How To Create A Digital Photo Contact Sheet

Do you take digital photos and would you like to quickly create a file with thumbnail size versions of photos from a trip or family event? This file is called a contact sheet. Professional photographers commonly want to create contact sheets of all photos from a wedding or other photo shoot. Here are a couple of ways to create a contact sheet if you use a Mac. 

If you use Photoshop, it has a built-in contact sheet creator feature. This is the easiest way, but it requires Photoshop.

  1. Open Photoshop and click on the File menu
  2. From the File menu select Automate and then select Contact Sheet
  3. You’ll be prompted to select a folder containing photos. Do this and then let Photoshop do the rest. It’ll create a PDF of all images with the file names listed below the image.

If you don’t have Photoshop then give this method a try. I have tried this on 4 Macs and it worked on two of them. I’m not sure why it failed to work properly on the others. The following instructions will create a PDF of all images that you have in the folder that you select. You could then annotate the PDF using Preview to add captions below each image.

  1. Click on the Finder icon on your Dock to open a Finder window
  2. Click on the Go menu and select Applications to see the items in your Applications folder.
  3. Double-click on Automator to open it. [Note: Automator is part of the Mac operating system. It’s used for creating workflows to automate tasks.]
  4. Click the New Document button
  5. Click on Service as the type of document.
  6. Use the image below as a guide when following these instructions.Make Contact Sheet Automator Service
  7. Near the upper right corner, select “image files” to the right of “Service receives selected “
  8. In the left-most column, click on PDFs.
  9. In the column to the right, click on New PDF Contact Sheet and drag it to the right.
  10. Click on the Options button and insert a checkmark next to “Show this action when the workflow runs.”
  11. In the same column, click on “Apply Quartz Filter to PDF Documents” and drag it to the right.
  12. You’ll be asked if want to add a “Copy Finder Items” action. You do not want to do this so click the “Don’t Add” button.
  13. From the list of available filters, select “Reduce File Size”
  14. Your Automator workflow should now look like this:Contact Sheet Workflow Details
  15. Click on the File menu and select Save.
  16. Give your Service a name, such as “Create PDF Contact Sheet on the Desktop”
  17. Click on the File menu and select Quit Automator.

Now, let’s test our Automator workflow.

  • In the Finder click on a folder containing a bunch of digital images.
  • Select one or more of the images in this folder. (If you don’t know how to easily select multiple files, read my Tech Tip on selecting multiple files.)
  • Click on the Finder menu, select Services and pick your workflow.
  • You should be prompted to name your contact sheet and pick a destination for the resulting PDF contact sheet–the Desktop is the default.
  • If you change the number of columns from 3 to either 4, 5 or 6 then your thumbnail images will be smaller.
  • Click the Continue button and wait for the PDF contact sheet to be produced and saved.
  • Locate your contact sheet and open it to check it out.
  • [Note, if you’d like to add captions and you use Apple’s Preview application to open your PDF file then review this Tech Tip about annotating PDFs.]




  1. Anyone who happens to see this:

    1) The process has changed some for Automator 2021

    2) My experience (Quick Action or Workflow) I was only able to get it to work once. Why? I have no idea. If you get it to work – great. If not…

    3) There’s an image application (FREE) XNView runs on Mac Monterey (as of this writing). Pick your images, click “Create” in the menu, Select “Contact Sheet” follow the prompts, click “Create” – done. So far has worked every time. Dead simple.

    • fjunk,
      Thanks for pointing out that this feature no longer works in Automator and mentioning the XNView alternative. Very helpful.

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