Filtering Photographs in Adobe Lightroom

  • Thread starter WendyMay
  • Start date


May 11, 2021
Reaction Score
  • #1

Let’s face it, importing, navigating through and rating photographs isn’t all that much fun if we can’t really do anything with them. We can organize our content until the cows come home, but if we don’t filter (search) and act upon previous decisions, Lightroom is fairly useless. Luckily for us, Lightroom has got some great filtering capabilities, so we’ve got a wide variety of options when it comes to slicing and dicing all of our photo collections. And even luckier for us, the entire endeavor is very simple to accomplish.

In this post, I’m going to discuss exactly how to display the filter toolbar as well as how to go about making selections that reduce the number of photos we’re viewing, based on our previous ratings, flagging and labeling, to refine our focus when it comes to sorting through our content. Like I said, it’s really easy, but to be honest, it’s fun as well. This is where we unleash the power of Lightroom.

Displaying the Filter Bar​

The very first task we need to take care of is to be sure we’re in Lightroom’s “Library” module. The Library module can be found by clicking the first link up at the top of the application.


After entering this module, you should see your thumbnails in the center content column.

Once we’re where we need to be, we can head up to the “View > Show Filter Bar” and click that. After that’s finished, you should notice a small toolbar appear right above your thumbnails.


If we click on the “Attribute” link in the filter bar, all the necessary filtering elements appear.


Now, here’s the thing – if you look above and below the thumbnails, you should see the filter bar at the top and the actual rating, flagging and labeling bar at the bottom. These two tool locations work hand-in-hand when it comes to organizing photos that you’ve imported into Lightroom. If you want (which I prefer), you can leave both of these toolbars open during all your work.


Filtering Images​

The way filtering works in Lightroom is like this: let’s say you’ve got ten images in total. You’ve flagged five of them, given all of them various star ratings and have also given all of them various color labels. If you click the flag in the filter bar, all five of your flagged photos will appear in the center content column. Well, actually, those five photos will stay where they were – the remaining five that haven’t been flagged will be filtered out and will disappear.

Now let’s say that you want to display all flagged photos and all photos with a rating of three stars. So, you’ve already got five photos that have been flagged, but out of those five photos, only three of them have a rating of at least three stars. In response to this, Lightroom will display only those three photos that meet the filtering criteria.

If you’d would like to display all flagged photos and all photos with at least a three star rating and a yellow label, and you only have one photo that meets these earlier requirements and that has a yellow label, only one photo will be displayed after the filtering.

Do you see how this filtering works? It’s an and, and, and scenario. It’s sort of like searching a database. If you want your search results to return pictures of zebras and zebras that only live in Africa and Zebras that only live in Africa that have purple stripes, you’re results will be extremely limited because not many zebras in the Africa have purple stripes. All other pictures of zebras that live in Africa will not appear in your search results.

I’ve gone ahead and randomly flagged, rated and labeled some photos in my collection for demonstration purposes here. If I click on the flag icon that’s located in the top filter bar, you’ll see that all photos that haven’t been flagged will not appear as thumbnails.


If you take a look at the screenshot above, I want you to take notice of a few areas. The first one is up top. That’s where I clicked the small flag icon to filter by flagging. The second area is down below and it’s the same thing, but in a different location. I could have filtered by flag down there just as easily. The third area is inside the larger red circle down at the bottom and encapsulates the filtered images inside the filmstrip thumbnail location. By reducing the number of photos in that area as well, it makes for simpler navigation when you’ve got tons of images in your collection.

If we continue on with our filtering and select not only those images that have been flagged, but that have received a three star rating or more, we’ll find that only three images meet that filter criteria.


And if continue on and filter by flag, at least a three star rating as well as those images that have been labeled yellow, we can see that we’re finally down to one photo.


I suppose it’s important that I tell you this: to unfilter something, simply click what you clicked earlier. For example, if you decide that you don’t care to filter by flag any longer, all you need to do is to head back up (or down) to the filter bar and click on the flag once again. This will remove this filter. The same is true for star ratings as well as color labels.

Turning Filtering On & Off​

When you start filtering photographs, you can become quite busy. You can sort of go down a rabbit hole, for lack of a better phrase. There are occasions though, that you’d like to turn the whole thing off to get a better look at all your photos again. Lucky for us, we’ve got a filter “on/off” switch. And what’s neat is that if we filter through our images with various specifications and then turn filtering off, when we turn it back on, Lightroom will pick up where we left off. It will remember our filter criteria.


If you look inside the small red circle in the screenshot above, you’ll see the switch. To turn filtering on or off, simply click that switch.

By now, I’m sure you can see how important and how helpful filtering can be. And now that you know how to filter, I think it may be helpful to head back to my post on how to flag, rate and label photos in Lightroom, so you can create a strategy for your own collections.