technical: Making a contact sheet

Making a contact sheet

A contact sheet is a positive print of all the negative images from one film, made by a contact printing process so that all the images are the same size as the negative. A contact sheet is a useful way of seeing which are the best images on a film so you can decide which ones to make enlargements from.

First of all, set up the enlarger. See Making a black and white print. Ensure negatives are clean and dry, and cut into strips of 6 if they are 35mm negs, or other appropriate size to fit onto one piece of photographic paper.

Then, under safe lighting place the piece of photographic paper in the contact printer. This should be emulsion side up - depending on the paper you are using this could be the shiny side, but remember not all photographic paper is shiny.

1. Under safe lighting, place photographic paper in contact printer with the emulsion side up

Then place the negatives in rows on top of the paper, emulsion side down. This means the negatives are the right way round as you look at them. You can check by looking at the numbers on the edges of the film. Some contact printers have clips on the glass to hold negs in place, if so clip them in, so that the emulsion side is down when you close the printer. If you don't have a contact printer just a piece of glass will do.

2. Place negative strips onto paper carefully, emulsion side down

Close the contact printer and place on the enlarger baseboard. You are ready to make a contact print. Expose the paper; remove it from the contact paper, process, wash and dry. You should now be able to get a good idea which images on the film are most successful.

3. Close glass and place on enlarger base board. Make a test strip first.

Tip: A test strip first of all is a good way to determine the exposure time and save paper. See Making a test strip.