Once you’ve done all your processing in Lightroom and Photoshop…or at least, all the processing you need to do on your main candidates for presentation to your client…it then becomes time to make that presentation. You could use any or all three of the remaining Lightroom modules for that purpose. However, whenever possible, I like to make that presentation in person and in close enough proximity to the buyer to be able to “feel the vibe.” So, for me at least, the next step is usually making a contact sheet.
Now, time was when I really didn’t like contact sheets much because they had too many drawbacks. The images were all tiny (1 X 1.5 inches if I shot 35mm), you had to spin the sheet around to see the verticals properly. Furthermore, there was no practical way to leave out anything or to re-arrange images so that all the verticals, or even all the pictures of one subject, were on one sheet. It was really hard to see the frame numbers and there was no way to label the images any other way than the way the film maker automatically labeled them. Furthermore, the frame numbers were the same for every roll of film and gave you no clue as to which camera shot them.
Now, along comes the Lightroom Print module. It overcomes every one of the problems I just mentioned. It also has some BIG advantages: You can put virtual copies onto your contact sheets. That means that you can show “proofs” of what several variations might look like…or print them for a model’s or entertainer’s “book.” Besides, you can make “custom” contact sheets so that you can choose to show the images at the size and orientation that’s best suited to the “look and feel” of the shoot. In other words, you might want lots of the photos crowded onto a single page if you’re just looking for changes in expression, lighting, or position over a series of shots. On the other hand, if you’re evaluating landscapes or small differences in image texture and content, you may want to have the individual thumbs relatively large.
I’ve found an easy way to make up a custom contact sheet and then name each custom sheet for its purpose. Go to the Template browser panel (left side) and choose either the 4X5 or 5X8 contact sheet. Now just go over to the Layout panel on the right side and drag the Rows and Colums sliders to change the Page Grid and Cell Spacing columns to work as you want them to. You’ll see the result in the Preview panel on the left.
Be sure to check the Keep Square box if some of your shots are landscape and some portrait orientation. Then all the images will be the same size.
I have also made two sets of sheets for larger images, one for horizontal shots and the other for vertical shots. Then I make the contact sheet by pre-selecting shots with only one or the other orientation. Then I uncheck the Keep Square box. I also have to re-adjust my Page Grid (number of rows and columns), Margins, Cell Spacing, and Cell Size so that the images on that page are as large as possible given their orientation.
Lightroom contact sheets can be different from film contact sheets in several important respects: (1) You can put only images you’ve pre-selected on the contact sheet, so you don’t have to show the client anything you don’t want them to see. This can be handy even when you’ve carefully eliminated all the “looser” photos because you may know that it’s only a particular look or attitude that suits this particular assignment. Some of your other “keepers” may fit better into other contexts, or be highly saleable as stock photos. (2) You can add and subtract images from a contact sheet by Cmd/Ctrl clicking the images you want to change in the control sheet.
When you’ve got the layout you want for a particular contact sheet, save it as a User Template and give it a name that describes its purpose in a way that will make it easy for you to locate it when you need it. To do that, click the Add button in the Template Browser panel. When the New Template dialog appears, just name the template and choose the Folder you want it to appear in.
All of the Print modules printing controls are available. The important thing to note in the context of making proofs: You can choose draft mode printing if are in a hurry, you want to save ink and aren’t greatly concerned with image detail and quality (perhaps you’re just looking for diffences in the way the wind is blowing her hair?).
Oh, one more thing I didn’t even think of until someone else mentioned it to me: You can save a contact sheet as a full-size JPEG. There’s a trick to that, though: You need to have a program, such as SnagIt 8, that can act as a “soft printer.” Then I just select File > Print while in the Print module and select SnagIt as the printer. SnagIt opens automatically and there’s a capture for each page. So I can just save them as JPEG files. These JPEGs can then be emailed. The recipient can open it in Photoshop, zoom in to seeing the images at full size, and can then use the Pencil tool to scribble little notes and X’s in all the right places. I bet there are art directors and editors who will like that idea even better than a slide show. Besides, the images can be two or three times as big and they don’t have to twist the page any time you want a vertical composition.