Making digital Contact Sheets in Lightroom
It was a long and boring afternoon so I decided to devise a method for making decent, usable contact sheets in Lightroom. This method may be refined over time, let me know what you think.
Step 1: Preparation
Select the photos you would like to use. I organize my photos so that the contact sheet and every photo on it are in one folder together, so as to make locating an image easier.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (1 of 15).jpg
Step 2: Process your 'negatives'
In the digital world, you have the benefit of being able to make individual adjustments to the negatives before printing the contact sheet, so you may wish to do this. I prefer to do any post-exposure processing after I've made my initial selection of photos from contact sheets. However, I still make a developing profile which I apply to all of my photos before printing the contact sheet to encompass the basics, such as altering the saturation, aspect ratio etc.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (2 of 15).jpg
Select one photo which is good to test on, i.e. well exposed and a good representation of your average photo regarding texture/contrast etc. Make adjustments in the Develop window until it looks like you want it to on your contact sheet.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (3 of 15).jpg
(Note: this is a rubbish example test photo as it is underexposed :D )
Once you are happy, save your settings as a new preset.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (4 of 15).jpg
Apply your new preset to all the photos to go on your contact sheet.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (5 of 15).jpg
You may need to make some adjustments to your preset and reapply if some of your images don't come out.
Constructing the Contact Sheet
Select your photos, and go to the Print screen in Lightroom. Select the 4x5 Contact Sheet template from the Lightroom Templates. This is the basis for your contact sheet design.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (6 of 15).jpg
You can now adjust the settings to your taste. I opted to go for a 36 frame contact sheet for 135 format (3x2 aspect ratio) use which would print at A4 size, with all images rotated landscape. Here are the settings I used.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (9 of 15).jpg
You can then save this preset for future use.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (8 of 15).jpg
This is what my contact sheet looks like. I have left adequate blank space around the photos, which are printed at 35x24mm (actual 135 negative size), and have left a blank space at the bottom for adding a sheet name or other notes.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (10 of 15).jpg
Using the contact sheet
In a perfect world, I would now print this onto decent photo paper and work from that, however, I do not own a proper photo printer so instead I will cover the use of contact sheets in the digital realm. I selected 'Print to JPEG File' from the Print Job box in Lightroom and exported it at 300ppi (I would advise working at the highest ppi your computer can reasonably cope with so that your contact prints are of a higher quality).
20100610-Monitor Calibration (12 of 15).jpg
I then opened this contact sheet in Photoshop, to assess it.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (13 of 15).jpg
First I added basic details in a text layer. I can now zoom in and make a proper assessment of the photos.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (14 of 15).jpg
I can add notes on another layer using the paintbrush tool or any other device.
Once I am happy with my results, I can save the document in jpg form, import it in Lightroom, and then add it to my folder with the original images.
20100610-Monitor Calibration (15 of 15).jpg
A decent file naming system is invaluable in organizing your images. Instead of a mere frame number like on my example contact sheet, a better system is to get Lightroom to print the filename beneath each photo, thereby allowing you to search for a specific photo if the contact sheet gets separated from the original photos.
This is my first attempt at writing up a tutorial, so let me know if anyone finds this useful. If so, I will write up details and settings for 4x5 and 120-format contact sheets soon. I will do my best to clarify any of my shoddy-explanations or answer any questions.