Film Photography

Where can you still get film developed?

I’ll always miss the days of taking my film to the drug store to get it developed and then printed or scanned. It was so convenient, fast, and inexpensive!

By-mail labs now fill the gap — except they’re neither as fast nor as convenient, and some of them aren’t exactly inexpensive. Still, I’ve found a handful that do good work. I’m going to share with you the ones I’ve tried and like best.

I’m a frugal, hobbyist photographer in Indiana, USA. I’m looking for basic services, good quality, and reasonable prices. That’s why this list doesn’t include any boutique or pro labs. They offer white-glove service and outstanding quality for the demanding customer, and charge accordingly.

I also shoot more than 35mm color film in my vintage cameras. I need labs that can handle medium-format (120) film, and obsolete formats like 620, 127 and 110. I also sometimes shoot expired film and prefer labs that give it the extra care needed to produce good images.

I do have a couple gripes with most consumer labs. First, some of these labs have become much more expensive over the years, charging 20 bucks (including shipping) to process and scan a roll of 35mm color film, and more than that for other formats. I don’t understand the economics of running a lab, but that price is mighty high.

Second, most of these labs offer basic scans that I consider to be far too small, at less than 2,000 pixels on the long side. These labs all scan at 72 DPI, which allows these small scans to be printed at up to 11×17 inches. But I share my photographs online, where pixel dimensions largely trump DPI. I often want to crop my work, but scans this small makes it difficult to do that and have the image still be large enough for online display.

Here are the labs I use, in order of my preference.

Fulltone Photo

Fulltone Photo, of La Grange, KY, processes, scans, and prints 35mm and 120/620 films. Their Web site says they also handle 110 and 126, but their order form disagrees. They process color and black-and-white negative and color slide films.

Their Web site is fulltonephoto.com. You print and fill out their order form and mail it in with your film. After they’ve processed your film, they email you for payment. They accept only credit cards. When your scans are ready they send you a download link.

Fulltone does good work at the lowest price anywhere. Processing and standard scans for 35mm color negative film costs $7. Medium format films cost an extra 50 cents; black-and-white films are a dollar more. Slide film costs $14-16 to develop and scan. They provide a postage-paid label for mailing your film to them. Return shipping is $4.50 for orders under $15 but free otherwise, so it pays to send them many rolls at once.

Fulltone’s standard scans are especially small at 1545×1024 pixels (despite their order form claiming 1818×1228). Fortunately, for an extra $5 you can get scans at a whopping 6774×4492 pixels (despite their order form claiming 4535×3035). Even with this upcharge, Fulltone undercuts everyone’s price for their standard service. The quality of Fulltone’s scans is very good.

Customer service is good — once they screwed up scanning one roll, and they cheerfully rescanned the negatives. They’re also the closest by-mail lab to my central-Indiana home, which cuts shipping time.

Dwayne’s Photo

Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, KS, is the granddaddy of all by-mail labs. They process, print, and scan 35mm, 120/620, 220, 127, 110, 126, Disc, and APS films. They process color and black-and-white negative and color slide films. They also process movie films.

Their Web site is dwaynesphoto.com. At last, they offer online ordering! They take PayPal and credit cards. If you use their older printed order forms, they also take checks and money orders. When your images are ready, they send you a download link. You can also opt to have them mail you a CD of your scans.

Processing and scanning one roll of 35mm or 120 color or black-and-white negative film costs $9. Slide film costs $12.50-$13.50 depending on format. Other services’ prices vary. Return shipping costs $5 for the first roll and 50 cents for each additional roll. They don’t offer prepaid mailing labels so have your postage stamps ready.

Their 35mm and 120 scans of negative film are a not-bad 2740×1830 pixels, though slide film is only 1830×1220 for some reason. For an extra $5, you can get scans of these films at a ginormous 6770×4490 pixels. Scan resolutions are similar for other film types and formats. The quality of Dwayne’s scans is average.

Dwayne’s can handle any curveball I throw them. Once a roll broke while I rewound it in one of my old cameras. I stuck the camera into a dark bag, coiled the film into a black film canister, marked the can “Loose Film Open in Darkroom,” and sent it to Dwayne’s. They processed it without skipping a beat.

