Skip to main content

Know Your Lab

Lesson 16 from: Introduction to Film Photography

Sandra Coan

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

16. Know Your Lab

Lesson Info

Know Your Lab

We've learned know your light, we know about metering, uh, we've learned about film stocks, know your film. Now we're gonna get into know your lab. And, um, labs are hugely important. Okay, you guys. I always tell people, when you are choosing your film lab as a film photographer, you are choosing a creative partner. The amount of control that a film lab and film technicians, scan technicians have over the look of your film is kind of amazing. It's a lot. So, it's just as important as knowing your light, understanding good metering. It's just as important as choosing the right film stock, that, to create the look that you want. That know your lab part, the film lab, will have just as much influence on the final look of your image as those other things. So, check this out, here's an example. This is what I mean. So this is the same negative, exact same negative, scanned by three different labs. Isn't that amazing? Woah, right? And again, same negative scanned by three different labs. Ye...

ah. Pretty, pretty amazing. So, this is what I'm talking about. So, the lab that you're using, um, the person behind the scanner, all of that has so, like, such influence on the final look of your image. So, with this one here, these were two professional labs and just a drug store. Anyone wanna take a guess on which one was the drug store? (laughter) Just throwing it out there. But even with this, these are three really great, professional labs. And these are all fine scans in and of themselves, but they're really really different. Yeah? Amy? Did you give them instruction, or just let them do their thing? Nope. Yeah, these were just sending in the film, and just seeing. So, somebody asked me here at Creative Labs last week like, how did I do this? Why did I even do this? This is the kind of research I started doing when I decided I was gonna go back to film when I was trying to find my film lab. Um, so what I did was I shot a roll, and I just kept sending that same negative out, just to see the differences. What's really amazing about this, though, is that you could even have the same lab, and get a slightly different look from the same lab each time. So, not only is it important that you choose your lab really well and wisely, but also that you really communicate what your preferences are. Because like I said, these are all fine negatives. This is portrait 800, right? We talked about how portrait 800 can kinda be a little pink, it can be a little yellow, it can be scanned a lot of different ways, and you really see that here, right? Like this one definitely has more yellow tones. This one's cooler. So, what's amazing is it's really up to the person, that scan technician who is looking at your film, it has a lot to do with what they like, what their preferences are, if you don't give them any kind of direction. And they can scan to what their eye likes, which might not be what your eye likes. So, it's a really important decision.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Discount Codes from Richard Photo Lab
Studio Gear List
Great Photo Labs
Black & White Film Stock Exposure Tests
Color Film Stock Exposure Tests
Noritsu Frontier Comparison

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Sandra is a gifted teacher!!! I've been following her work for years and know what an incredible photographer she is - but to be able to teach the way she does is truly a rare gift! I've been shooting film on and off for years and was amazed at how much I could still learn from Sandra's class. She presented the information in a way that was so easy to follow that you couldn't wait to get started. It's wonderful to learn from someone who is clearly passionate about their craft - but who is also excited for others to succeed at what they're teaching.


Amy could not have said it better in her review of this class! I am also a film shooter (have been shooting film personally for 8 years and professionally for 4) and even as someone who understands a lot of what Sandra was talking about, I STILL found this class to be incredibly helpful and learned a lot. Sandra is such a great teacher and an inspiration to so many film photographers. Great class! Thanks Sandra and Creative Live for putting this together for us.


Sandra is not only an insanely talented photographer but she's a gifted teacher. I've been shooting film for weddings and portraits for 5 years and even studied it in photography school so I'm not new to film by any means. But I've allowed myself to be so intimated to create portraits with film using strobes for far too long. But not anymore. I'll be 100% honest when I say that the information she teaches in this course, to a seasoned COMMERCIAL photographer mind you, may be insanely simple. But that's the beauty of it!!! There is no reason to over complicate shooting film with strobes. It's the simplicity and straight forward, clear as day information that Sandra teaches that's essential to rejuvenate today's overly 'tech obsessed' world. Film is alive and well! Sandra's course is gold when it comes to getting that appreciation for our craft back! I'm jazzed and ready to slow my roll down! Thank you, Sandra and CL! The value of this class is far more than that of the strobe kit I finally invested in (HOURS after the class!). : )

Student Work