How To Safely Ship Film
Hello friends. I've heard so many horror stories of people sending their film into their lab and something going wrong. Package ripping open, film being lost in the mail, I mean, the stuff of nightmares, right? (laughs) I would have, like, I would die a thousand deaths if something like that happened to me. So, I think about this, and, to, kind of, guard against it there's a few things that I do when I'm sending my film in to make sure that it's getting to the lab safely, and without any problems or any damage. So let me show you what I do. I have my pretend film here. So, most of the time every film, every lab is different. But most of the time when you place an order with a film lab they have some sort of online system where you add in your name, you add in how many rolls you're sending, you know, all that kinda stuff. That's what Richard Photo Lab does. Anyway, and, when you're done, this is my little-- think I'm just gonna cover up my client name. So, when you're done filling all t...
hat out online you print a packing slip like this that has your order number, it has your address, it has your name, and how many rolls of film you're sending to the lab, and what kind of film. And this is what I do, so, I send this in with my film because it has the order number, so the film, the film lab, gets it and they're already expecting it and they can keep track of it. But what I also like about this is that it has my name on it and it has my address on it, so if, God forbid, somehow my packing slip and film were to separate itself from the box that I'm sending it in (laughs) my hope would be that this film would come back to me in some way 'cause my address is on it. So, whenever shipping film, check one, make sure that your name and your return address is somehow attached with that film, I think it's really important. The second thing I wanna do, I always fold up my order form and then I put my order form with my name and my address and my film in a Ziploc bag. So, again, just in case, God forbid, something were to happen, this film is all nice in here together. I've heard horror stories, you guys, of people sending film in like, an envelope, and the envelope ripping, and the film falling out, and, like, where did it go? You don't know, don't do that! (laughs) Make sure it's all together, okay? You think of worst case scenarios, this is important stuff. So, I put mine in a bag, and then I fold it up, and then, I always, always, always, always always ship to the lab in a box, always, in case I didn't say that. The reason is because you don't know what happens once your film leaves your hands. It gets jostled around, it gets bumped around. You don't want film to get squished or squashed. You don't want packages to get ripped and film falling, fall out. Like, you don't want any of that to happen, so you make sure that it's in a bag, it's all together, your name, your address is on there, and then I put it in a box. And I use these little priority mail boxes that you can get for free from the post office. They're great, they're super sturdy. And then I just put my film in there, and then, because I'm super paranoid, it comes with this little strip, you know, that you can take off and seal your box, I then close up my box, take the strip off, and then I tape it (laughs). Like crazy, 'cause I don't, again, I don't want anything, like, this film is precious, this is it, there's no back up when it's in this state, right? So, I tape it, I make sure everything's in there, and then I send it, either, priority mail, so it's guaranteed two, you know, two to three days if I'm sending it US post, or I send it, like, FedEx. Make sure you keep a tracking number. I have had things go wrong in the past. I had, once, somehow, I was probably just being spacey, and I wrote down the wrong zip code, and so my film kinda got lost in the world for a little while, which was very scary. But I was able to watch it, I had my tracking, and I was able to watch it and they figured it out, and then it went on its way. So definitely keep it in a box, keep it all together, and, get a tracking number. Just make sure it's safe, right, you don't wanna take the cheap end when you've gone to all this time and expense to buy the film, you have the equipment, you're working on your film stocks, you've got good meter, you've got everything right, and then you lose it in translation, that would be really sad, right? So just, really take your time. All that said, (knocks on glass table), this isn't wood, but I'm gonna knock on it anyway (knock), I have never lost film going to the lab. So, I feel pretty confident doing this. Yes?
My question is about cropping, you cropping your image yourself, or the lab crop for you?
