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Get organized! Manage your digital images with contact sheets

Added on Friday 27th of January 2006 04:57 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photoshop, Contact Sheets, Batch, Images, Organize


If you manage large amounts of images you’re no doubt feeling the pain of how to organize them and keep track of them all. You’ve backed them up and archived them on a CD-ROM or DVD but when you want to quickly scan through an image, how do you know what’s on the disk? Instead of wasting hours inserting and reinserting your media to scan and open files, you can create contact sheets to reference.


To help you better manage your archived images, we’ll:

     Explain the benefit of using a contact sheet to display thumbnails of all your images.

     Show you how to create a contact sheet of images stored on both removable media and your hard drive.

     Give you tips on how to save and store your contact sheets so they’re easily accessible and safely preserved.


Searching for one specific image saved in your archive of files can be a nightmare. Every time you need an image, it’s comparable to a game of roulette trying to find the right one. You thought you took all the precautions by backing up your images, and even labeled the CD-ROM. But a vague title of “Summer 2005” isn’t going to make it any easier to know which image is the one with the swimming pool, unless you pop in the CD and scan over the thumbnails. If this sounds like your day, then you’re a good candidate for contact sheets.


First contact

A contact sheet is a page of thumbnails generated from a folder full of images, such as the one displayed in Figure A. Creating a contact sheet is a simple process, but the timesaving results can be priceless. That said, one thing you should know up-front is that the amount of time it takes to create a contact sheet depends both on how many images you need to batch and the processing power of your computer. We’ll explain why as we go along.



Behind the scenes

To create a contact sheet, you run the mini-application/script called Contact Sheet II. At your command, Contact Sheet II opens, scales, and alters your images based off of the selections you choose in the Contatct II dialog box. Images are copied and pasted into a new document, and if you choose, filenames are added for identifiers. But you need to first specify the specifics.


Create a contact sheet

To get started, you’ll need to launch Photoshop and have a folder full of images to work with. You can work directly off your local machine, or insert a CD or DVD full of images to get started. Then, Choose File > Automate > Contact Sheet II to open the Contact Sheet II dialog box shown in Figure B.



Tip: If you have a large amount of images to process, over a hundred for example, quitting out of all other applications before starting is a good way to free up your computer’s available resources for Photoshop.





Set your options

The options you choose are dependant on your goals. For our example, we’re going to create contact sheets to print out on 8.5" x 11" paper for storage in a standard 3-ring binder. There are a lot of options to choose from in the Contact Sheet dialog box. We’ll select a source to pull our images from, set up a document to put the thumbnails into, and specify how we want our thumbnails set up.


To select a source for your images:

1.       Choose Folder from the Use pop-up menu for this example. Alternatively, you can create one from a series of images you currently have open, or through the File Brower (Bridge in CS2).

2.      Select Choose (Browse in Windows) and navigate to the folder you wish to pull images from, and click Choose. (OK in Windows)

3.      Select the Include All Subfolders check box if you have subfolders of images you wish to include.


To set your document options:

1.       Choose Inches from the Units pop-up menu.

2.      Enter 8 in the Width text box, and 10.5 in the Height text box. This guarantees us a .25" margin around our thumbnails when we print on letter sized paper.


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