Contact Sheet Series: Silver Gelatin Prints in Pet Photography
Since I'm always talking about my dedication to analog pet photography and silver gelatin printing, I've decided to begin showing you a bit more about my unique traditional methods. Unlike every other photographer focusing on companion animals, I use film which I hand process and print in a darkroom. That means I also make contact sheets for every single roll of film I shoot, which helps me review and archive my images. My editing is never done on a computer. I touch and handle each and every negative and photograph that I create, giving me incredible control within the creative process. A contact sheet is made in the darkroom by exposing a sheet of negatives to photographic paper very quickly, and processing that paper in developer, stop bath, and fixer chemistry. The end result gives the photographer a physical archive of their negatives, which have now become positives. Small previews for inspection, to help aid in selecting the winning images from a photography session. Below is a detail of a contact sheet from an old san francisco pet photography client.
Deciding which image to show a client is a very important skill for a professional photographer. It is a final creative move that helps guide the direction of each commission. Here you can see that even the smallest variations make a frame feel different from the others surrounding it. My selections are circled in red after very close inspection of each frame with a loup (or photographic magnifying glass).
With every frame I expose in my Hasselblad, I am simultaneously measuring light, focus, and composition. Every detail of that process gets recorded within each contact sheet, and helps me reflect on my ever-developing technique.
After years of being commissioned for fine art dog portraiture, I have hundreds of contact sheets that act as a creative history. I love having these physical objects to revisit, instead of searching through files on a hard drive. In order to select the best images from your photography session, you need to give each frame an appropriate context. Contact sheets give that context a permanence that digital files never will.