Customer service is good if impersonal. Once I sent them a roll of expired Kodak Gold 200 in 620 and they accidentally processed it as black and white. They sent me a note of apology, my black-and-white negatives and scans, and a fresh roll of Ektar, albeit in 120.

The Darkroom

The Darkroom in San Clemente, CA, processes, scans, and prints 35mm, 120/220/620, 110, 126, Advantix, and sheet film. They process color and black-and-white negative and color slide films.

Their Web site is thedarkroom.com. They offer online ordering with credit card and PayPal payment. They also offer printable order forms if you want to send a check or money order.

Processing and scanning one roll of 35mm or 120 color or black-and-white negative film costs $17.95 shipped both ways. Add $2 for a single-use camera, $3 for slide film, and $3 for other film sizes. Shipping costs the same no matter how many rolls you send, so it pays to send several at once.

Their standard scans are a puny 1536×1024 pixels. It’s worth it to spend the extra $3 to get the 3072×2048 enhanced scans. They also offer 4492×6774 super scans for $8 more. These sizes are all for 35mm and 120; other formats scan at similar dimensions. The quality of The Darkroom’s scans is average.

After you mail your film, expect scans in about ten days to two weeks. They are the lab farthest away from my Indiana home, so some of that time is how long it takes the film to reach California.

The Darkroom has never messed up any order, so I can’t comment on their customer service. They have been off this list the last couple years because they’re more expensive than the labs listed above. But I put them back on because they’re now less expensive than the next lab, which I keep on this list for a few key reasons.

Old School Photo Lab

Old School Photo Lab, of Dover, NH, processes, prints, and scans 35mm, 120/620, 110, 126, 127, 828, APS, and 4×5 sheet films. They process color and black-and-white negative and color slide films.

You order and pay through their Web site, oldschoolphotolab.com. Processing a roll of 35mm color negative film and getting their standard scans costs $19.75, including shipping both ways. 120/620 color negative film costs $20 shipped both ways. In both cases, black-and-white film costs $1.25 more and slide film costs $2.75 more. Other film formats start at $26 per roll, shipped both ways. They give discounts if you send several rolls at once. They accept credit cards and PayPal.

Over the years Old School’s prices have crept up so that they’re now the most expensive of this class of labs. You can get good service and quality for less at the other labs I recommend. Despite their ongoing price hikes, they stay on this list year after year for three reasons:

  • Their standard 35mm JPEG scans are a generous 3072×2048 pixels. I know no other lab that offers standard scans that large. You can order giant scans, at 6774×4492 pixels, for an extra $10 for JPEG or $20 for TIFF. Medium format scan sizes are similar.
  • They’ve never let me down — their processing and scans have always met or exceeded my expectations. I can’t say that about any other lab I’ve used. When the film really, really matters, I send it to Old School.
  • They take special care of expired films.

When your scans are ready, they email you a link to where you can download them. If you want a CD of the scans, it’s 3 bucks extra and you have to wait longer to get them. The quality of Old School’s scans is very good.

Old School is popular and therefore a little slow — after you mail your film, expect scans in no less than two weeks.

The staff responds promptly and cheerfully when you contact them. They’ve never screwed up one of my orders, but a few times I’ve written to ask if my film ever arrived. They now send an email when it does so you don’t have to wonder.

Film Rescue International

Sometimes you’ll find some very old, very expired film in a camera. Any of the above labs will process it, but they might not get good images because old film deteriorates.

Send it straight to Film Rescue International, filmrescue.com. They process any film, no matter how old, and use creative darkroom and Photoshop techniques to coax the best possible images from it. They’re expensive and they’re slow, but they do outstanding work.

I used Film Rescue for a roll of Verichrome Pan I found in a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. That film had been in the camera for more than 40 years in unknown conditions, so I was afraid it might have deteriorated badly. They got good, high-contrast images from that film. They lacked “that Verichrome Pan look” but were crisp and clean.

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30 thoughts on “Where can you still get film developed?

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Jim, I always find your processor lists interesting, and bookmark them for further inquiry.

    The last time I checked some of these labs, as well as others, I was surprised for black & white processing, that they do not offer contact sheets at the time of processing. Standardized practice for my entire career, up until about ten years ago, especially with labs offering black & white and color neg service, is to offer processing with a contact proof, and then any other service is priced beyond that. This seems to have been replaced by the processing and scan service, which I generally do not need; I have little use for “internet quality” scans. If I had a process and proof, I would generally get a high quality scan, with color/contrast/tone balanced of the individual one or two images I might want. This I can easily do locally.

    One of my questions for you, is have you ever taken a hard look at the negatives checking for cleanliness and lack of scratching? This is usually done with a “hard” light and the film at a reflective angle, both sides. My concern with these “prosumer” labs, is that if you’ve seen these scan set-ups for volume processing, they are NOT friendly to film fidelity. Generally film can be dragged through the film gate and damaged. With chromogenic films, like all color neg, or black & white films like XP-2, the scan module can use an anti-scratch scanning software, like Nikons ICE program, that can eliminate some scratches, but when you would go and use these negatives for conventional printing, they would be what I would consider to be damaged. Real Black & White can generally not be scanned with this software, as the actual silver interferes with the process.

    For me, I shoot film for the archival fidelity, as well as the “look” and “built-in” quality. Every time I’ve shot a musician or public figure I’ve always used film for its storage fidelity and archival storage attributes. Digital is fleeting and can easily be lost with computer or drive crashes, problems with future software migration, etc., etc. It’s long term storage is infinitely more fleeting than a physical item. Labs must have pristine film handling qualities or they are a non-starter for me. I get that you are reviewing prosumer style labs, vs. boutique professional labs, but you’d be amazed at how many professional film labs are either gone, or not offering processing and proofing service either! And even with prosumer labs, you’d want to ensure that they are not scratching your film!

      • Andy Umbo says:

        I don’t think pro or amateur should accept scratched film and poor handling! I’d love to hear from your readers about whether or not the processors they use have treated their film correctly.

        I get why you wouldn’t need a contact sheet for what you do, but to have all the services of any film lab not even have an option of getting a contact sheet is a real definitive “flag” for me. I mean people can be happy with their scans, but if they’re scratching the film beyond the ability to use it conventionally, why would anyone shoot film it at all?

        • tbm3fan says:

          I get color film processed shall we say infrequently and so haven’t bothered to look into development by me. So far so good for the few rolls a year. B&W has been developed by me personally since 7th grade or since 1967. Just mixed up a gallon of D-76 last night. Needless to say no defects in the film. I always did a contact sheet back then so I could see what I really wanted to put into the Beseler 23C for an enlarged print. Today the preview scan fills in for the contact sheet rather than getting out a tray, mixing some Dektol, and then developing one 8×10 contact sheet.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          TBM, it’s ditto for me, I taught myself black & white processing when I was in 7th or 8th grade, and by the time I was 16, I was so good at it, a big portrait studio in town recruited me to do their black & white printing! I basically worked their until I was out of college and working for an advertising studio. I neither have the space, nor is the space clean enough, to even hang wet film now, or I’d still do it, and pile up the negs until I had a half years worth or so to proof. Hence my search for a classic black &white lab. I still have a pristine 4X5 enlarger in my storage space, as well as tons of film processing tanks, etc. When the pandemic is over, I have to start selling it down, after all, I’m pushing 70…

          I was using a great lab in L.A., around 2012, that was processing black & white through a Refrema processor dip and dunk, with beautiful results, pristine film, but altho they made contact proofs, they were so bad, I had to send them back a few times. Costly! The redo was nothing, but the multiple postage was a killer. The lab manager openly admitted he couldn’t get people (read kids), who were good enough to train to make classic black & white prints, and everyone who could were starting to retire…

    • I’m in cyber security. I shoot 35mm film as well as modern digital images. I’m confident my digital image storage and archival solution is more robust and redundant than any celluloid process.

      I’d like some objective proof of this claimed “storage fidelity and archival storage attributes” of film.

      • I agree – with good backups, esp into the cloud, your images will outlive you. I think the worry about file formats going obsolete is overblown. .jpg has been around for 30 years.

        As for film’s attributes, that is eminently googlable.

        • I enjoy 35mm film for what it is. I have more film cameras than digital cameras. But I know of so many people in New Jersey who lost family memories in the flood. Digital data is fungible.

        • Andy Umbo says:

          I know of more than one “prosumer” photographer, that on their death, their family just sold and or threw away their old computer equipment, including whatever digital files they had on that equipment. Our state historical society is on record as willing to look through anyone’s ‘real’ photo files, and many have ended up in storage there. The average ‘jamoke’ viewing your detritus on your death, is going to think well stored and cataloged film, might be “something”, as opposed to a computer sitting in the corner, which is “nothing”.

          What you do as a cyber security person hopefully has a higher level of fidelity than the average prosumer photographer, but still, short of utilizing the cloud, whatever would damage your film (mine in fireproof and water proof storage cases), is the same thing that’s going to damage your digital equipment. I keep a mirrored hard drive in my safety deposit box at the bank, but have zero interest paying a cloud storage facility monthly for the rest of life; I’m not in that business, and care far more for film and any computer at all.

          The largest part of the “fidelity and archival” attributes of film, is that on your demise, someone you don’t know will recognize film as something of value and do something about it, as opposed to your digital information! When I worked in Washington DC for national media outlet, I remember sitting in a forum by the Smithsonian where the curators were talking about how they were deciding if they should get famous speeches embossed as recordings on metal discs, because in a true disaster, digital information is worthless. If you don’t have access to the equipment that reads it, it’s lost, and someone could jury rig an analog disc player in a pinch. Their opinions are good enough for me….

        • Sounds like those prosumers planned badly. I’m prepared. My family would never throw out old computers. Would they through out boxes of film negatives? No. That scenario is a red herring. My external drives are literally labelled “photos”. My account usernames and passwords are in a data vault which I share with my spouse and kids. I have easy to find folders in which I have folders with instructions on what is what.

          I’m sure if you have a disaster recovery plan to protect your film negatives and prints. I’ve got one for all my digital media and documents.

        • tbm3fan says:

          Khurt I believe you are more likely one of the few rather than one of the many when you consider the average prosumer on a bell curve.

  2. Greg Clawson says:

    Jim, I have been using Fulltone photo per your recommendation. I too have been pleased with their C41 processing and prices. On the photos I really like I rescan with my Epson V600.

  3. matt says:

    Thanks for this: this is great to know. I take my color film, currently, to the local shop where I can get it processed only for 6 bucks, but I wouldn’t mind having alternatives. I haven’t used their scanning service yet because I think it’s a little pricey when I can scan it myself at home.

    I have considered sending out to see if I get different/better results/prices so it never hurts to have alternatives.

  4. Andy Umbo says:

    I checked back with an old supplier in Chicago, who is now out of business due to the pandemic, and they’ve put together a page of alternate labs, with some of the usual players, but have called out specifically labs that still do processing and a contact print! Dalmatian Lab in North Carolina and B&W Photo Lab in Maine still offer classic service, so I guess I’m going to have to try them:

    https://www.printlab.com/bw-services/film-processing/

  5. I have used some of these labs – the darkroom and old school photo lab -, but I have stopped paying for “develop and scan”. I bought an Epson Perfection V600, spent some time finding a scanning workflow that worked for me, and I’m pretty happy paying for developing only.

    I have used some film that was a PITA to find a lab, and I’ll never use that film again. Overall, doing the scanning myself works for me. And I’ll save about $10 per roll.

  6. Thanks for the resources, Jim!

    I want to give a shout-out to my local lab, Citizens Photo, and their affordable rates. C-41 Color processing plus scan is $10.50. The scans are a decent 3089×2048. You can save $2.50 if you go with their med-res 1000×1500 scans. Black and white dev/scan is $13, and I think slide E-6 dev/scan is about $16. (Their web page isn’t the most accurate.) They accept mail-in orders but don’t have any labels.

    http://www.citizensphoto.com/

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