section.

Set Color Label in Lightroom
You can also find a similar tab (Library Filter) above the image grid when in the Library Module. Make sure to select the Attribute Filter to see Color Labels

This is where you can filter images based on Flags, Ratings or Labels.

Clicking on a color icon found in this tab will automatically sort the grid view with images that meet the criteria (for example images with a red color label). By selecting more than one color at once, it will show all images which are labeled with either of them.

When to Use Color Labels

As I’ve already mentioned, color labels are not as widely used as keywords and ratings. Still, it’s something which is helpful in making a structured and well-organized Lightroom library.

Color Labels can be used in several scenarios and your preferences might be quite different than mine. Here are some ideas on how you can use them:

  • To label series of images used for focus stacking
  • To label series of images used for exposure blending
  • Label images used for stock
  • Label images that have been processed
  • To recognize images that you’ve printed
  • Mark different colors for different cameras and/or lenses

These are just some of the ways you can use color labels in Lightroom.

Recommended Reading: Introduction to Adobe Lightroom

Now Your Turn…

Color labels can be used for different purposes and I’m sure many of you already use it on a regular basis. I would love to hear how you use them in your workflow. Let us know by leaving a comment below!