Film’s not dead—but who’s still developing it?

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I was recently contacted by someone who found 30 rolls of film from their kids’ childhood and were looking for a place to have them developed. I recommend the lab I use out of Fort Wayne. A week or so later, I headed there myself to have a couple rolls processed and was disappointed to find they longer offer this service. “Our machine went down”, the clerk told me, “we have no plans on having it replaced.”

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I consider myself an amature film photographer at best. I love the challenge of resurrecting/operating old cameras, the anticipation of development, and the grain, color, & dreamy texture that is so unique to film photography. As I began shooting more film, I decided to purchase a negative scanner to save on print costs. For a while I was having my film processed at my local Walgreens for $7 a roll (no prints). A year later they stopped processing film in-store.

DSCF6450sCanon 9000F MKii negative scanner

Then I found a lab in Fort Wayne that processed 35mm for only $5 a roll. The future seemed bright for my film hobby. Sadly, the lab was bought by another company, changed locations, and now no longer processes film. I left determined to find a new company that would process my film for a reasonable price—and share what I’ve learned with fellow film enthusiasts.

Film’s Not Dead Yet

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#filmsnotdead has been the adage of a new generation of amateur & professional film photographers, tagging over 500,000 posts on instagram at the time of this writing. With the resurgence of all things analog; vinyl records, instant film, cassette tapes—you’d think those pesky hipsters would be installing their own dark rooms in the basements of the local indie record stores. However, it’s not just the hipsters who are creating a new market for film.

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Found Film

In the past two decades, digital cameras have gone from super expensive tech, to something we all carry around in our back pockets. As the dust settles on the age of film photography, millennials across America are finding these little time capsules in basements, junk drawers, and shoeboxes. Found Film is a new movement of folks attempting to recover these lost relics.

These are images that my mom found in a junk drawer. I had them processed, then I scanned & edited them myself.

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IMG_20170906_0041sA photo of my Dad proudly displaying a mushroom. Don’t be confused by the scowl— that’s his go-to photo expression.

IMG_20171022_0012sAnother mysterious canister of film resulted in images from Grandma Doris’ wedding— from two decades ago. It’s pretty clear where my Dad got his signature scowl.


Local Stores That Still Develop Film:

I used to travel to Fort Wayne for film processing. Now that all the small independent photography shops in this area have closed, Kendallville is left with three choices for processing. While the option to have film developed locally still exists—they only process 35mm film and none of the stores return negatives.

Walmart

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Walmart is the cheapest local option for processing film. I would recommend using their service if you have an old camera you’re testing out ($10 isn’t much to waste on a roll of crappy photos). In order to save money on postage, Walmart no longer returns negatives. Isn’t that the point of having film processed? The images are returned on a CD but the resolution is so low—it’ll to be difficult having larger prints made.

  • Film processing starting at $9.95 for 24 exposures (Cheapest in town)
  • A CD containing the images is included with prints
  • Negatives are not returned
  • 1 week processing time

IMG_20140905_0014I shot this using an old argus 35mm and had no idea if any of the images would turn out. Walmart is a great local option for checking to see if your garage sale camera actually works.

Walgreens

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Walgreens was one of the last local shops to offer in-store film processing. Now they use a third party service for developing. It’ll cost $5 more than Walmart and up to 2 weeks for processing. Just like Walmart—Walgreens does not return negatives.

  • Film processing through 3rd party service $14.99 for 24 exposures
  • A CD containing the images is included with prints
  • Negatives are not returned
  • Film is mailed out, expect 1-2 weeks for processing

IMG_20141022_0011Shot with my trusty Canon AE-1, processed through Walgreens back when they did in-house film developing, and scanned using my Canon 9000F MKii.

CVS

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I was surprised to learn that CVS still processes film. Their service basically mirrors that of Walgreens—except their turnaround is faster.

