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November 04, 2011


Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles. http://www.richardphotolab.com

Being from Germany, I cannot recommend any good labs in the US. But personally, I do the following:

If shooting traditional black and white films I develop them myself at home and hang them to dry. C41/E6 gets developed by the local drugstore, where I order just the development, no prints.

The next day, I cut the films in strips of six and use an old Epson Perfection 3170 flatbed scanner to make a quick "contact sheet" scan. You can either put the film directly onto the glass (not very sharp results, but you get the whole roll on one scan) or use the supplied negative holders, but then I have to make up to three scan passes to get the whole roll. The process is still fairly automated, thanks to the Epson scan software, and the results are good enough to choose the few single frames to scan properly. For that I use a Coolscan 5000.

However, the whole process of shooting film today is very time consuming and requires several steps. But this is also part of the fun, isn't it?

I use an Epson Perfection V700. It has room to scan 24 negatives in one batch, and offers Digital ICE to greatly reduce the appearance of dust.

It isn't super-duper fast. But it is fairly easy. The scans I produce at home are so much better than drugstore scans. The bottom line is I really like it.

Dwayne's Photo: www.dwaynesphoto.com.

If you remember, they were the last Kodachrome lab. I had 8 rolls of Kodachrome processed and scanned. Perfect.

Now I'm sending my Tri-X in to them.

$7.99 processed and contact sheet.

Isn't there a danger of building this up into a bigger problem than it really is? As you said, Gordon, developing film is easy enough, especially if you a use two-bath developer. You can then send the film off to the likes of North Coast Photographic Services, the lab that Ken Rockwell raves about, and have them do the scans. They'll handle up to 8x10 negs. Alternatively, if you don't fancy developing the film, they'll do it for you as well at a pretty reasonable price, certainly a lot cheaper than I could get it done in the UK. Their 4832x4760 scans from 120 negs, including the cost of developing, is less than $18.

OK, you might have to wait a wee while but, "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?". Unless it's a paid job, can't we just allow for the fact that film isn't digital and it can take a little longer to see the results?

I think what's happening here is that photographers who shoot both digital and film, even if they started their photographic life exposing silver gelatin, can't get over the convenience of digital. Until you ditch digital, as I've done, you'll always consider film to be a bit of a hassle.

In my journalism days I had to cover a speech by Bob Geldof where he said that nothing really happens in life until you burn your bridges. Resolve to lock your digital cameras away in a cupboard for a year and I guarantee you'll not only find a way to develop your films but, within a very short space of time, the whole film "workflow" will become second nature again. Mmmm, feel a blog post of my own coming on now...

I'm looking for ideas also. I folded up my darkroom 12 years ago and now I have 40 rolls of B&W film exposed that need developing and scanning plus another 30 rolls of 15 year old film in the freezer to shoot.

I used to love to print B&W silver images but hated the film processing. After ten years of limited camera time, this past year I've been spoiled by the ease of use after buying my first digital SLR and have finally learned to like color photography but I still miss working with B&W silver materials.

When I'm in a hurry (or lazy), I use a digital camera, but most of the time I use a 35mm or MF camera and develop the film myself. It doesn't take long to scan my negs and I don't always make proof sheets, as I usually scan all the images on a roll and mark the neg sleeve with the date of development so I can search for images on my computer by date. I don't let the developing/scanning pile up. After two rolls of MF or four rolls of 135, I process.

If I had to send the film out, I'd use North Coast.

I second the use of a V700. It's decent for 35mm (effective resolution is about 2500dpi) and will do 120 and large format very nicely. If you use it for low-resolution proofs rather than final scans, a set of 4 6-frame strips will scan in a few minutes.

For me, the time it takes is part of the appeal of film. No chimping and no quick feedback so I have to try to think things through and get it right the first time. Once I get to see the images it's been long enough that I can see them with a little distance to the actual scene. Seems to help me judge the image as an image rather than a record of the original event.

I'm glad to read that I'm not the only one who is back to the roots of photography. I started again developping my films and it's fun. But black and white only. Color goes to a professional lab in Germany, 48 h later it's back and excellent in quality.
I own a coolscan V too but bought a flatbedscanner for proofs and it's convinient enough. For the best pictures I run the coolscan but this are only a few. Not to much work.
After more than 5 years with digital I got an better eye for what film is worth and know the differences between the two medias better.

Christine Bogan, Berlin

Morning Gordon,

Okay, so the "problem" is the "time" it takes to process a B&W film and then to produce contacts or a proof sheet. Really, are we that time-poor now days that a couple of hours a day we see as really inconvenient, is there a programme on TV we would rather be watching or do we need to go 'check' our emails, again? Many years ago [too many to admit to publicly] I had a local chemist [drugstore in the US] processing my B&W films and then the 'processor' lost a roll [127 format, yes, lots of really good, brilliant images, well I thought so, of a P51D that visited our local airport]. I was devastated [that happens when you are only 14]. So, being the sort of person that he was, the chemist showed me how easy it was to process my own B&W film. I have since that time always processed my own B&W, usually within an hour I can set-up, load, process, into the wash [nowdays I go and have a cup of coffee, I'm still allowed to do that.] come back about half an hour later, hang them up to dry, [that has taken me an hour and a half!] come back the next day - cut them up & contact them. Here is the question: Edward Weston didn't use an enlarger, so, what did he use? Answer: a contact frame and a light bulb. Sort out your work flow people, and use the KISS principle. You don't need a lot of space, just a cupboard, to process and contact a roll of film regardless of wether it is 35mm or 120. I can also remember, easily that it used to take an entire WEEK for colour work to come back, no-one complained then, they just accepted that it took that long.

Mike B.
[ Keep posting, moderating, winding us up, Gordon ]

Hi Gordon,
I still shoot 35mm half-frame B&W. Twice the headache to scan. The solution I'm working on is using my 10mp DSLR as a negative copy setup. Once I get the light source and magnification ratio right then it's just advancing the frame and exposing. I'm using a Vivitar 55mm f2.8 macro in M42 mount on an adapter for my E-410. The lens will focus to 1:1 and I can fill the frame at a 1:1.3 ratio. Preliminary tests are encouraging. With your Pentax DSLR PK mount it should not be hard to come up with macro lens that focuses close enough to fill the frame with a 24x36mm negative. The 6x6 format would be less magnification, although the aspect ratio is of course different. Might be worth a try and perhaps you already have a lens that will focus close enough?

I'm a hybrid shooter (both digi and analog). I love them both but have moved back to B&W film for certain things. When I was shooting a lot of B&W film in the olden days as they say, I very rarely did contact sheets. I would process the film, dry it, cut it and put into neg pages. After several decades of darkroom work I can read a neg pretty good so I just look at the neg pages and pick the one I want to either scan or print. It's actually faster than horsing around with Bridge or Lightroom to find the "right" image.

Lomography NYC Gallery Store - http://microsites.lomography.com/stores/gallery-stores/nyc

"Analogue is the future" is their slogan. :-)

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