Method for ranking hundreds of photos?
March 17, 2011 7:05 AM   Subscribe

With a deluge of photos in iPhoto, how can I rank them? Some type of pairwise comparison?

Let's say you go on a trip, take 600 photos, then want to share a handful with friends. Of course you could just scroll through and pick out a couple, but come on, this is the internet-- why not use a ranking algorithm or tool to come up with a definitive list of what you think are the top photos?

Anybody know of anything like that? If not, what's your method for rating photos?

Other than for simplicity's sake, there's no reason I couldn't use another application (especially after discovering the invaluable phoshare!) if need be.
posted by phaedrus441 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Chase Jarvis had a blog post about this a few days ago. I think it makes good sense.
posted by Silvertree at 7:25 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I start a slideshow and rank using key commands as it scrolls by. You can quickly plow through a lot of photos this way. Anything that doesn't get at least (say) 3 stars gets deleted.

I think that the pro-level apps, Lightroom and Aperture, have better tools for sorting and ranking, but I haven't explored them.
posted by adamrice at 7:36 AM on March 17, 2011

I've managed to neglect my iPhoto library long enough that I feel like I've got more photos than I can possibly sift through. It looks like Lightroom is the best option for when I finally get around to trying to deal with the mess I've made.
posted by foodgeek at 7:40 AM on March 17, 2011

The Chase Jarvis blog entry makes sense for many. Instead, I use a 1/3/5 star system and make one run through. Everything else gets an X (but not deleted since harddrive space is cheap and I might want it for another reason some day). 5 is going to be printed (I print on 11x17) and put in my album. 3 is would still love to show/share, but not going to print 11x17. 1 is an OK photo that I don't want to chuck, but wouldn't be thrilled to share, but is a keeper often because it is the only one of a certain thing (e.g., the GF and I on the hotel roof in Germany).

Next? Keywording!
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:44 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Silvertree, thanks for the link! Brian, I like your schema, too.

My problem is this—if you are looking at hundreds of photos, your initial rankings don't reflect true ratings because you don't have a feel for the photos yet. If that doesn't make sense (which I'm sure it doesn't, haha), think of it like this: You're a teacher grading papers. The first few papers you read seem quite good, so you give them an A. As you progress, however, you realize that those first papers are nothing in comparison to the rest of the class. The first few really should’ve gotten Cs. Now you need to go back and re-grade understanding that the bar for a "good paper" has shifted.

My understanding is that a tool that can do a pairwise comparison, displaying 2 random photos and you just select the better of the two OVER and OVER again, helps eliminate that initial bias (and other similar errors). Rather than coming up with an arbitrary rank as you go, such a system would allow for continuous tweaking (i.e. if you don't think the ranking is correct, have the tool generate more comparisons and off you go again!)
posted by phaedrus441 at 7:52 AM on March 17, 2011

I wrote a custom app to do this for a similar project. My rating system was to show the images side-by-side, with a slider underneath. The user positioned the slider to represent the relative ranking between the two images (in the middle for evenly ranked, all the way to one side for a big difference). The total value of the slider was 100 and that was distributed proportionally to each image based on the slider position, so the slider in the middle would assign 50 ranking to each image, whereas the slider all the way to one side would assign 100 to one and 0 to the other. The rankings would then be averaged over time for each image, and there was some weighting added to make rankings closer to average at the beginning so that several high rankings were needed to bring up the average significantly. It worked pretty well and resulted in a lot more granular results than a simple 5-star system would have had. Also the system was not fully random in selecting images to rank, it was weighted to select images with less total rankings more often to create a more uniform number of rankings for each image.

Unfortunately this was a Windows app that was specifically written for this particular project so it wouldn't work for you, and I don't know of any off-the-shelf apps that would give you the same ranking system.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:39 AM on March 17, 2011

I like Chase's method of successive passes; I use it for my system. I think his ranking questions are too vague, though. I use some simple yes/no questions for my passes that make it a bit quicker.

First pass: "Does it suck?" If so, 9 to delete.
Next pass: "Do I only want to keep it around to make something else out of it?" By this, I mean it's one of several bracketed images for an HDR, or one of several for a panorama, or a white balance reference shot. Yes? 1 star. No? nothing.

(You can kind of combine the first two passes if you want.)

Next pass: Looking at unrated, "Is this good enough to AT LEAST serve as fodder for a blog post?" If so, 3 stars. If not, 9 to reject (in Aperture anyway). You CAN do 2-star here if you're the kind of person that keeps all sorts of mediocre pictures around because storage is cheap. I used to do 2 stars, but I moved away from it.

Next pass: Looking at 3 stars, "Is this one of the best photos of this trip or shoot?" If so, 4 stars; if not, leave at 3 stars.

Next pass: Looking at 4 stars, "Is this one of my favorite pictures ever?" If so, 5 stars; if not, leave at 4 stars.

This also makes it easier to build relevant slideshows for my iPad, etc. I always include all the 5 stars, but I can scale how far back in time I want to include 4-star and 3-star pictures. For example, right now my 16 GB iPad has all 5-stars, all 4-stars from the past year, and all 3-stars from the past two months. This covers the use cases of "tell me about that trip you just went on", "Oh, you went to DC last year?" and "what are your favorite pictures you've ever taken?"
posted by cebailey at 12:11 PM on March 17, 2011

My problem is this—if you are looking at hundreds of photos, your initial rankings don't reflect true ratings because you don't have a feel for the photos yet.
I wait (read: procrastinate) at month after taking the photos before I rate them.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:06 AM on March 18, 2011

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