The most under-RATE-d button?

The RATE button has been present on advanced EOS cameras for some time, but I know that many photographers wonder why it’s there, what it does, and how to use it within their photography workflow.

Why is the RATE button useful?

By rating photos on the camera you save time selecting and editing

I often work on location with people, some are experienced models, others are regular people. Quite often in remote or city locations I won’t be shooting tethered so the only screen is the one on the camera. During breaks in the shoot I’ll often pass the camera over and ask the person to indicate if there’s any particular images they really like. All they need to do is scroll through and press the RATE button to indicate their favourites.

Scroll through rated images on the camera

Once images are rated, set the camera main dial to scroll through the rated images directly. With an image on the camera screen, press the Q button and navigate to the image jump setting. Normally the main dial is set to jump forward or back 10 images at a time.

If you want you can choose to jump between unstarred images, any starred images, or specific star rated image.

What the RATE button does

The rate button adds an industry standard star rating to the image file. This means that all the common applications including Digital Photo Professional, Lightroom, Photoshop, Bridge, CaptureOne, PhotoMechanic and plenty more can filter based on the star rated images.

Imagine putting the photos from the whole shoot on to your computer, and easily refining the whole shoot to the ones that were considered the best during the shoot. That’s the power of the RATE button.

Refining the star ratings available makes it faster to use

Normally each press of the RATE button adds another star up to five stars, and the sixth press resets back to zero stars. For me that’s too much button pressing, and too much for me or my subjects to indicate preference over five levels.

Fortunately you can reconfigure the RATE button to only add specific star ratings. Often I would have my camera configured for the RATE button to add 1-star and 5-stars only. Press once for a liked photo, press again for a “really liked” photo, and press again to clear the stars.

What if you don’t have a rate button on your camera?

Maybe you do… but it’s not labelled RATE

The EOS R camera has few buttons, and I wanted to be able to rate images on the camera like I can with the EOS 5D Mark IV. The solution for me was to use the multi-function touch bar. The touch bar has distinct left and right hand ends that can be configured for different operations in playback and shooting modes. I use 1-star rating on both the left and right ends of the touch bar.

Below you’ll find a series of screenshots as I set up the M-Fn bar to rate my photos. It’s easy to follow, but make sure to press the INFO button or tap on the LCD when you assign the rating function, to be able to determine which stars to add.


EOS-1D X & EOS-1D X Mark II have a protect button with a key icon on, this is normally used for write protecting images, but it can be reconfigured as a rate button.

You’ll need to hunt round the custom functions, menu 5 for EOS-1D X, and menu 6 for EOS-1D X Mark II to change the operation of the protect button. Also make sure to watch the onscreen tip about pressing the Q button to be able to limit the range of star ratings the button can apply.

Caution for cameras with two card slots

When working with two cards in the camera, the rating only applies to the selected playback card. So if you put RAW on one card, JPEG on the other and playback from the JPEG card, only the JPEGs will be rated.

If you write a copy of each image to both cards, then the nominated playback card is the one that gets the ratings.

Combining the knowledge of rate button with custom shooting modes

You could combine a custom shooting mode C1/C2/C3 with specific RATE button capabilities. I think  you have the camera set to 1-star as the only option, but when you use the custom shooting mode, you can have 1-star and 5-stars. Now you can rapidly scroll through the models 1-star photos and decide as the photographer if any are extra special from that initially chosen group.

I’ve tested this combination on the EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS 7D Mark II and EOS R cameras and it works just fine.


About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag