Creating Contact Sheets with Lightroom Collections

A recent conversation prompted this Blog post. Traditional photographers still use contact sheets for reviewing and arranging their work with clients. Lightroom offers a flexible way to reproduce the same thing, however will add a few enhancements to the process. Contact sheets can be created equally using Photoshop, but Lightroom has it’s advantages, by providing a way to organise your images, and modifying the caption/description of the image on the contact sheet.

Images that have been imported into Lightroom are organised within the folders panel, this panel is a mirror of the physical location on the disk drive (Lightroom only provides a view of the file structure and doesn’t contain the files inside the program, regardless of a Windows or a Mac). Images cannot be moved around in this view, only sorted, which maybe required when telling a story using the contact sheet. Lightroom collections can be used in this case, allowing the manual organisation of images, therefore creating the required image order. Lightroom collections are also useful as they exist under every module within Lightroom (Library/Develop/Map etc).

To make a collection, click the plus button to the right of the collection panel and choose “Create Collection” (see below), this will create a simple manual collection that will give you control of the order of the images. Other options that are available to you here are “Create Smart Collection” which are used to apply automatic rules to the images it will contain, i.e. include images in the collection with 3 stars, or contains a keyword or a combination of rules. A “collection set”  is a group that can store other collections or groups (this all depend on how you would like to organise your collections and images).


The Create Collection dialog will be shown, you can name the collection and decide where to place it relative to the existing collection structure. If you would like the current images to be added by Lightroom, then make sure the “Include selected photos” is checked, otherwise turn off the check box.


Once the basic collection has been created, images can be added to it, by either manually dragging and dropping from the grid view under the LIbrary module, or they can be added by choosing the new collection to be a target collection. To make a collection into a target collection, right click on the selected collection and choose “Set as Target Collection” from the fly out menu.


The target collection indicator will be displayed by using a + by the side of the nominated collection (see Test Collection + below)


Any photo can be added to the target collection by pressing the “B” key when the image(s) is selected, when the “B” key is pressed a notification will be displayed that the image has been added to the target collection. The “B” key will also remove a  image(s) from the target collection. The chosen target collection is also changeable at any time, by removing the target collection (right click on the collection) or by making another collection a target collection (as we saw earlier in this blog post)

As soon as the images for the contact sheet are in the target collection, then click on the collection if not already selected.

In the collection, images can be moved around to create the story and placed in the correct order. To move an image(s), select it/them and drag to the new position in the grid (see below to show the 2nd image being moved in the grid)


Once the adding of images has been completed, there are a few ways to include the images into the actual contact sheet, one way is to pre-select them on the film strip (select all is CMD+A on a MAC and CTRL+A on a Windows computer), then choose the “Print” menu option (available at the top right of Lightroom). You can see in the screen shot above, all of the images in the film strip are selected (you are also able to use the “Use” function in this mode to select the required images).

Note that at the top right hand side of the screen the Single Image/Contact sheet function is selected. In the screen shot below there is only image per page. In the configuration below we have 5 pages (5 images have been selected in the film strip (located at the bottom of Lightroom dock)).


By changing the Page Grid (rows and colums) sliders under the layout panel you are able to re-layout the images and  including more images on a single page. Also, the Margins / Cell spacing and Cell size under the same Layout panel will help you get the correct look of the conact sheet that is applicable you for your client (see below for an example).


Typically for the client to be able to communicate back to you about the appropriate image, there is usually a label for each image. The current contact sheet is showing the file number as well as the date of the image (This configuration will depend on how you would like to reference the images with your client).

The Photo info option on the Page panel will enable you to use default labelling tags for each image, i.e. Caption, Date, Filename etc. Sometimes, this information is enough and needs to be more flexible.

Clicking on the “Edit” option on Page panel,will enable configuration of the data that will be displayed under the contact sheet images.


In this example the File name and Date are used to be the label for each image. A combination of other meta data elements may also be selected in the template editor (as shown below). Be aware of the amount of space that you have under the image, Cell Spacing, Margins, Cell size  and Font size can be adjusted to make sure that all your data is displayed correctly for each image.


When you have completed the contact sheet, you are able to print it using the Print job panel. (You are able to change the print resolution, print sharpening and if it needs to be 16 Bit output or if unchecked, will be 8Bit).


You are also able to Print to file, by selecting “JPG File” as the Print to option. In this mode, a JPG rendition of the file will be created, you are able to control the quality, file resolution as well as the quality of the JPG. These options will modify the size of the resulting output, which will make the file useful for other delivery options (i.e. email, web site etc)


N.B, you may find that Lightroom menus can become very cluttered due to the number of options that are available under each module. I always have my Lightroom configured so that panels are automatically closed down when a new one is open, to so this you will need to enable Solo mode.


If you right click on any menu item. you can then select “Solo Mode”, which will enable this panel collapsing feature. i find this cleans up the menu’s and allows me to work in a non cluttered environment.

3 Responses to Creating Contact Sheets with Lightroom Collections

  1. Bob Owen says:

    Thanks for a reason useful post. Contact sheets are a vital way of assessing and presenting work to my clients. Well explained.

  2. Brilliant post and really informative – great to see our conversation made it into a blog!

    Also I’ve just checked and that other contact sheet app I mentioned having on the studio iMac is a sample script supplied when I downloaded CS6 Illustrator on the cloud. Handy stuff!

  3. kelly says:

    Many many many thanks ! I would have struggled my way around all the settings to find out how to add the image name to the contact sheets! I was in the wrong layout style altogether when i turned to google and found this blog 🙂 Huge time saver on an incredibly busy week 🙂