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.
Thanks for reading!