  • Film processing starting at $14.95 for 24 exposures
  • A CD containing the images is included with prints
  • Negatives are not returned
  • 1 week processing time

As a film photography hobbyist, I only recommend having your film processed locally if you’re not concerned with doing anything other than making 4X6 prints. Walmart is the best option—but I’m not risking the loss of my negatives for any of the art projects I work on.

Online Film Processing:

IMG_20170906_0010Canon AE-1—200mm Lens

Thanks to the demand created by found film & #filmsnotdead, multiple websites have began offering affordable film processing—that actually return your negatives. Another advantage to using these services is they will process other types of film including 120/220, 110, advantix, etc. Most online labs also offer a myriad of services including printing, photo retouching/restoring, film/slide scanning, & even sell new film! These are my three recommendations for best online labs.

 

 

The Dark Room

www.thedarkroom.com

IMG_20140905_0001Shot using a Holga 135BC—Double Exposure—Processed through The Dark Room

I’ve used The Dark Room several times in the past for processing 35mm & 120 film. It’s a trusted company—with over four decades in the business. Their service is affordable, fast, and they upload your photos to an online gallery so you can view & download the images before you get them back in the mail. This is my go-to online lab that I will continue using & recommending.

  • Multiple types of film processing (35mm, 120/220, 110, 126, advantix) starting at $11 a roll
  • A CD with images is returned by mail (you can request larger file sizes for extra $$)
  • After processing—photos are scanned and uploaded to an online gallery
  • Negatives are returned
  • Fast turnaround time considering their company is all the way in California—3-5 business days

The Photo Place INC

www.photoplaceonline.com 

I haven’t used this lab yet, but I plan on sending film in soon. They offer bulk discount rates up to 20% off. So if you’ve found a box of old film—this is your place! The Photo Place is located in Ohio, so the turnaround rate should be shorter for us Indiana residents.

  • Multiple types of film processing (35mm, 120/220, 110, 126, advantix) starting at $6 a roll (no prints or disc included)
  • Develop film & scan to CD $12 a roll
  • Choice of CD, DVD, or dropbox
  • Negatives are returned 
  • The Photo Place offers bulk discount rates! 10 rolls 10% off—20+ rolls 20% off
  • Located in Ohio—fast turnaround 1-2 business days for 5 rolls or less

Indie Film Lab

www.indiefilmlab.com

IMG_20160524_0095Canon AE-1—50mm Lens

With a stylish website & hip blog spotlighting various film artists—Alabama’s Indie Film Lab is definitely marketed towards the #filmsnotdead movement. Their home page opens to a huge—gorgeous film portrait, guaranteed to make you wanna grab your Canon AE-1 & go shoot. Indie Film Lab offers a variety of film processing & print options—you might even see your photos on their instagram page.

  • Multiple types of film processing (35mm, 120/220, 110, 126, advantix) starting at $8  for 120 film type
  • CD & Scan options
  • Negatives returned upon request
  • Possibility of seeing your photo published on social media (voluntarily of course)
  • Turnaround is 5-7 business days for up to 25 rolls

There are way more options online for film processing— I’m only mentioning a few here to keep things simple. Shop around and make a choice depending on your needs. Film’s not dead—there’s plenty of options out there for analog nerds & shoebox film.


Stay Broke—Shoot Film!

IMG_20171022_0028Canon AE-1—200mm lens

Film photography is not cheap—it’s slow, often frustrating, and an overall expensive hobby. However, there’s so much you can learn about photography through shooting film. I highly recommend trying it at least once. I’ve been shooting film for over a decade. It keeps my photography skills sharp. It’s great to see a new generation of photographers keeping the art-form alive. I’m thankful to learn that there are still plenty of companies willing to develop for us!

If you have any questions about film photography or know of an awesome online lab—please leave a comment or shoot me a message.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Film’s not dead—but who’s still developing it?

  1. Thank you so much! I have five rolls at Wal-Mart now. Waiting to see how it goes before I send any more. I still have about 25 rolls to deal with. I appreciate your input and interest! I knew I asked the right guy!

    Liked by 1 person

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