How to Ship Film and Store Negatives
You've picked your film, picked your camera, you've metered properly, you've done your shoot, you've found your lab, you're ready to send it off. How then do you safely get your film to your lab? This is another question I get all the time, especially from my clients who are like, "Wait, you're gonna ship my film to California?" like, it can make people nervous. So I do just want to talk about that for a second. There's a few things that you want to know. When you are shipping your film, first thing you want to do is make sure you put your film in a plastic bag. So I always put my film in a plastic bag first for a couple of reasons. If the packaging I put it in gets wet or something, the film is going to be safe, right? I also always put an order form in with my film or a note that has my name and my address, so God forbid if something were to happen and my box get opened, and film were to fall out of the box I'm shipping it in, the film doesn't fall out 'cause it's in a nice, sealed b...
ag, and my information is with it. So in theory, it would come back to me. This is really important. So make sure that you have your film secured, and then always ship your film in a box, and you want to ship your film in a box because you want to protect it, right? I've heard so many horror stories about people putting their film in an envelope or, like, a padded envelope and having the envelope get ripped and film falling out, or it getting squashed, and then the lab opens the envelope and all the film is exposed. Film is expensive. You've just spent all this time working really hard to make sure you're doing it properly, so take care of it when you're shipping it. Make sure it's in a good, study box, and it's sealed in a bag, and it's safe, and it has your information with it. 'Kay? That's my little PSA for today. Then once your film comes back, you get your negatives back, then what do you do? How do you store your negatives? So you can ask your lab to cut and sleeve your negs, and when they do, they'll cut them. By the way, this is my son's film, so don't judge me for these super thin negatives, that was not my bad. But they'll cut them and they'll sleeve them for you, and what I do with mine is I actually keep them in a three ring binder. In the studio, I keep them like that, or I have these little sleeves that I can put them in. All you really need to know is you want to make sure that your negatives are kept in a cool, dark place. You don't want them exposed to a lot of heat. You don't want them exposed to a lot of light. So however you do that, if you want to put them in an acid-free box, in a fireproof safe, that's great, or if you just want to keep them in a nice acid-free box, sleeved, out of the sun, out of the heat, someplace dark and cool, then these are gonna last you forever. I recently got ahold of my dad's negatives from when he was photographing my brothers and I when we were babies and little kids, and just made a whole bunch of prints. Which I love that about film. It's like I can't open a file on the floppy disk that I used in college, maybe dating myself a little, but I can print still off of the negatives that my dad shot in 1971, and I think that's amazing. That's why I love it. It's a piece of history. It's gonna be with you forever. So take care of them, all right? And again, if you want to learn more, and I'm totally sure you do, then check out my Intro to Film Photography class here in the CreativeLive catalog. We really, we spent all day talking about this stuff, you guys. We get into a lot of detail about individual film stocks, the differences between the stocks. We look at color, we look at black and white. We get into more detail about metering. We talk about pushing film, which I didn't have a chance to talk about today. We get into more detail about what labs do and how they adjust color and brightness in a scan. It's a really good class, I think you'll like it. So definitely check that out. And the takeaway, you guys, this is what I hope you got from today, is that film is actually really easy. It really is, it's not scary, it's not complicated. Just make sure you're erring on the side of overexposure. Stop thinking like a digital photographer, start thinking like a film photographer. When you're metering for color film, meter for your shadows. And when you're metering for black and white film, make sure you meter for where you want your detail to be, either your highlights or your shadows. Remember that your lab is your creative partner, so make sure you're working with a good one. And just know, too, that as you go and as you learn, accidents are gonna happen. Some of my favorite images were accidents. I did this one wacky double exposure on accident once that I somehow ended up with both of my kids in the frame, and there was, like, all these light leaks. I mean, it's a complete disaster of a negative, but it ended up looking really cool. So accidents happen, that's okay. Just, oh, I just said that. That's okay! (laughs) Just learn from your mistakes. Take the time to learn from your mistakes, call your lab, have the conversation, and most importantly, just have fun. All right, film is fun. It should inspire you to go out and shoot again. If you want to, follow me to see some of my film work. You can follow me on Instagram, at sandracoan.com, and if you want some more tips and tricks for shooting film, I have a blog on my website, just for photographers, see that, (laughs) where I write blog posts about shooting film, and I share things that I'm doing in my studio and I answer questions. A lot of times I'll take questions that I get in from emails from people and I'll turn it into a blog post there. So definitely check that out, and thank you for being here today.
Thanks so much.
I appreciate it, yeah!
It was fun!
Yeah, it was fun, wasn't it? Yeah!
We had, I want to do one question. We had a lot of questions coming in about scanning. Like, scanning at home, scanning at a lab. Is it okay to scan at home? Talk a little bit about that.
Absolutely. You can totally scan at home, if you have the time and you want to. I have found that I'm not very good at it. (laughs) Like I said, I just don't want to spend the time doing it, and the controls that they're gonna have on a professional scanner, on, like, a Noritsu or a Frontier, are a lot more sophisticated and a lot more advanced, especially if you're scanning color film. It's actually pretty tricky. So I would recommend maybe even for starters, starting with a professional lab, just, if for nothing else, so that you have a good baseline of what you know you're trying to get your images to look like and going from there. But yeah, you can totally scan from home if you want to.
If someone were to decide, "Oh, "I want to do film photography," would you say that it would be helpful for that person...
Are you asking for a friend?
Me. No, yeah, a friend wanted to know. To still learn, like, Lightroom and Photoshop and stuff? Like, I understand how digital photography, understanding that could be helpful, but the other stuff, like?
I mean, my friend Elaine that's here is really good with Lightroom and Photoshop. Sometimes my friends tease me 'cause I'm actually really, really bad at it. Like, I can barely do anything. So, I mean, I think education's always helpful, and there's certainly edits that I do do to my film images in both Photoshop and in Lightroom, but I'm not, like, a Photoshop Lightroom master, and I think, I mean, I would never want to say, "Don't learn something." I think it's good information to have, but I think when you're a film shooter, it's kind of a different set of skills, if that makes sense. Yeah. So, you're good. (laughs) Just do it in-camera, you'll be fine. Does anybody else have any questions here?
Any final thoughts?
Are there any final thoughts?
That was fantastic.
Go on and shoot film, you guys, it's super fun. What I always tell people is, like, film is the cure for burnout. It really is. If you're feeling burnt out, if you're feeling stuck, if you're like, "I don't even want to pick up my digital camera anymore," pick up your film camera. It's challenging, it's fun, it's something different, you're gonna see things differently. I think it's great, I think everybody should shoot film.