Sep 8, 2018623 views

Shooting Film: developing, printing, & scanning

I'm just getting into film and picked up a couple of toy cameras the other week. I decided to start with lomography because I think a lot of the beauty is in the light leaks and other imperfections. I just shot my first test roll of film and got it developed and printed.

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Left: commute to work | Middle: day in SF | Right: commute home

Waiting to get prints back is like waiting for Christmas morning! I had a lot of fun with this and really like how some of the images came out.
Getting this one roll of film developed and printed cost ~$19. I would really like to explore this more, but this could get pricey pretty quickly. I looked into negative scanners and ended up buying one because it had a 4.5 star rating and was under $100.
I scanned my negatives and noticed a lot of variance in how they were scanning. Here's an example with one of the images from above. Comparing all of these, the print version is my favorite.
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Even though the negative scanner didn't produce my favorite images, I did like that it allowed me more control over the framing of my images, and it allowed me to create some unique images that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
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I'm just getting started and I have a bunch of questions:
- Do you have any tips/tricks/hacks for shooting film on a budget?
- Would love to hear your experience with negative scanners. Did I make a crappy impulse buy? Am I using it wrong? Is there one that you like that is tried & true?
- Are there services online that you like where you can mail film in to get it developed? If you've used any of these services, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Please feel free to share any other tips you think may be useful!
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Eric Dean, Greg Drew, and 26 others
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I've been shooting film since childhood and I bought an Epson V600 scanner ($200 new but I paid $100 b/c I had gift cards) in January for the same reasons you mentioned - the cost of having film professionally developed and scanned is a bit steep for a career-transitioning hobbyist and it was keeping me from shooting as much as I'd like to. I know several professional wedding photographers who drop more than I make in a year on film processing, which makes sense for a self-employed individual who can pass the cost on to the client for the necessary money-time tradeoff. It's well worth it, but isn't within everyone's budget.
I also develop my own film. It's not as difficult as it may seem and once you've got past the startup cost of buying all the necessary equipment, it's more affordable than sending off to a lab. It just takes more time. Sending your film to a lab or developing and scanning yourself is more a money-time tradeoff than anything else. Whichever one makes sense for you is going to depend on which of the two you have more of. And whether you find such a thing rewarding or just a chore. And how annoyed your roommates may or may not get with your constant hanging strips of film from the shower curtain rod to dry.
At first, with my Epson, I had the same issues you had with scans coming out with wildly varying color balances. I've since learned that to make my scans consistent, I must avoid as many automated scanner settings as possible. I manually adjust the input and output levels of each frame to capture the full dynamic range of the negative and leave the rest alone - absolutely zero white balance or color adjustments. This has given me much more consistent results.
I also save my scans as TIFF files for maximum flexibility in editing and aim for a flat scan that captures all the data I need instead of having a good looking scan in the first place. Then I edit the scans the same way I would any raw file in Lightroom. There's a learning curve for sure, but once you've figured out how to get consistent results out of your scanner, and how to pull the exact look you want out of those files, you'll be surprised how close you can get to the quality of professional lab processing with a dinky $150-200 scanner.
So my quick tips would be: - Use as few color adjustment settings on your scanner as possible. - Use your scanning software's histogram/levels adjustments to create a flat file with no clipping in the highlights and shadows. It may look dull and gray but that's what makes the file highly editable. - Save as a lossless format such as TIFF rather than a compressed format like JPEG. Achieve the look you want in post, not in the scanning software. Then save the edited file in whatever format and resolution you prefer. - Consider shooting medium format if your scanner can handle it. 35mm negatives push the limits of the resolving power in flatbed scanners. It's much easier to get great sharpness out of larger negatives. - Always reference photos you like the look of when editing. It's easy to make a small adjustment and be tricked into thinking you've gone far enough just because it looks drastically better than it used to. Editing is tricky that way. - Get tons of practice. You'll find your own best practices by experimenting. - Don't sleep on black and white. It's much less hassle to develop at home than color negative, grayscale files are smaller and scan more quickly than color files, and giant prints of gritty b/w medium format negatives look amazing.
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Mamiya C3, 80mm f/2.8, 120 Ilford Delta 3200 [under]developed in Caffenol, scanned on Epson V600
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Mamiya RZ67, 110mm f/2.8, expired 220 Kodak Portra 400 developed in C-41 press kit, scanned on Epson V600
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Nikon FG, 50mm f/1.8 Series E, 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in Caffenol, scanned on Epson V600
For the best experience of the photography print which you can also get those kind of knowledge form the help of the https://canonsupportnumber.org/ - Canon support for the entire process which is involve for the best quality printing option of that.
Just like you i've gotton into film photoraphy. I bought my Cannon Ae-1 from ebay for 70 dollars (Canaidan) And I love it soooo much. Im 17 and money is always short but the film camera has made me more happy with my hobby. Film photography these dayts is one of those things where you cannot use Film as your daily runner, but more like an artistic tool to help capture somthing in specific. Going out into the field in hopes that somthing interesting may happen is when I would want a digital (Somthing I dont own because theyre soo expensive)
