Creating a Contact Sheet for a photo shoot is one of the easiest ways to present your client a sheet of photo thumbnails so they can decide which ones to choose. Fortunately, Adobe created a more streamlined version of this process in CS5 by adding it directly in to Adobe Bridge under the Output workspace. In earlier versions, you had to create seperate JPEGs of the contact sheet in the Bridge menu Tools<Photoshop>Contact Sheet II. They are bringing it back in CS6 again but I like the new version because I can output PDFs directly from Bridge. Lets look at how to make a Contact Sheet in Adobe Bridge.
To make a contact sheet, select a group of photos in Bridge then select the Output workspace button in the top of the Bridge window. When Bridge switches over to the Output workspace you'll have a preview in the center area, the selected photos at the bottom in the filmstrip, and the output controls and settings to the right.
The Output workspace can create either a PDF or Web Gallery so be sure you select PDF if you want to make a contact sheet. For a quick start, you can begin with one of the provided templates from the Template drop down menu. One thing to watch out for when using these templates, they're all set to International paper sizes so you may need to change the Page Preset if you want to use U.S. page sizes. Now you can work down the right panel and adjust the settings for your contact sheet.
Note that you will have to hit the Refresh Preview button under the Template to see any changes you make in the settings as you work down the Output settings panel.
Get your page settings set up in the Document section first. Here you can set the paper size, quality and lock it with a password if you like. You may notice there are two Quality settings, both of which will impact the final file size of the PDF so you may need to play with these settings to manage the file size. The first Quality setting is for the resolution of the PDF itself. If you plan on printing it you will need to set it higher like at 300 ppi. If you plan on only viewing this on screen you could drop the setting down to 72 ppi and get a smaller file size. The second Quality setting is for the photo quality inside the contact sheet. Much like the setting when saving a JPEG in Photoshop the lower you go the rougher the photo looks and the less detail you retain. You could experiment with this to see what works for your presentation but usually I can get away with a medium setting of about 70.
You could change the Background setting to black or another color if you plan on presenting the PDF on screen but if its going to print you probably want to keep it white to save ink.
Adding a Open Password to the PDF will allow you to protect it from being opened by unauthorized viewers, particularly for adult content. Adding a Permissions Password will prevent the user from altering the document and you could also check the box to Disable Printing too.
The Layout section lets you set up how the photos will be placed on each page. Usually for most shoots I will use 3 Columns and 4 Rows. The Horizontal and Vertical spacing adjust the space between the photos on the page. The fields for Top, Bottom, Left, and Right will create your page margins. You also have some options for Auto Spacing and Auto Rotate to get the maximum image on the page.
As we scroll down further we come to the first section of textual information, Overlays. If you want your client to be able to specify a particular image you will want to include a Filename. I usually leave off the Extension. Add Page Numbers if your contact sheet will go over a single page. This is helpful when referring to a particular image on a page. Note also, you can change the font, size and color for all type settings.
In the Header section you can add a custom title to your contact sheet in the Text field. Usually I use the client name for this section in a larger point size. Add a Divider if you want to spruce it up a bit with a rule across the top. If the Distance for the Divider is too close Bridge will let you know when building a preview with a warning dialog box and tell you what the minimum and maximum distance is for what you have specified. Follow it to adjust the distance and create a preview.
The Footer section is another set of text that can be added to the bottom of the page just like the Header. I usually add my name and contact info here so the client can always find my info easily. You may need to align the text to the left or center if you are using Page Numbers otherwise they may overlap.
This is a unique section to creating a PDF and can be used to create a slideshow. You can set the PDF to open in Full Screen Mode and set duration and transitions for the pages. I don't use this for Contact Sheets but it's an easy way to create a nice presentation with one photo per page on a black background and looks professional.
If you are worried about someone stealing your image or using it without permission you could add a Watermark to your photos. You can type in text to be added or place a graphic file like a logo which will be added over each photo. Use the controls below to adjust the Scale, Opacity, Rotation, and Offset of the type or graphic.
Now all that's left is to Save the file. Click the Save button at the bottom and choose where you would like Bridge to save the file. You can also check the box to View PDF After Save if you want it to automatically open after its done saving. If you did a lot of work here setting up a contact sheet be sure to save what you did as a Template so you can select it in the Templates the next time you need to make a Contact Sheet. To save a Template click in the page icon next to the Template drop down menu and give it a name. It will now appear in the Template drop down menu.
The Output workspace is a really nice feature of Bridge and gives you a lot of control when creating a Contact Sheet as well as creating a custom slideshows that can be sent to a client or friends.