Making Digital Contact Sheets From Negatives; A Hybrid Solution For The Film/Digital Photographer Page 2

Before taking the final scan, set the capture at 300dpi. Adjust any contrast or color controls--you can also do this later. Then scan. Some scanner software allows you to send the image directly to Photoshop, so that it opens there automatically. Be sure to name the file so that you know what it is later. You might want to create a new folder just for your contact sheets.

Step 4

Black and white contact sheet, captured as a digital contact sheet on the computer. Notice that you can turn any vertical 90Þ by selecting the frame (#8) in Photoshop, copying it, pasting it onto a new document of the same size and dpi, then turning it 90Þ, copying it, and pasting it back onto the original frame. The sprocket holes give you enough space to accommodate the vertical frame without obscuring any image.

Tweaking And Examining
Once you have the image in Photoshop you can adjust the contrast and color in the usual ways. You may find, as I do, that part of the scanned image is too light, probably due to uneven output from the light box. Simply select that part in Photoshop and darken it. You can compensate for individual differences in image density, within certain limits, by selecting that image or images with the rectangular selection tool and changing levels, contrast, brightness, or color balance. In more extreme cases, you may have to rescan, or simply scan the individual frames on your film/slide scanner, which will make the adjustment automatically.

Now comes the beauty part. At 300dpi you can enlarge the contact sheet in Photoshop (Cntrl/Command - = [PC/Mac]) to examine any particular image. Here frame #8 (above) is enlarged from the contact sheet. Images will stay sharp up to half-screen magnification, and you'll see more than you would with a loupe on a paper contact sheet.

Changing Orientation Of Individual Frames
If you want to change the orientation of a particular frame, select it using the rectangular selection tool; copy it; then open a new file in Photoshop Cntrl/Command - N) and paste. It will open to the same size as the image you've copied. Then choose Rotate Canvas under the Image menu, and select 90Þ CW (clockwise--or 90Þ CCW, if you're left handed or took the picture with the left side of the frame up). Then copy this and paste it back on your contact sheet. You may have to move it around a bit so it won't cover up any other image. When you have it correctly positioned, select Flatten Image from the Layers menu then save.

Now that you have your contact sheet, you can mark it up. Type in any label you wish using the Type tool. To check off or circle your favorite shots, choose the brush tool on the Photoshop menu, and, if necessary, set the brush size to something convenient (Brushes palette). Click on the foreground color to choose one that will contrast with the background of your contact sheet. You can check those images you wish to scan, then cross-check those that you've done.

You can, of course, print out your contact sheet--or any enlarged part thereof. And of course, you can e-mail it in whole or in part (down to an individual frame--very readable) to editors, models, and friends.

The first three images have been turned 90Þ by cutting and pasting (see black and white contact sheet for instructions). You can also make notes on the contact sheet using Photoshop's brush and text tools.

Slides, Too
Naturally, the same approach will work with a page of slides. You may find it more convenient to have digital files of your slides cataloged and stored on your computer, rather than leafing through looseleaf pages in your slide files.

For slides or unmounted transparencies, set the scanner to color positive. I find that 20 slides mounted on a page will come out quite sharp when scanned on a flat-bed scanner, despite the thickness of the mount and sleeve.

One of my favorite benefits of making digital contact sheets or slide images is the ease of creating proofs for e-mailing without separate scanning. Simply select the images you want to display and copy. Then open a new Photoshop document--it will open to the size of your copied image--and paste. Tweak as necessary, then save. Take it down to a 72dpi JPEG at medium quality for e-mailing.

Joel Simpson ( lives in New Jersey and photographs mainly nature and rather surreal body projections, which he exhibits in New York galleries. He is the founder of Positive Focus Reviews, the first major portfolio review event held in New York City in April, 2004.