How to create a Contact Sheet Web Gallery

After a shoot, many clients will often want to review images right away, to select successful images for further editing or to just see general results of a shoot. In this case you should consider using an automated service which can create a contact sheet for a customer to review. This contact sheet can be exported as PDF or a Web Gallery. Additionally, you can use this feature to create quick galleries of your work to be showcased on your website. In this tutorial I will mostly focus on a Web Gallery creation because it is the most commonly used method to present fresh images to a client over the internet.

HTML Gallery example created with Adobe Bridge

Most photographer do not like to show any unedited images to anybody, especially to clients, either because those images do not represent full potential of the final product or because they don’t want any unedited work to potentially float around the internet. However, there are a couple of reasons why a photographer might have to overcome this fear and get in a habit of creating contact sheets immediately after the shoot for a client to review. First of all, once you start booking numerous shoots in a row you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed with tons of images in queue to be reviewed and edited. This can quickly lead to long waiting period for a client to see the final work. And there is nothing more frustrating for a paying customer than waiting for, what may seem like ages, to see results from a photo shoot. Secondly, you might be setting yourself up for a potential time wasting experience when editing images. When I personally choose images for editing, I can’t help but mostly focus on lighting, framing and general composition. A client might look at an image and focus on different aspects. How many times have you heard something like: “My hair looks messy in this shot” or “My arm looks weird in this image”? It is heart wrenching to hear “I don’t like my expression in this image,” after you have spent an hour editing it. So why not move this burden to a client and let them decide on exactly which images need to be edited and transfer all responsibility to a customer? Of course, you can still remove unsuccessful images from the contact sheet before its published and recommend certain shots, but at least most of the burden will fall on a client and they will be happy to see images right away.

So how do you actually create contact sheets? Well, there are actually several ways you can do this. In earlier versions of Adobe Photoshop you could do it through File>Automate selection, however, this function has been moved to Adobe Bridge and currently Adobe recommends using it for all contact sheet creations. But if you don’t want to use Adobe Bridge and would rather do all the work through Adobe Photoshop you can still get a free adobe plug-in to accomplish this, I will describe all the necessary steps below. Additionally, if you use Adobe Lightroom, it offers an excellent function that can create contact sheets and web galleries just as easily. And finally, Apple’s Aperture offers a similar function to create web galleries.

Adobe Bridge

Output window in Adobe Bridge

If you own any program from Adobe’s Creative Suite you have an Adobe Bridge program as a part of the package. If you are not familiar with Adobe Bridge, it is essentially a file browsing software that lets you quickly go over files created and managed by various Creative Suite programs. But even if you can’t afford any Adobe programs you can still get Adobe Bridge for free. When you download a trial of any Adobe Software you will get Bridge as a part of a package, it will not time out and you can keep on using it even if the other program’s trial expires. Creating contact sheet through Adobe Bridge is very quick and simple.

To start, load Adobe Bridge:

  • Then select a folder from which you would like to create a contact sheet from the folder section, in the top left corner.
  • All the images will load in the main content window.
  • You can select all image by pressing [Ctrl]+[A] on PC or [Cmd]+[A] on Mac, and then while holding [Ctrl] or [Cmd] left click on images you would want to exclude. This can also be done by selecting all images and going to View>Review Mode or pressing [Ctrl]+[B] and using arrows to scroll through image. In this mode, when you hit [Down] arrow the image will be automatically excluded from the final gallery.
  • Once finished, click on Output section on the top Navigation Panel or hit [Ctrl]+[F4] to switch to gallery creation menu.
  • In the left section you will be presented with various customization options. Initially you will be given an option to export as PDF or Web Gallery. PDF options are straightforward, just make sure that File Name box is marked, to be able to refer to correct image with a client.
  • Web Gallery option has a bit more variations. The main variation is the template. There are various interesting templates available, so of them are in flash and some are in HTML. When choosing a desired template, remember, that not all templates will let you display file’s original name which might be an issue when collaborating with other people.
  • All the other fields are self-explanatory; just make sure you select Show File Names checkbox.
  • You can even specify FTP access to automatically upload Web Gallery to your site or save it to a local drive.
  • Once finished, press Save or Upload and Adobe Bridge will do everything else automatically.

Adobe Photoshop

If you prefer to create a Web Gallery through Adobe Photoshop, you can to it through Automate menu. Go to File>Automate>Web Photo Gallery to launch this function. If this option is missing, you will need to get this plug-in online. Windows users can get it here:

Mac users can get it here:

Web Gallery Window in Adobe Photoshop

Then follow the instructions included on PDF inside the Zip file. Basically you will need to copy ContactSheetII plug-in into Photoshop/Plug-Ins/Automate folder and /Presets/Web Photo Gallery into Photoshop/Presets. Once competed, this option will be available next time you open Adobe Photoshop.

Once you open Web Gallery Option:

  • From styles you can choose a desired template.
  • Then browse the folder in which the images are stored
  • Then select a destination folder to which the images will be saved.
  • In Options you can select various custom possibilities for your Web Gallery.
  • Make sure File Name checkbox is selected in Large Images option.
  • Once Finished click OK and Photoshop will create the Gallery.
  • You can then manually upload it to your server.

Adobe Lightroom

Web Gallery window in Adobe Lightroom 4

If you use Adobe Lightroom, it offers a very streamlined way to create an online contact sheet with virtually unlimited customizations.

To get started, launch Adobe Lightroom:

  • Then select desired images. You can select all images in the collection by pressing [Ctrl]+[A] on PC or [Cmd]+[A] on Mac, select images individually by holding [Ctrl] ([Cmd]) and clicking on them, or placing images into Quick Collection by selecting it and pressing [B] or hitting a small circle in the top-right corner of each image.
  • Once the images are selected, go to Web section by clicking on Web in the top-right corner of the screen.
  • Web section offers mini Gallery Preview in the top-left corner, Template Browser in the bottom-left corner, Main Content Preview in the center, Layout Style in the top-right corner and all customizable options in Site Info section in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
  • Adobe Lightroom offers a wide range of customizable features to create a really unique and great looking gallery and also offers an option to upload it to your server through FTP access.
  • Once complete, you can select Export to save the Gallery to your local drive or Upload if you have selected a specific FTP access.

Apple Aperture

If you use Apple Aperture program to manage your images, you can also use it to create a Web Gallery. If offers a slightly limited range of customizations when compared to other programs but it can still be useful in your workflow.

To get started, open Aperture:

  • Select desired photos.
  • Then click the New Icon in the top-left corner and choose Web Page from the drop down menu.
  • A new window will popup where you can give a name to the new web page and select a desired template.
  • Click Choose Theme to proceed.
  • Aperture will open up a page that will look like your new Web Page. There you can click on any information you would like to edit, such as Heading or Copyright Info.
  • There you can also re-arrange image positions by dragging images to a new spot or delete them from the Gallery by selecting the image and hitting [Delete] button.
  • You can do further layout customization through the options on the bottom.
  • And you can choose which data will be included by pressing “T” icon in the top left-corner.
  • When finished click on Export Web Pages button in the top-right corner to save the Gallery folder.

If you have never used Web Gallery feature but constantly notice your clients getting impatient to see images for a shoot or editing image which client don’t find flattering, consider implementing these Galleries in your workflow. And finally, last word of advice. It is always best to have these Web Galleries individually password protected on your server. This will limit a lot of potential problems.

I hope you find this tutorial useful and ask you to please comment if you have questions, additions or have noticed inaccuracies. It will improve the quality of this posting and hopefully help more people in the future.

This entry was posted by Alex Gumerov.

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