Film is WORM


I don’t think that they consider your film important enough for a Viking’s funeral, still from Youtube user Mukeybear


As film photographers in 2015, we get used to addressing a certain set of questions whenever we are out shooting:

What’s that? [Or as a current meme goes – WHAT ARE THOOOOOOOSE??!] (Since most people that shoot digital are used to certain camera body types, most common being a DSLR, they are naturally curious or confused when they see cameras like rangefinders, TLRs, Large Format cameras, pinholes, Polaroids)

You can still buy film? (Why yes, yes you can…some places you can even walk into a camera store and give a person behind a counter money in exchange for boxes of film!)

Why are you shooting film? (I, personally generally answer this question either sarcastically or snarky [which I know that I shouldn’t] depending on how my mood is that day. Maybe the person is genuinely curious as to why, not trying to attack your medium of choice, but sometimes they are trying to attack your medium of choice so maybe they need a little bit of snark…)

How are you going to see your pictures? Where do you get film developed? – Now, this is actually a question to be addressed…

Why do I say that? Dealing with getting film developed is seen by most non-film photographers as one of the major negative (no pun intended) reasons not to attempt the whole film photography process. As the years go by, we see lab after lab close down, labs abandoning certain processes (like developing slide film), or abandoning their film processing all together. Now there are film labs out there that are doing tremendous business, we all know them; Richards, Indie Film, The Darkroom, NorthCoast, Dwayne’s, FIND, and many others. And those labs are great, there’s a reason why they are doing the business that they are. But for those of us who don’t want to mail off their film all the time (or don’t live close to these labs), or don’t want to get their hands dirty developing themselves, there used to be another option if you shot 35mm only.

That option for 35mm shooters? The 1-hr photo lab.

Remember the drugstore 1-hr photo? Drop off a couple of rolls, come back in an hour to prints (if you wanted them), some decent low res scans, and sleeved negatives! All for a fairly reasonable price.

Why would you use drugstore 1 hour processing????

  • Maybe you’re doing a personal 365 day or 52 weeks photo project
  • Maybe you bought a used camera and you needed to test it out
  • Maybe you’re selling a camera and you need to test it out

Whatever the reason, the 1-hr photo lab was a nice way to experiment with different films, before you moved on to more serious shooting, or started using those same films in larger formats. Personally when I returned to film back in 2009, I was at my local Walgreen’s at least 2 to 3 times a week, adjusting back to my Nikon F3 and F4s, seeing if I liked 400H more than Portra 400, re-learning to shoot film. And that Walgreen’s got used to seeing me, the technician might say something like “nice photos” when I came back to get my negatives and scans. It was nice.

As the years passed, Walgreen’s (and other 1-hr photo places) began to stop developing film. Minilab equipment was stripped out of their stores (wonder what happened to it), and the ones that continued to develop film in store….their quality control went waaaaaaaaay down. Expired chemistry. “Technicians” that didn’t understand what film was and how it should be properly handled (I heard a story of a photographer seeing a photo lab employee using an un-sleeved negative strip to clean their fingernails).

Now many of these places are committing what to us should be the ultimate sin (even more than lab employees cleaning their nails with your negatives):

Film is now being sent out for processing, and you get a CD of scans, but… negatives.

They are destroyed, too much of a hassle (read: cost) to properly sleeve them and mail them back to you.

Throwaway culture has come to film photography.

But you’ve got the scans though right? Your photos are right there for you to view, and email them to your friends and family, post those suckers on Facebook, and hell if you wanted to print them you can do that too! You might be able to squeak a decent 8×10 out of those scans.

Photo CDs (even the archival ones) don’t last forever and since a lot of computers / laptops these days are dropping CD / DVD drives, you might not be able to even view them in 10 years.

But the negatives are supposed to be always there, film was designed as an archival medium, there are numerous articles showing photos made from 100+ year old negatives, some of them the earliest examples of color processes. Black and white examples go back even further. Our negatives are designed to outlive us.

Our great grandchildren should be able to look at old slides they dug out of a box in the garage.

Or have a print made from a 50 year old negative.

Film is write once, read many times…

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