Contact sheet factory?

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by waileong, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. waileong

    waileong Member

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    Does anybody here feel like a contact sheet factory?

    Every time I get in a darkroom, there's always tons of negs waiting to be printed, so more than 3/4 of the session is just printing contacts!

    And if I don't print the contacts, there's a good chance I'll never see the picture-- because it takes so much time to get one good print out of 12 negs (6x6) or one good print out of 36 (35 mm)!

    I really need to retire, so I can do darkroom all day!
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I gave up on contact sheets over 20 years ago, I can read a negative better without. The only time I do them now is for other people to look at when I use film commercially.

    Ian
     
  3. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I am retired, and I have the opportunity to be in the darkroom all day. I'm more like Ian, I can read my negs just fine. The only reason I print proofs, is from habit, and an overwhelming need to catalogue my work(OCD?). Many times I will print negs long before I print a proof sheet.

    Rick
     
  4. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I can understand that working commercial photographers might want contact sheets for tracking and record keeping, but as a hobbiest, I can't remember when I last made a contact sheet. I may have done it many years ago, but it's never been a major part of my workflow. That said, I do tend to scan a lot of my rolls today which can be pretty time consuming, but for much of my stuff, a d!git@l file is the endpoint. Most of my printing is targeted at exhibitions. Some of this is due to the darkroom being an inefficient mess until I get time to overhaul it. At any rate, I can usually tell by looking at the negative how deep in trouble I am! :D

    DaveT
     
  5. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I've never gotten into the habit of making contact sheets, but when I have to dive into my big 10 pound heap of unsorted negs, I wish I had. It'd be a lot quicker to sort through them and find what I am looking for. For small numbers of negs viewed side by side, just looking at the neg works well for me, but oftentimes I will shoot the same subject with small variations (different exposures, filters, slightly different lighting) and I wind up with a whole roll or several sheets of roughly the same thing, and in that case I usually can't judge the subtle differences by the neg alone, the eye is just too accommodating. And my memory isn't good enough to remember what little bitty thing I thought might be wrong with one exposure. So then I wind up schlepping a whole bunch of negs into the darkroom and ultimately making test prints to jog my memory...

    One thing that I find very useful about contacts is that they can be stored with the negs and notes written on the contacts. The kinds of notes that are hard to write on the neg holders... and things that I tend to forget very quickly like dates, exposures, dev times, etc. Of course, as a teacher I lecture very frequently on the importance of good note-taking, but unfortunately I do not usually practice what I preach :rolleyes:

    So... I think it's an excellent practice to make contacts routinely and notate them thoroughly, if you are patient enough.
     
  6. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I love looking at proof sheets, you can learn a lot from them, but like the OP I'm way behind. One of these days...
     
  7. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    I've tried both making contact sheets and going straight from the negative, and have come to the conclusion that contact sheets are very helpful if you want to keep track of processed film, especially while editing to for example, put together negatives to be printed on fibre base paper. If I were working more with large format negatives to be enlarged (e.g. 4x5s), I can imagine I might go straight to an 11x14" fibre print to work on both editing and printing at the same time.

    Tom
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I totally agree. My last ones are from 1986. Sharpness and shadow detail are better ascertained with a loupe and light table.
     
  9. waileong

    waileong Member

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    I do contact sheets for filing and to enable easier retrieval.

    And photo books and noted authors also urge one to make contacts as a practice.

    But getting into the darkroom once a month at most really screws it up. The financial services analogy would be, my back office can't keep up with my front office.

    Man, I've to retire!
     
  10. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Like many here, I've never done much with contact sheets. A 10x loupe on the light table is all I need. Back when I was using smaller formats where I was getting maybe one shot per roll that I wanted to print, contact sheets were just a waste of resources. But that's just me and the way I work. Clearly YMMV.
     
  11. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning,

    I agree that making contact sheets is very tedious and time-consuming. I still do them, however, because I find reading them to be easier than trying to read negatives and because printing information can be conveniently put on the back of contact sheets. Reading negatives for exposure and contrast purposes isn't hard at all, but judging facial expressions on people shots is considerably more difficult. Sometimes, I also need to have someone else make selections from a variety of shots; having a non-photographer do that from negatives is not practical at all.

    Konical
     
  12. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I don't like making contact sheets, but I do like having contact sheets as reference material so I do it. I don't have a problem judging exposure and contrast by reading the negatives, but it is a lot easier to decide which frames to print with the contact sheet as a guide. Filing is a lot easier with a contact sheet too, and when you go looking for an old negative you want to reprint, well what would you rather do? Would you rather examine strips of negatives or a sheet of small prints at once?
     
  13. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    well,

    being that the only place I can wet-print is at school, it kinds of limits my abilities to print when I want :mad:.

    But since my teachers want me to submit contact sheets along with the negatives and final prints, I have to make them. Not that I wouldn't normally make them for myself anyhow.