my canoscan 9000f has been my workhorse for scanning negatives (my new shots and archiving my grandparents' original prints and negatives). the process is time consuming but the resolution makes the effort worthwile. the best way to get the most out of this process is to use either silverfast or vuescan software. these programs have different versions depending on what hardware youre using, each is tailored to the color profile of your scanner. you can also select which type of film youre using, which usually fixes the color perfectly, or you can scan the negative raw and import it to lightroom and adjust the color in the raw import dialogue... then adobe ps or lr to fine tune and thats my workflow: canoscan 9000f > vuescan > lightroom/photoshop.
stuckfaller
ps ive only developed my own b&w prints, because developing color is much harder..... color i still send do a photolab and i scan the negatives they develop
Do you live near a college that still has a darkroom or a community photography club that has a darkroom? I have taken continuing education B&W photo classes that include a darkroom access in order to develop my rolls of film. Also since I live in a city that has several art colleges I have been able to have rolls of film developed for nominal costs.
__________________________________ "Do you have any tips/tricks/hacks for shooting film on a budget? " __________________________________ Film cameras and film stock can be purchased on a budget. When I first dived into film - I found a point & shoot Canon 85 zoom for $12 and used a $3 roll of Color Plus 200 I didn't want to spend too much on my first endeavor. However Processing + Scanning (if you choose to not do it yourself) will add up overtime. My first roll of film was sent to Darkroom Labs for processing and scanning for $20 (including shipping). Total for my first roll of film - $35. If you do choose to process and scan yourself - B&W film is easier to process at home (but you will need up front costs for all materials) Scanning negatives at home will also save you money but eat up your time -it's a timely process, you may spend 15-20 minutes per image. __________________________________ "Would love to hear your experience with negative scanners. Did I make a crappy impulse buy? Am I using it wrong? Is there one that you like that is tried & true? " __________________________________ Some really good budget scanners are the Epson V550, V600 for very capable sub par under $200 scanners. Scanning quality will vary if you don't know what you're doing. The Epson scanning software is very good with digital ice feature but you will have to take your time to fine tune each scan if you're willing to invest the time. However there are other scanning software programs that will make it easier to fine tune your scans such as "Silver Fast" or "Vue Scan". But license of each software will range from $40-60. You can step up flat bed scanning by "wet scanning" - but there is a significant upfront cost for materials. However, there is a significant boost in quality + production time to set up each negative. Scanning negatives yourself will trade off time over money. You'll use most of your time but save yourself some money in the long term. It's a trade off you have to decide for yourself.
__________________________________ "Are there services online that you like where you can mail film in to get it developed? If you've used any of these services, I'd love to hear about your experience." __________________________________ I try to support my local labs when I can (processing usually costs $5 a roll) However, the labs I have tried online and trust are: The Darkroom Labs (https://thedarkroom.com/) Richard Photo Lab (http://www.richardphotolab.com/) The Darkroom Labs has awesome service and a very nice deliverable. However it's up to par in my experience with my local lab - I found this out after my first roll. I wasn't able to fine tune a look with them, they simply delivered nice scans- but I didn't have a say in how I want my photos to be delivered. Richard Photo Lab I trust with my most cherished rolls and professional work. Their customer service is superb and will have an open lane of communication with you to develop your "look". They take their time to fine tune your scanning deliverable to make sure it's what you want. Each scan is delivered equivalent to a 22mp photo. I am most happy with their service so far. However it costs $10 more per roll than The Darkroom (I supposed the extra cost is to make sure your images come out the way you want it). I spent $80 on 3 rolls from my last job.
Richard Photo lets your choose between having Frontier scans or Noritsu Scans. The difference is that Frontier is an older scanner and is more timely as they scan one photo at a time. Most traditional long term film photographers I have been told like this scanner better. But if you're like me and moving from digital to film, you'll like the Noritisu scans. This is my choice and they are able to scan more photos at once. Noritsu scans also deliver best scans for commercial use.
OVERALL- I have been a professional photographer for over 10 years primarily shooting digital. However I am gradually moving towards shooting film exclusively. I have an A7RII and RIII for my professional work and find it difficult these days to pick them up over my film cameras. It's a labor of love and if you're willing to invest your time and money into that love of photography I would strongly urge you to continue with this journey (in moderation). I have to admit, I think I moved too fast at times but that's the artist in me. You'll have to make that decision for yourself. But from my experience, I believe it's boosted my level of photography significantly since I picked up my first film camera. That's coming from an professional photographer with years of digital experience. Being that you only have 24-36 shots on 35mm rolls will force you not snap away happily like you would with digital. You have to think about your shot and consider your composition heavily since each photo you take costs money. In addition, learning and discovering different film stocks is really fun as well. There's a character and feeling I get from different stocks from Kodak, Fujifilm, Ilford and Cinestill that I never got from digital (even with film emulators using lightroom with vsco and others). Digital to me is more manufactured- however there's a soul to film photography that I think will open up a whole new world for you!
I am documenting my film journey/experience with a little youtube channel I made with my gf, if you're interested. Just look up "Adapt Analog" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDRngXI0Gro&t

