May 29, 2008

Reader Question: Contact Sheets

I think I'm going to make the reader question thing a regular feature so here's another one by a reader named Daniel, a NY transplant from Wisconsin, who I met at the recent photo festival in DUMBO: "One thing still bothers me about our conversation. You said you make contact sheets. Were you talking about old fashioned contact sheets or digital ones? Isn't it easer to just do view them on the computer?"

I do scan most of my 35mm film and I manage the files in Aperture but for project related photography I always make physical contact sheets (sometimes I now print them from the digital files because having them made traditionally is so darned expensive).

Why waste the paper when we can see everything bigger and better on screen? Mainly because I like to see the boundaries of the roll of film contained on sheet of paper. I rarely shoot more than one or two rolls of film in a day so a contact sheet represents a definable moment. Those edges of those days get lost on screen and make editing more difficult. I edit all my medium format film as contact sheets out of necessity as I don't own a decent medium format film scanner.

amdocontactsheet%2323small.jpga large version of the contact sheet

Above is a contact sheet from Amdo. Most of my film had been ruined by being frozen so I was shooting parsimoniously. In the first couple of frames you can see I wandered off the road to check out a house-raising. I ended up staying in this village for a few days. The roll of film covers a day and a half.

You can download a large version of the contact sheet here if you want to check it out in more detail.

These are some of the resulting images: Number 10, Number 16, Number 18, Number 19, Number 25.

Got a question? Feel free to ask just email my first name at

posted at 02:47 AM by raul

Filed under: behind the picture

TAGS: contact sheets (1) editing (2) reader questions (1) story behind the picture (2)


05/30/08 01:49 AM

Thanks for posting this. I'm one of those photographers who began shooting digital and has always been scared of film. Contact sheets -even one printed from Aperture (I use Lightroom)- seem like a relic of the past. A wonderful relic but old fashioned as... well, as shooting film. If I were in that place over two days I would have thousands of shots and so my contact sheets would look almost like frames from a movie.

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