How To Find The Right Lab


Film Photography with Strobe Lighting


Lesson Info

How To Find The Right Lab

Labs are really important, okay? (laughs) That's the take away. So how do you find the lab that's right for you? Well, it's just about doing research. Go in. Do a little Google search, the Google, on professional photo labs. You can find a bunch. Visit their websites. Read about, you know, what their philosophy is. Do they work primarily with film photographers? What kind of equipment do they have? Are they Frontier or are they Frontier and Noritsu? Check all that stuff out. All that stuff is really, really important and it's also going to tell you whether or not this is a lab that works primarily with film photographers. Look at their work. Go on their Instagram feed, check out their work. Is it consistently good? If, you know, if you're looking at a lab and some of the images look okay and then all of a sudden doesn't and then it's kind of all over the place then, you know, it might not be the best lab for you. But if you're looking at their work and they're sharing a lot of film ima...

ges all the time on their feed and they're consistently good, that's a really good sign. Check out who their clients are. I think it says a lot about a lab who their clients are. If your lab works with well known, reputable film photographers who do this all the time and have a good reputation and they trust their work with that lab, that's also a good sign that you're with a good lab. Once you've done your research and you're like okay, I'm ready to like check this lab out, I want to take it to the next step, introduce yourself. I always laugh at myself a little when I get to this point because when I said this in the inter class I get to this point about like do your research, you know, introduce yourself and I feel like I'm talking about online dating but it's kind of the same rules apply. I mean not that I've ever done online dating, 'cause I haven't, but I would imagine. But it's the same kind of thing, it's like you're building a relationship with these people, these are your creative partner, so introduce yourself. Just take a minute to just write them an email and say hey, my name is so and so and I'm sending you my work for the first time, I'm excited to try your lab. And then at that point you want to communicate your preferences so this is what I like, I shoot this kind of film, I'm a studio photographer, I'm a street photographer, I'm a wedding photographer, whatever, I like this look, I like things to be a little softer, a little brighter, a little more dramatic, whatever it is that you like. I'm a Noritsu, I'm a Frontier, whatever you like. Whatever it is that you want your images to look like communicate that to your lab. You know, ask them I like my black and white to be scanned for the highlights or I like my black and white to be scanned for the shadows or whatever it is. But all of that information, the more the better. Because at the end of the day labs are staffed by people and people can't read your mind. So they're just, if you send in your film without any kind of communication, they're just going to do their best to make it look pretty, but what that is to the person who's scanning it might be different than what that is for you. So it's a really important piece to communicate that. And then keep your lines of communication open even when things aren't great. So even if you get scans back, something went wrong, give them a call and say hey, what is up? These look crazy or these are off. And then they can tell you if it's a mistake they made and they can re-scan it or they can tell you if it's a mistake on your end. Maybe you accidentally underexposed, maybe there's something off with the negative. They can pull your negatives, they can look, they can give you feedback, which is really important and honestly it's just gonna make you a better photographer having that communication. So luckily in the United States here we actually have a lot of really great labs. So, any of these labs on this list, is going to meet the criteria that I just talked about. I've dated around with photo labs (laughs) and I finally decided that Richard Photo Lab is the lab for me, that's who I use. They're consistently great. But honestly, any of these labs is going to give you beautiful work, they're all well known, good reputation, reputable labs. And if you're outside of the United States definitely check out these two. Canadian Film Lab up in British Columbia, it's great, and Carmencita in Spain also does beautiful work and has a great reputation. So whatever lab you choose, make sure you're getting your film to your lab safely. I recommend that you put your film in a zip lock bag with some sort of a note that identifies who you are, your name and your address in case something were to happen and that bag were to come out of your box. I recommend that you always, always, always ship your film in a box and tape it up. I've heard crazy horror stories about people just throwing film in like an envelope or something and it getting crushed or the envelope getting ripped or getting wet, I mean, you just don't want to take those chances. At the end of the day, film is expensive. And shooting film and being a film photographer is an investment and it's an investment in your art so take care of it every step of the way and that includes shipping it off to your lab, do it safely. What is the time versus digital from the first step to sending the film to the lab, some of the stuff, until the client get all the product? Oh that is a great question. It really depends on the lab and it depends on the time of year. So sometimes labs have busy seasons just like we do. Wedding season obviously is a busy season. The holidays are a busy season. And so when they're getting a lot of film in it it can take longer versus in the like winter when it's not quite as busy. I know with Richard Photo Lab, it will vary depending on year. I've gotten scans back in 24 hours, 48 hours, and I've gotten scans back in five business days. They've never been longer than that. And, you know, it's interesting that you've asked that because I have clients who've been with me, I've been in business for 17 years, I have clients who have been with me that entire time. Like I've photographed their maternity photos and now I'm photographing their kids senior portraits. So these people have been with me when I started in film and when I went to digital and then when I went back to film and I have one client who has been with me for a long, I think probably eight years or so now, and we just did her photo session, I shot it all on film, and she sent me back an email because she said, you know, I have to tell you this, since you've gone to film your turnaround times are faster, like it's faster than digital. So part of that is because I really hated sitting in front of my computer with digital and so I didn't want to sit down and (mumbles), to even send out to be processed. But part of that is is because I'm working with a really great lab. So even though I'm taking the photos, packing them up, shipping them off, then they're printing, I'm usually getting my work, it's never later than two weeks, yeah. Usually five days or so. And then because film is so consistent because I