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The Contact Sheet

Not to long ago that it wasn't uncommon to hear the word contact sheet when it came to photography. Today on the other hand the contact sheet has been replaced by the countless number of programs that not only specialize in photo organization but in editing as well. 

 Contact sheet  F11  Exposed 15 secs

Contact sheet

F11

Exposed 15 secs

For those that are not familiar with the above, a contact sheet is a print made up of all the photos on a single roll. This is obtained by laying one's negatives on a sheet of photo paper, held down by glass as to ensure that the negatives remain flat are then exposed by a single exposure. The benefit of this was a quick way of scanning ones photographs for the highest quaintly image in a roll of film. Curious about the process, I decided to give it a try and review my photos in a more traditional manner and make a contact sheet of my own. 

 Test strip   10 second intervals 

Test strip 

10 second intervals 

The process is simple. Before making the contact sheet, one needs to ensure that the light from the enlarger covers the whole of the area to be exposed. Once that is out of the way it is a matter of stopping down the lens of the enlarger to F8 or F11 and exposing a test strip like the one you see above. Starting at 10 secs of exposure time, I exposed 4 different sections as to give me 4 different areas to examine. From here I decided that my best exposure for the contact sheet fall somewhere between 10 and 20 secs. So with that in mind, I pulled out a 8x10 sheet of photo paper, laid down my negatives and exposed the sheet for 15 secs. 

 Contact sheet  F11  Exposed 15 secs

Contact sheet

F11

Exposed 15 secs

Once the sheet was exposed i tossed it in the developer and immediately was pleased with the results. After a quick examination of the print, I decided that photo circled in red would make an awesome print, so with that in mind I went to printing. you can see the results below. 

 Printed on Gilford multigrade paper  Scanned Print

Printed on Gilford multigrade paper

Scanned Print

What I learned from the whole process was that of patience and the respect for ones work. It is funny how when I compare a photographers present work flow from that of a more traditional one I couldn't help but catch myself looking at my photos in a different light. What I mean by this is the singularity of a photograph when it comes to the rest of the photos on a roll of film. I believe that we as photographers need to get away from enthusiastically posting every "good" photo we create while on a shoot. I have come to the conclusion that doing just the opposite is more hurtful then beneficial in that it diminishes the value of a photograph. To many times I see photographs posted in sets... ultimately viewing them as a whole and not as individual photos. The downfall is as stated above, the loss of value per photo. My challenge to you is to limit yourself. Limit the number of photos you post. I guarantee you that your photos will be appreciated more. 

William HarrisComment