    I'm assuming you're working in b/w darkroom only, so I'll stay with that. I personally am still learning to 'read' my negatives, and since I haven't totally settled on a paper/film/developer(s) combo that suits most of my needs, I am still in the "lets see what we got this time" stage.

    Some here don't make them, but they have been working in the darkroom much longer than I've been alive (I'm 21), and therefore, they have much more experience 'reading' their negatives to determine what the print will look like. I'm not at that stage yet.

    Make them if you feel you need them.

    I don't make contacts of everything, just the work of mine that I need one(for class or a job), or when I know I need a quick reference to that roll/sheet of film when I need to get at it quick.

    I'd suggest shooting a new roll, develop,etc. Don't make a contact sheet. See if you can judge your negatives by eye and a loupe, and make a suitable print without the aid of a contact sheet. You might decide you don't need contact sheets for your workflow anymore. Try it and see.

    -Dan
     
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  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i used to make contact prints as a student .. but
    when i left the school i had better things to do with
    my time and efforts. when i worked in the dark for
    a portrait photographer, i always made contact sheets
    ( full 5x7 or split 5x7 negatives ) post, first retouch so the
    client could decide which of the proofs to pick and we would finish retouching ...
    i agree, contact sheets are a good practice and helpful, but if i contact
    sheet-ed all my film i would run out of paper and time .. and i am already short on time ...

    when i want a contact sheet these days i do something i am not really supposed to
    talk about here, but it takes about 20seconds and gives me a very good idea of what is on
    my film ... and if i need a "hard copy" there is a device connected to another device that spurts out the print.
     
  16. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I make them for filing purposes.
     
  17. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    I'm in a similar situation -- I don't have to make contact sheets, but I do. I'm fine with reading the negative (without a light table or loupe), but I have hundreds of rolls of film (mostly 35 mm, but 120 is now my norm), and it is much, much more convenient to flip through the negatives with contact sheet attached, then to lift each page out into the light to find the particular image I'm looking for. That being said, I will usually schedule one session to deal with contact sheets only -- it's boring, but it's fast and easy once exposure times are determined, and I can get all them done in one go. That way, the next time I'm in the darkroom I can concentrate on one or two images at a time, rather than deal with different mindsets concerning contact sheets, work prints, and final prints.
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    The only annoying part of contacts for me is the cost of paper. I do 35mm and 120, and each roll costs me an 8x10 proof, about 60 cents.

    I don't use them to judge of sharpness and exposure. After all, my lenses are plenty sharp, and I've known how to meter for quite a while now. Most of my negatives are usually correctly exposed, and in focus. I seldom need to bracket, even with slides.

    But I find them very useful to evaluate which pictures to print, and as a record of my work. I don't have the time to print everything, let alone everything that I want to print, so having a contact always allows me to see if what I shot makes pictorial sense.

    In B&W, I use only a few films, and try to be as consistent as possible. I eventually invested some 40$ in a PrintFile proofer. That way, setting up for contacts takes 2 secs, and I can expose all my negatives within a few minutes. I batch develop, exposing a negative while the previous one is in the developer tray. Then it's all shuffle in stop bath and fixer. A dozen negatives would take less than 20 mins.

    Now, if you're talking about RA4 contact sheets, then I'll agree they're a royal pain in the neck...
     
  19. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    I always make a contact sheet... when I shoot 8x10
     
  20. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    For the longest time, I put off doing contacts but eventually, seeing that I wasted a lot of time squinting at negatives, I started off doing them. Now, I can't figure why I never did it in the first place. For me, it is easier to evaluate. And it is a lot of fun to see them, although tiny, "in the flesh".
     
  21. Chris Nielsen

    Chris Nielsen Member

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    I hate making contact sheets but man I suck at reading negs!
     
  22. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    This is consistent with my own thoughts and feelings, though I have always done them.
     
  23. travelingman

    travelingman Member

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    honestly i don't see how its takes so much time... especially if you have consistent negs, you just go through a stack of negs, doing the same time for each. They don't have to be perfect at all and for 35mm are immensely useful in my mind. just my 2 cents.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2009
  24. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Do you use a sleeve or straight neg on paper with glass? Something tells me you use the sleeved method. :smile:
     
  25. Iwagoshi

    Iwagoshi Subscriber

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    "Does anybody here feel like a contact sheet factory?"
    I'm not there yet, contact sheets are still part of my normal workflow. Once the negatives go into the sleeves it seems only nature (by habit) that the next step is contact sheets. BUT I've been doing a lot of slides lately, no contact sheet required.
     
  26. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I do them and I've sometimes spent days producing them when I've got back from a long period away. Because I always used the same film/developer combination, I can often infer quite a lot from the contact and get a good print first go. Obviously working on a 'masterpiece' takes longer, but I rarely produce masterpieces. In colour I've found the contact sheet even more valuable as I can get a good guess at colour balance as well as exposure.