Contact sheet factory?
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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...
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.
I totally agree. My last ones are from 1986. Sharpness and shadow detail are better ascertained with a loupe and light table.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
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!
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.