How to Develop and Scan Your Film
To get you started. So by now you know camera bodies. You know what film goes with what camera bodies and you know how to meter. That's a lot of information. But there's one last step to that. If you were going to get beautiful film photo scans and film photo prints you have to understand the developing and the scanning process and your relationship with your lab. Because it's very important. So photo labs. We're gonna talk about that right now. So as a film photographer when you choose to work with a photo lab, I always tell people that is a very important decision. Because as film photographers, your photo lab is not just a vendor. They're your creative partner. And they're your creative partner because they have tremendous control over the final look of your image. If you've spent all this time figuring out what camera you want, getting to know your film stocks, choosing a good film stock, learning metering, metering properly, you don't want to just send it off to any lab because th...
ey then have so much control over what they can do with that. So here's an example of what I'm talking about. Same negative scanned by three different labs. Isn't that amazing? Yeah. That's all I'm gonna say about that. (laughs) Yeah.
So I have a question. Is that like one good lab and two bad labs? Or is it just like--
Well I don't know I think that's up to you.
I mean it really is just depending on your eye. I will say one of these labs was a drug store.
Okay. (everyone laughs)
I think that answered my question.
I mean I don't know if you can tell which one. (laughs) But isn't that fascinating?
And I love showing this example, especially to people who are learning film, because this really illustrates that point. The lab you work with is so important. Because if I were new to film and I were just starting and I did all this work and I tried really hard and I shot it and I got this back. I'd feel like I did something wrong. Whereas if I got this back, I'd be like, "You're awesome Sandra Coan, like way to go." So it really does make a huge difference. So here's another example. Now same negative, three different labs. These are all three professional labs. Like these are all three really good labs. They're all really good scans. But they're different. Do you see how they're like, the color hues are a little bit different. The brightness is a little bit different. So this is why I say it is so important to pick a good lab. Because the lab that you work with really does affect the look of your film. So what do you look for in a good lab then? So let's talk about that. How do you go out and find a good lab? Where do you even start? Oh, I just said that, what do you look for in a good lab? (everyone laughs) Where do you even start? So, when you're looking for a good lab, you want to just start by doing your research. So there's a few things you want to make sure that your lab does. And so, first of all, you want a lab that works with a high volume of film photographers. Now you don't need a lab that's exclusively film photographers, it is fine. Some of the best film labs out there also work with digital photographers and do digital printing and stuff. That's fine. But you do want a lab that works with a high volume of film photographers, because you want to make sure, A, that they have properly maintained chemicals, which is important in that developing process, right? Remember we talked earlier about your negative and taking time to make sure you have a properly exposed, good, dense negative. You also want to make sure that that negative has been handled properly, has been developed in good chemicals. All of that stuff is so important because that negative, it's like your raw image. That's really what it's all about. That's what you're creating when you're creating a photo, a film photo. So you want to make sure that you have a lab that is used to working with a lot of film photographers, because chances are they're going to have fresh chemicals, they're gonna test them, they're gonna be balanced. They're gonna have properly maintained equipment all of that stuff that's really important. You also want to make sure that you're working with a lab that has well trained technicians. What scan technicians can do is amazing. First of all a scan technician doesn't have the controls that we have when we're using like Photoshop or Lightroom, like they're literally just a number of buttons that they can control and that is it. They control overall color hue, they balance that. They control brightness levels, they can control that. But a well trained lab technician even with that kind of real limited, narrowness of what they have to work with, can work magic. So remember this example. So, perhaps this lab technician just didn't understand how to adjust brightness on the scanner. That could be. Maybe they just actually really like the way this looked. That could be, too. I mean when you're working with a lab, whoever is scanning your image, they're interpreting your negative a lot of times to what they like, what works with their eye. So you want to make sure that you have a good lab, well trained technicians, they know what to do. But also a lab that you can communicate with and that understands how to take direction on what you like. By the way you guys, I keep bringing up the intro to film class, but we go deep into this in the intro to film class, 'cause it's really fascinating when you look at all the different controls that scanners do and what they do and how they control that, it's amazing. So the other thing that you want to look for in a lab is you want to know what kind of scanning equipment they're using. So what's great about being a film photographer nowadays is that you can go off you can shoot the cool camera, they're so fun, they're so beautiful. You can choose your film stocks, you can have that analog experience, do it right in camera. But you can still get the digital scans, the negative scans. So I always tell people it's kind of the best of both worlds. And I love that. The equipment, the scanner that your neg is scanned on also has a huge effect on the, the image that you're working with. So two scanners out there. There's Noritsu and there's Frontier. They are both professional grade scanners. They both do really beautiful work. But again they're different. So a Noritsu tends to have kind of more muted black, so it gives it kind of of a less contrast-y look. There's differences in the magentas. I mean the differences are there, they're subtle. And it's really just a matter of preference what you like. You can see the differences there. I like things kind of soft. I like things not very contrast-y. I tend to be a Noritsu girl. I'm all like Fuji film and Noritsu all day long, that's what I do. But that said there are a lot of film photographers whose work I love and I admire and they swear by Frontier. It's like the difference I've heard it referred to as like the difference between Coke or Pepsi. So it really just depends on you and what your taste is. What I recommend is when you're first starting with a lab, first of all, look and see what kind of scanners that they have. And then send in a roll and ask them to scan a couple frames from that roll on both a Noritsu and a Frontier. So you can get an idea of your work and what your work looks like on a Frontier or on Noritsu and decide what you like best for yourself.