work with studio light and my work is so consistent, I have little to no edits like that I'll do. I mean you guys, most of the photos that you even saw in the kino today were just straight scans. I've not edited them at all. So what I do for my clients is I get those in, I rename them, I upload them to a client gallery and I'm done, that's it, it's amazing. So yeah, turnaround times are fast, processing time is fast. It's kind of great (laughs) but that's a really good question. So again, it's gonna depend on time of year, it's gonna depend on lab. But that's something you could ask your lab for sure. You guys, we're at the end of the day. So let's just talk about what we learned today and what I hope that you got. I know this was a lot of information and again I know that it can feel scary when you're shooting blind and you're trying something new but what I hope you got is that light is light, okay? If you can do this with a window, and I know you all can, I'm pretty sure there isn't anybody out there who's never shot with window light, okay. So if you can do it with a window you can totally do it with strobes and a soft box. The same rules apply, light is light, okay? I hope you know now that all your film gear is 100% compatible with your strobes. You might just have to figure out how to get it to work at first but it is doable, there's always a way. The power and distance of your light affects the brightness and softness of that light on your image. I want you to take away that big modifiers equal soft, defused shadows, and small modifiers equal sharp, defined shadows. So think about that when you're approaching your work. Think about what you want your work to look like and then you can use, knowing that, into making your decisions on what kind of modifiers you're gonna get, on what kind of modifiers you're gonna use. And then I also want you to remember that the shape of your modifier will affect those catch lights in your eye and that's really important, especially if you're a portrait photographer. The square modifiers are gonna make a square catch light, round modifiers are gonna make a round catch light. And so you can use that depending on the kind of work you do. If you work inside primarily you might want something that's gonna give you more of a square catch light, if you work outside you might want something that's gonna give you a more round catch light. What I really hope, the most important part of this, the take away, is that you've totally got this, okay? It is really not that hard. Just do it, trust the process, feel silly, get stuck inside of a soft box occasionally (laughs), it's okay, you've totally got this. Please go out and make your own light. It's just your own portable window so have fun with it. Obviously this process isn't necessarily for every photographer and not necessarily for every client, do you spend a lot of time prepping them for this process? Oh, my clients? Yes. Oh that is a great question. So I guess, I mean I guess in a way yes or no. That's about marketing, right, that's about your brand. So my clients generally don't necessarily know that I shoot film. Like if you were to come to my website just to look at my portfolio or you go to Instagram and just look at my portfolio, I get a lot of clients who come in who don't know that I shoot film and who don't know that I use studio lighting. But really it's, at that point, it's not about educating them because it doesn't matter. What they do know is that I take photos that they like, that are consistent and that are pretty and that they want that. And I can guarantee that I'm gonna give that to them. So I don't necessarily go on and say, hey friends, this is my process and I'm gonna shoot with this and we're gonna have this all set up and we're gonna do this but I do post, share, market beautiful, consistent images so that's what I'm hoping my clients are coming to me for. Does that make sense? So it's all about kind of branding piece. But I think, I don't know, I do think every once in a while I'll have somebody come in who's come in specifically because I shoot film. If you guys do want to follow me, if you do want to see more of my work, if you just want a little inspiration on what studio lighting look like, you can always follow me at Instagram, I try to post something everyday and I often times in my stories will post behind the scenes stuff so I'll show you what my lighting looks like, what my setups look like, what I'm doing in studio. You can also visit my website. I have a separate area specifically for photographers called For Photographers (laughs) where I have a blog and I talk a lot about, a lot of blog posts about studio lighting and different setups and things that I do. I'll post videos of working in the studio so you can see behind the scenes and I'll also answer questions there. So I get a lot of emails or sometimes I get a lot of questions on social media, either on my Instagram feed or with a direct message. And so I try to take those questions and turn them into blog posts or turn them into videos and answer questions for people in that way. So it's a really good resource if you're interested in studio lighting and film, and I bet you are 'cause you're here. So another great place, if you're interested in just inspiration, you just want to see what other people are doing. I run a blog called Little Bellows and we feature work of other film photographers and we share what other people are doing and then again I also have some educational pieces there talking about film and metering and film stocks and cameras and all that kind of stuff. So this is another really great resource. And then if you're interested in business and the business side of things because maybe you're a professional photographer, I have, I ran a website with a good friend of mine, Elena Blaire, who's also a professional photographer, and we teach business to other professional photographers. So if you have questions about marketing or pricing or all those things that photographers have questions about, getting clients, all that kind of stuff, we have a lot of really great resources on this website. You can sign up for some newsletters and some free bonuses and we also have a blog there where we post all this stuff. And I know it's called Lady Boss Workshops but if you're a man, you are also welcome, okay? We want to help everybody, we love everybody. If you're a man, you are also welcome, okay? We want to help everybody, we love everybody.

Class Description

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.


a Creativelive Student

Wow! with a lot of online stuff out there one can become rather overcome with too much information, however, the way Sandra presents her courses is just perfect! Her honest and simple and easy to understand approach was just what I needed. Not once did I think she was just going through the motions, she really loves what she does and it shows. To be able to rewatch and rewatch was also a key for me. Since I have dyslexia I have to take things one half step at a. time. After completion of the class I had a new found confidence when using strobes. A must have.

Micah Hewett Images

Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!

Gabby de Janasz

Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!