Oh, cropping! Okay, post-production, that's a great, great question. And I actually get this all the time, so, I shoot film because I wanna do it as much in camera as possible, but I also make mistakes. There are times when I have to edit my images. I work with newborns, sometimes they have little baby acne, or whatever, I sometimes will shoot crooked, ruh roh. So, yeah, I do that, so that's the great thing about film, too, is that it's kind of the best thing of all worlds, right, because you get to shoot it in camera, it's nice and easy, and you're done, right? You get the scans back, they're beautiful, but, if you need to, you can, you have a digital scan, and at that point it's just a jpeg, so you can pull it into Lightroom, you can pull it into Photoshop, do whatever you need to. So I will go in, I'll straighten sometimes, I'll crop if I need to, I'll do some small edits, you know, like, take things out, I have these light fixture things on the walls of my studio that somehow make it into every single picture I have (laughs) so I can just go in there and take 'em out, it's super easy. All that said, though, my post-production time, since I've gone to shooting film has gone from hours to minutes, I'm not even kidding. And I wasn't even doing my own post-production. But in the past, I would cull my images, it would take hours. Now I get my scans, my color is always spot on, my skin tones are always spot on. A lot of the work you've seen today, those are straight scans, those are just taken from the lab and put on the keynote. So, if I do edit it's, they're small edits, and so, it takes me minutes. Like, I can go through it and edit an entire newborn session in like, five to 10 minutes. Which is kind of awesome. And I love it. But yeah, you can totally edit them, you can crop, you can do whatever you want to 'em, it's just a jpeg at that point. I think the nice thing about shooting film is that you don't necessarily have to. You know, if you get really disciplined, so, you're talking about cropping, you know, you can crop in camera, you can, it'll, you'll see it'll really start to change the way you shoot. It'll change the way you see light, it'll change the way you look at composition, and you really get so much better at doing it all in camera that it will also, like, translate to your digital work. I feel like I'm a much better digital photographer, when I do pick up a digital camera, because I shoot film. And now, mistakes I used to make with my digital camera, I can still make 'em, but not as much, like, I'm a slower shooter, I'm a more thoughtful shooter, I understand light better. I mean, all those things that I have learned from shooting film have definitely come into my digital work, and as a result, I don't have to change things, or edit things as much. Although, I don't like the tones I get with film, I mean, with digital, so, I'm spoiled by those film tones. Did you have a question?
This is kind of a comprehensive, overall question, but,
Okay, bring it,
You've talked about, you've talked a lot about process and you have a pretty well-researched process. Let's say somebody wants to change or hone their style in terms of how they're shooting photography. Where would you say the best place is to start with changing, either, how you're shooting the pictures, or with the lab, or, where would you start with that? And then, how would you go through that process of changing and honing your photography?
That's a great question. I kinda feel like I went through that because there was a way that I shot, back in the early days of my career, and then I moved to digital, and it's almost like I had to relearn how to take pictures because what I had done with my film cameras didn't work with my digital cameras, and so I had to learn the whole process, and in doing so, it kinda changed my style a little bit. I shot a lot more black and white when I was shooting digital because I'm really bad at color processing (laughs) and I couldn't get it to look the way I wanted it to, so I shot black and white. And then, when I started shooting film again, again, that look changed. We talked about how I really feel like I found my voice when I started shooting film. Like once I decided to come back to that, that process of, okay, who am I, what is my work, what is my point of view, what do I like, it kinda just took care of itself, but it happened really fast. Because what you, you're just naturally drawn to things. You're gonna be naturally drawn to things, you're gonna start to have preferences, and, like, for film stocks, example, the more you get familiar shooting with the film stock the more you're just gonna automatically grab it 'cause you know what it goes, like, what it does, and how it can work for you, and it all just kinda starts this evolution that will change your work. So, the work I'm shooting now I feel like is like the truest to me and the kind of work that I love, like the most authentic to me in like a real world, not like hashtag authentic, but like, for real, that I've ever done, and, I feel like, I don't even know if that was intentional. It just kinda, like, it kinda led me there, does that make sense? This is very woo woo, this is a very (laughs)-- Just follow the light. No, but I think