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.
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?
being that the only place I can wet-print is at school, it kinds of limits my abilities to print when I want .
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.
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.
I make them for filing purposes.
Helping to save analog photography one exposure at a time
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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.
My favorite thing is to go where I've never been. D. Arbus
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...
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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I always make a contact sheet... when I shoot 8x10
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".
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
I hate making contact sheets but man I suck at reading negs!