In analogue photography, a contact sheet was traditionally used as a quick way for people to see all the images on a roll of film. It was done by laying the negatives out on top of light-sensitive photographic paper in the darkroom, and exposing it to light so that when developed it would show small versions of all the images. There are some quite famous contact sheets of Marilyn Monroe that most people have seen.
I first had a need for contact sheets when I started to study photography and began making research books to hand into my tutors. It was a way for the tutors to see all the images you took and see your process in picked certain shots. At the beginning of university we studied a lot of film, so did this in the traditional way in a darkroom. However, I soon moved back to digital and still needed a way to be able to produce the same kind of effect.
In an everyday situations, contact sheets are useful for:
You to see the variety of photos taken on a shoot
Sending a client a low-res overview of all your images
In school or university
Luckily, there are some really simple ways to do this on both Photoshop CC and Lighroom CC.
Creating a Contact Sheet in Photoshop CC
1. Make sure you have the images you want in the contact sheet in their own folder in either jpeg or a RAW format such as .cr2 for Canon
2. Open Photoshop CC, and navigate to File > Automate > Contact Sheet II
3. The dialog that pops up will allow you to control your contact sheet. Make sure you select the folder where your images are and set the spacing of the images too. I recommend using ‘auto spacing’ as it makes it look neater, and there is always the option to include file names as captions to help you label the images better. From there you contact sheet should appear after briefly loading.
4. This can now be saved as you usually would in Photoshop CC – usually through ‘Save As’ or ‘Save for Web’. Sometimes it can also be useful to send to someone as a PDF. If your document stretches over more than one page, it’ll simply make separate files for you.
Hooray, you did it!
BUT – you might say – what if I only use Lightroom, and don’t have Photoshop installed? Well, fear not my friend.
How To Make a Contact Sheet in Adobe Lightroom CC
1. Open your Lightroom catalogue and select all the images you would like to appear on the contact sheet.
2. At the top navigate towards the ‘PRINT’ menu.
3. The key places to look over for here is making sure that ‘Single Image / Contact Sheet’ is checked, and as before I recommend ‘Rotate to Fit’. As before, you can adjust the number of rows and columns used and this time you get a live preview too. There is also the option to add in captions too.
4. When you are happy with your contact sheet, click ‘Print To File’ and name it. It will now appear in there as separate jpeg files in the folder you named.
I hope this has helped you in creating your contact sheets – let me know in the comments if you have used this method or if you have any questions.
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Establishing a photography workflow for myself both came naturally and is completely vital. It helps me to not feel overwhelmed, miss things out and produce consistently up to standard work.
This is the photography workflow I would use for portrait, commercial, family or just a generally photo day such as this. Fine art images is a bit different, but we will come to that. So where do we start?
1. Planning Photos
Planning a photo shoot is not always necessary but I always notice a huge difference when I sort out most of the details beforehand. If you are doing work for a client, then planning is completely essential in order to make sure you are following the brief they have given.
I often do a quick sketch of how I want the image to look visually, and a few notes about theme / lighting and colour. After watching Brooke Shaden’s fine art photography course, I have created me own printable shoot planner (that you can get here!) and it’s going to be such a big help in getting the best out of my photo sessions.
At the very least – know what you are shooting and why you are shooting it.
Generally, this part comes quite naturally – you can plan all you like but until you get there on the shoot you don’t know what to expect.
The essentials for after a shoot is transferring my images onto my external hard drive and backing them up on a different drive or on a cloud-based server.
It’s usually now that I hop into Lightroom. I generally create a new Lightroom catalogue for each photoshoot I do but if one client campaign goes on for more than one shoot I will generally use one catalogue and separate the different shoots into folders.
5. Culling Images
I never delete images if I feel like they are not good enough – I use Lightroom’s starring system instead. I usually view the images one by one in Lightroom and give them a 5 star if I definitely want to use them or 4 stars if I’m not sure and want to revisit them later. After this is done, I set a filter on Lightroom to only show me starred images and voila, the first culling process is done.
6. Editing Images
It depends on what kind of shoot I’m doing as to how I will edit the images. For a lot of fine art shoots I am only looking for one image to work on. Therefore I will select that image, make some basic adjustments and then take it into Photoshop to start the magic.
In general for a portrait, family or book cover session it’s different. I will find an image which is fairly representative and apply my own preset I made for my work – from here I will make lighting and colour tweaks until I find a way of editing I am happy with. I will then copy the ‘Develop Settings’ and apply those settings as a base to all the other images in the set. This saves SO much time, and I love that I can do this.
Each image will then get individually tweaked with Lightroom, but generally, the groundwork has all been set. If I have exposed correctly in camera, then this part is fun and easy.
It’s usually now that I export all my images at 300dpi.
