More On Contact Sheets

I bring up how much I like contact sheets fairly often. I find them amazing things to look at. Not just mine but especially other photographers contact sheets. When working with black and white film it's the obvious way to do an initial evaluation of your images. The interesting thing is that I have continued to use this method of initial image evaluation to this day even when I shoot digital.

In most cases I will print a contact sheet using one of a few different tools that make this easy. I also continue to print the actual images at relatively small sizes on the sheet. Maybe not quite as small as they would be if the were 35mm film but certainly not any fewer than 10 images on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. In cases where I cannot print a contact sheet, like when I am working with another photographer, I simulate using one by doing an initial evaluation looking at a grid view of smallish thumbnails in Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, or Aperture.

I like evaluating them in context to one another. I also find that I am less likely to be enamored and distracted by micro-technical-crap (what most of the conversation regarding image quality is today) that are mostly irrelevant to the quality of the image. This is why I like them from a practical viewpoint.

From a viewpoint on how practicing on producing a good contact sheet might help you improve your photography I offered an exercise a few weeks ago. I wonder if anyone tried it. If you did and were horrified by the results that is not a bad thing. Keep doing it until your virtual contact sheets of 36 images are actually good. You might actually find it easier to do this if you use real film and have a hard constraint of 36 images for any given endeavor or mini-project. I certainly do.

Looking at other photographer's contact sheets is amazingly insightful, educational, and enjoyable. I might even share some of mine sooner or later. I ran across this video a day or two ago and couldn't resist sharing it. Before watching it consider a few things. First take a look at the images leading up to this particular photographer's selects. They are pretty amazing on their own. Note the economy and the fact that there are not dozens of images of the same exact thing, framed the same exact way. Note the single focal length. Also take note that the selects are not governed in a lot of cases by the technically superior frame in terms of flare or point of absolute sharpness.

Personally I would rather just see this photographer's contact sheets as a whole rather than have them edited with a narrative and soundtrack. In this case I will take what I can get and as usual I find what is in this video illuminating and inspiring.


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