that's kind of the way to start. I always tell people when starting with film choose a camera, choose a stock. It doesn't have to be your camera, and it doesn't have to be your stock forever, but that consistency, the more you get, the more you're not trying to fuss, and, this camera feels weird, or it feels different, and what am I gonna do? And the less you're thinking about that because you're familiar with it, the more you can focus on the other things and that'll help you learn and help you fine tune your style and your voice. And then, if you're like, if this isn't working for me, move on. I have a Hasselblad 503, which is an amazing camera. It's that beautiful, square, six by six camera, and I was like, I'm gonna, I've always wanted the Hasselblad, I'm gonna get it, like, what, so exciting! And there was something about it, I just couldn't, I mean, we just don't work well together. Whereas, I shoot my Rolleiflex, also six by six, the images are technically the same, but I friggin' love that camera, like, wanna just, like, wear it like a necklace every day, like, I'm obsessed with it. And we work together really well, so, I mean, it's kind of, I don't know, I think you just, kind of, figure all that kind of stuff out, and try it out. Good news is you can buy cameras like a Hasselblad and a Rolleiflex, and they're not gonna cost you what they used to. Like, when I was, when I started my business in the late 90s, early oughts, you know, like, there's now way I could've bought a Hasselblad. It was totally out of my price range, but now I can. You know, because things have changed, so that's the other great thing about film photography is that this equipment that's beautiful, I mean they used to build cameras that lasted forever, you know, and now it's available at a much more reasonable rate. So anyway, to answer your question in a very long winded way I think you just kinda work through it and, eventually, that kind of evolves. Start with film and camera, and just kinda build from there. Definitely. Good question, though.
Yeah, thank you for that.
So, another question, back to the scanning, the question is, for your clients, are you always getting large scans, versus medium scans, versus small, and then, part two of that is when you are getting prints, say, for clients, are those coming from the negatives themselves, or from the scans?
Scan. That is a super good question! So, every lab is different with their scan sizes. Again, I work with Richard Photo Lab, so I know what they do, and they have a small scan, a medium scan, and a large scan. I always get the medium scans, and I have found that those scans are plenty big enough for everything. I print work for my clients, you know, 24 by, you know, just, giant, you know, big, like, images like this, and I do those all off of those medium scans, so I don't feel like I need, have a need for a large scan, I mean, maybe if I was doing something like this big, I would, but for me, medium scans work for my work. I would say for most people medium scans are gonna work. And, again, it depends on the lab, that means something different depending on which lab, so definitely talk to your lab about it, ask them. As far as printing, I get my digital files, and at that point I just treat 'em like a jpeg, right, so when my clients purchase digital files with their package they get those jpegs, that I've, you know, that I've, then, done my edits to. I mostly just rename them, and upload them. And then, any printing I do off of that, so, I make client albums, you know, all the stuff photography studios do, so, client albums, or prints, or all of that, those all come, are printed off of those scans.
Great. Beach-da-ba-rai asked, how many rolls do you usually shoot--
Yeah, that's a great question. So, I think bringing up some business things when you're talking about a film photography class is totally legit because film is expensive, and if you are shooting it for your job, you, like anything you're doing for your job, you need to be smart about it. So, overshooting is something that I really trained myself to stop doing, it was a bad habit I'd gotten into when I was shooting digitally that I don't do anymore. And so, I shoot 120, and, again, I shoot on a Rolleiflex, and on a Contax 645, and a Hasselblad 645. So, depending on which camera, I'm getting between 12 and 16 exposures per roll of film, so, not a lot. And I will do an entire session on three to four rolls of film. So, and I feel comfortable doing, like, a newborn session with the family, and the sibling. I mean, if they come in with the grandparents, and the aunt and uncles, there's all these people, we might bump it up to five rolls, but usually I'm between three and four. And I've built all of that into my business, into my, you know, my pricing, and all of that.
This is from Shan, do you have a print lab that you are using for film, and an album lab? Are they the same lab? Is that something that you get into?
Yeah, so, it just, again, it depends on your lab. So, Richard Photo Lab does have a row system, and then, they do prints, so what I do with my packages is all my clients get a complimentary set of proof prints that I just order through the lab, so I do everything through them, which is great.