It's not much, I just mainly show the photos I've taken and document who scans my photos. I'm in 2 quick videos so far. This first video shows the scans I received from Darkroom Labs with my test roll.
- Do you have any tips/tricks/hacks for shooting film on a budget? > Shooting film is already "on budget" compared to purchasing a digital camera. But how good the outcome is very subjective.
- Would love to hear your experience with negative scanners. Did I make a crappy impulse buy? Am I using it wrong? Is there one that you like that is tried & true? > I use Epson V700 and it still perform under Fuji Frontier at your nearest lab, in term of straight out of scan. Negative film have amber layer which makes it so hard to scan at home. You really need to learn the art of scanning itself.
- Are there services online that you like where you can mail film in to get it developed? If you've used any of these services, I'd love to hear about your experience. > indiefilmlab.com and thefindlab.com are the first two online lab that come to my mind if we talk about professional film developing and scanning. They do an OUTSTANDING service and output, of coure when shoot your rolls right. But if you want to continue playing on toycam field, I think using your nearest local lab is better option, but my advice is just to scan and print only the ones you like.
To scan negatives, you are better off with a light box and... wait for it... a digital camera with a macro lens. The trick is to take multiple shots of the negative, each at a slightly different center, then patch them together using magic, I mean software. That's how we are saving my families photos from the 60s to 80s. Here's a link: https://petapixel.com/2012/12/24/how-to-scan-your-film-using-a-digital-camera-and-macro-lens/
First bit of advice: don't shoot film. Yes it's trendy to say you do, but it's very expensive, and unless you do your own processing and printing you won't have complete control over the results and you're unlikely to get what you want out it.
Second bit of advice: get Adobe Lighroom Especially if you follow my first bit of advice, but even if you don't. Lightroom is how you control and overcome the issues you noted in your post above. So long as someone else is processing your film, your at their mercy. If you're having it done at a drugstore or big-box store, there is no mercy. If you have it done by a professional lab, that portion of the equation will be more consistent and you'll have solid foundation you can build on when you scan and move your work to a computer (for post processing in Lightroom).
Consider this, if you shoot a roll of 35mm, 36 exposure film with a manual SLR, your odds (really anybody's odds) of getting an acceptable level of "keepers," let alone great shots, are very limited. And because of the time it takes to have that roll processed and printed, your opportunity to correct anything that might have gone wrong, has usually vanished (certainly the moment has). With a decent digital camera, you can take as many shots as you like, experiment all you want, and see a pretty good version of what you've accomplished, right on the back of the camera--while you're still in sight of your subject. As you can imagine, It's very inconvenient to have to fly back to Paris to improve your exposure on that otherwise great shot of the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, n'es pas.?
Trust me, there's a reason George Eastman invented the Nikon D850, and it's entirely possible that reason was to make you, a really great photographer ;- )
Know whud 'ah mean, Vern?
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If you ever shoot film again, take your time and don't stress about it much. The funnest part is getting your negatives back after you developed a roll. It's all about learning to set up your composition. Meter for the shadows and take your shot. If you do have a bad photo and take the time to understand why it's bad, you're learning photography. I've been shooting digital for years and I feel that since starting to shoot film I always used digital as a crutch to get good photos because you're only capped by your memory card capacity. So it's more forgiving for bad images. Film forces you to become a better photographer. It's been around for more than 100 years being perfected with fundamental techniques developed along the way.
peteulatan
I shoot film all the time. I probably didn't express myself clearly...the 'stress' I'm referring to is the additional attention and care required to take good pictures with a film camera vs. digital, and I think the same thing as what you're touching on - film forces you to observe the fundamentals of photography in a way that digital doesn't, and it has definitely forced me to become a better photographer.
Funny enough, after I got home yesterday I went to look at my stockpile of film and realized I have 11 rolls that I need to get developed. That's gonna be costly, but I can't wait to see everything I've shot over the last 6 months!
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