Random Proof Sheet – August 1994, Arctic Ocean
The proof sheet is something that has pretty much gone by the wayside in recent years since the advent of digital photography. For the visually motivated and inspired, holding a tactile representation of your work forces you to be a bit more critical throughout the creative process, and here’s why.
For the next couple of paragraphs it may seem like I’m getting in the weeds a bit, but I assure you, keep the faith and hopefully you’ll be rewarded in the end.
Holding a photograph in your hand use to represent the finality in the image making process. We’d go through the process of dropping off a roll of film at the drug store: fill out the slip, tear it off, and proceed to drop the envelope in the bin full of other people’s great shots from vacation, a piano recital, or just walking around the house during a party or a family gathering. That envelope was full of so many possibilities without knowing ahead of time what we were going to get. Let’s face it, we’re way beyond that today.
We are a people of instant gratification; so much so that we now don’t even have to wait if we so desire. A number of years ago, Polaroid started that trend with the incredibly affordable (for the time) instant camera and since then there have been others, the Fuji Instax, to name a recent brand. Instant film took off in late 1948 with the introduction of the Polaroid land camera, but it wasn’t until the mid-60’s that they began offering an instant camera that everyone could use. In 1972, Polaroid introduced the SX-70 Single Lens Reflex Land Camera, using film that was no longer roll-type instant film, but sheet type instant film that could be loaded with ease. As far as the technology of this process goes, it never really went beyond their original design and as many of you know, the Polaroid Corporation stopped making film in early 2008 and the machinery and film production process is now handled by a company in the Netherlands that calls itself, “The Impossible Project”. So it seems that even though instant gratification may still be possible, photographically speaking, the process still falls short of what most would call practical and a financially viable option. If only there was a better way to still get that tactile feel through modern techniques…
You might think I’m going to get all old school on you and tell you to print out proof sheets of your photographs…nothing could be further from the truth. Might I suggest a more modern way to introduce some old school techniques into some modern day processes; a bit less tactile if you so desire, but functional all the same.
Proof Sheet – Created in Lightroom 5 (Print Module) and marked up in Photoshop CC
Being able to create a working JPEG file of images in your library not only satisfies the tactile need for the proof sheet but also allows you to view all your images (free from distraction) in one place. Sure, when in Lightroom you can hit ‘G’ on the keyboard and then hit ‘Shift’ + ‘Tab’ at the same time to eliminate the navigation and tool bars, and that may work for you. Having something you can mark up when showing images to a client or preparing for a presentation is worth its weight in gold with most photo editors, even if comments and suggestions are done using a PDF editor or an image editing application such as Photoshop.
I’ve included a template for the Lightroom Proof Sheet you see above here (right click and choose ‘Save As’).
In a world full of so much noise and instant gratification, sometimes it’s kind of nice to sit back and take your time with projects and having a choice of what you’d like to print and what’s destined for the “circular file”. That, and using technology to your advantage is kind of cool, even for someone as old school as myself!
For many other great suggestions and some inspiration, check out “The Light Imagined: Seven Steps to Improve and Make Your Photographs Powerful”. For just 5 bucks, you’ll be glad you did! -DvK