A practical tip to speed up your photography workflow: use the ‘thumbnail test’. Look at your photos as small thumbnails (contact sheets) to more quickly and efficiently choose your best photos!
What is your best photo?
This is the problem we face as photographers: we have too many photos to look through!
Our time is limited. How can we best effectively look through all our photos, and choose our best ones (the creme de la crop?)
If you need help selecting your best photos, upload them to arsbeta.com for real feedback.
Ever since the old-school photographers and the days of film, they looked at their photos as ‘contact sheets‘. This allowed them to quickly look through their photos, and after they decided which they would print — to see it “full-screen”.
Nowadays we are lucky– we got Lightroom and other image-editing software which makes this easy.
A simple tip: in Lightroom, look at your photos in a Grid (Gallery) view, with the hotkey “G”, and then make the sizes of your thumbnails (so you can see 3 in a row), and then press “L” twice (turning off the Lights), and then use your mouse to “P” (pick) photos you want to look at later for closer-inspection.
“Work the scene”
You never know when you will get a good photo, so when you see an interesting scene, make sure to “work the scene” — shoot LOTS of photos of the same scene, and afterwards when you go home, select your best photos on your computer!
The best photo might be the last photo you shoot
For example, sometimes I will shoot a lot of photos of a scene and “work the scene”, and I don’t discover the best composition until the very end!
A simple principle to follow is the “25% rule“. When you think you got the shot– you don’t. Try to shoot 25% MORE of a scene than you think you can!
In the words of Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Sometimes you must milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.
Eric Kim CONTACTS
Some of my contact sheets
Don’t just take 1 photo of the scene: ‘Work the scene’!
Articles on Contact Sheets
- How I Took These Photos: Contact Sheets of my ONLY IN AMERICA Project
- How Did They Take that Photo? Behind-the-Scenes Contact Sheets of Famous Street Photography
If you’re curious more about how to “work the scene” in street photography, download my full-resolution contact sheets for your own self-education and learning with the links below:
For your convenience, I have a selection of my contact sheets as a .ZIP file (very big at 2.5GB) available for you to download via Google Drive or Dropbox below:
All of these photos are open-source; meaning, feel free to print, distribute, remix, or share them with others.
Learn the importance of “working the scene”:
Contact Sheet Books:
Contact Sheet Articles:
- Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment”
- How Studying Contact Sheets Can Make You a Better Street Photographer
- Book Review: Magnum Contact Sheets