8. Photoshop / Retouching
I’m planning to do a whole blog post on my retouching policy – but in general, I don’t do a lot of ‘beauty’ retouching. Within photoshop I may correct lighting, brighten eyes and take care of stray hairs if I feel like it’s important to the image. Personally, I will never change someone’s body shape or make them look like they are not themselves. I save these files directly over themselves. This is also where I might save some for the web – generally at 1200px longest side and 72dpi.
Again, I feel like fine art editing is different as you are mostly creating an artwork rather than taking someone’s portrait of them.
Create Your Own Photography Workflow
And soooo there we have it! I would really like to hear if your photography workflow is different to mine or even if it’s exactly the same.
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As someone who relies on external hard drives for everything, I knew that one day I’d be writing a post like this. At some point, technology fails, and I count myself as super lucky that this is the first time ever I have had a hard drive fail on me. I just plugged it in one day, and along with some very questionable noises coming from it, it never showed up again.
Luckily, I was pretty much prepared for it to happen after hearing about horror stories from a lot of other photographers. All of my work for clients is safe and the only things I lost were a few personal photos and a few random files. I am very lucky, and I’m glad I took the basic measures to get things backed up. HOWEVER, this has given me warning for the future – I think there comes a (usually disastrous) moment in everyone’s life where they see the need to back things up, and this just happens to be mine. If you haven’t taken to back up or protect your files, then please let this little post be a reminder to do that. Share it far and wide to get the message to everyone one there.
1 – Create a ‘Mirror’ hard drive which doubles up your current hard drive.
There are various softwares that can do this for you, or you can always do it manually by copying photos to both whenever you import.
5 – Don’t wipe your memory cards for important jobs
A more expensive way of doing things and not necessary for everyday things – but if you have that Really Important Job™ it might be worth adding the cost of new memory cards that you never delete from or reformat.
6 – Don’t store things directly on your computer if you can help it.
Working off of backed up hard drives and online storage is generally more reliable.
Previously, I was probably utilising 3 of these methods on a consistent basis which is how I was able to get over this pretty unscathed. However, I’m still going to try and go through some data recovery to get back anything that I lost. It’s expensive though, and can be so easily prevented.
Honestly? I’m up for experimenting with pretty much anything to see what can be made with it. In general I do prefer shooting with prime lenses (ones that don’t zoom!) because it adds a) a visual consistency through your work and b) absolutely gorgeous results and depth of field (my favourite). I don’t have the budget to expand soon, but I would love to try:
85mm f1.4 (Sigma or Canon)
50mm f1.4 (Sigma or Canon) and perhaps have a go with a…
Canon 5d Mk4
Sony Mirrorless cameras!
I’m always interested in finding out what people use and why they love it.
Something which I have started doing recently is taking some time after a key photoshoot to write a brief but detailed review on everything from how it went to how I want to improve.
I suppose I first learned to do this while studying photography both at a level and degree level. Remember back in art subjects where you had to fill sketch books with ideas and inspirations? It’s sort of like that but without the pressure as you’re the only one it has to benefit.
Why it’s a good idea
It keeps you on track with your work It allows you to learn and become a better photographer It helps keep your portfolio look consistent It helps you identify what you love and what needs more work
What kind of photography will this benefit?
I can’t think of any form of photography that this might be a bad thing for. Personally I use it for family photography, documentary and fine art just the same.
Some prompts to get you started…
What went really well? What obstacles did you face? How could you have prepared more? What did you learn? How will you do it differently next time? How does this fit into your portfolio? How does this fit into your goals? What did you enjoy / not enjoy about the process? What’s your best image/feature and why?
And some key areas to focus on may be…
Interaction with people (models, clients etc.) Lighting and equipment Tones & colour Concept, message & storytelling Planning Editing Writing Movement and emotion
Okay…. so do I need to do this every time?
You can do it as much or as little as you want. Personally I’m doing it for almost everything I shoot at the moment because I’m very much young in the world of photography and I want to learn and grow as much as I can. Sometimes I group a few similar shoots together, sometimes I focus on just one image.
What do I need?
You pretty much have three options: physically journalling in a notebook, finding a way to do it digitally or a mixture of the two.
Personally I use my bullet journal to work out what it is I want to get out of the shoot, to explore new ideas and get things down on a page. I then write the actual review after the shoot on Google Docs on my photography account so that it’s all there together backed up and always accessible.
Taking some time to review your own photography is a skill that I think is really helpful in advancing as a photographer. Of course, everyone is different. Some people may prefer to write this down, some may find talking it over with another person is more helpful or even just having a think about it while you’re in the shower.
If you review your work I would love to see, please feel free to link me in the comments, send me message or tag me on instagram if you’d like to share it with me. Journalling and bullet journalling are both things I bloody well adore, so I’m always up for seeing more.
Have a great day,
Jasmine Aurora xo
Jasmine Aurora | Artist
photographer & creative | portraits & book covers | exploring storytelling and imagination | 📍 surrey, uk more…