Photography

Where can you still get film developed? (Freshly updated for 2017)

Just a few years ago you could get film processed almost anywhere: Walgreens, CVS, Target, Walmart, Costco, Meijer. No more.

Digital photography did them all in. It also led Kodak and Fujifilm to kill several film stocks. But film has survived its long dark night. People born into the digital age are discovering what we longtime film shooters have always known: film is special.

And so I see more people starting film-photography blogs, sharing their film shots on Instagram, and scouring thrift stores and eBay for that next camera to try. And astonishingly, several new films are being introduced this year, including Kosmo Foto Mono, JCH Street Pan 400, Ferrania P30, and even a reborn Kodak Ektachrome. It’s a great time to shoot film!

But where to get it processed? If your town has a camera store, it might process film. I live in Indianapolis, where Roberts Camera still processes 35mm color negative film. I never order prints, just scans, which Roberts burns to CD. The scans are generous, 3130×2075 pixels at 72 dpi. I like generous scans! And the price is right, at about $8. And they turn orders around within two business days.

But what if you aren’t close to a camera store? Or if you shoot film they can’t handle, like black-and-white film or medium-format (120) film, or an uncommon format like 110 or 127? That’s when I turn to one of several by-mail labs around the United States. I’m going to recommend the ones I use. I’d love it if you’d share the ones you use in the comments, especially if you live outside the United States.

Old School Photo Lab

I’ve used Old School Photo Lab of Dover, NH, the most. Their Web site is oldschoolphotolab.com. They proces, print, and scan 35mm, 120/620, 110, 126, 127, 828, APS, and 4×5 sheet films. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

You order through their Web site. Processing a roll of 35mm or 120 color negative film and getting their standard scans costs $16 shipped both ways. (You can print a prepaid shipping label on their site.) Prices for other formats vary. They give discounts if you send several rolls at once.

I love OSPL because their standard JPEG scans are a generous 3072×2048 pixels at 72 dpi. You can order even larger scans, at 6774×4492 pixels at 72 dpi, for an extra $7 for JPEG or $17 for TIFF.

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. OSPL prints digitally. I occasionally order 4×6 prints and they’re fine.

I love OSPL’s service. I’ve gotten scans in as fast as four days after mailing them film! But it normally takes about a week. Quality is consistent and good. The owner personally responds when you contact them. The lab is active on Twitter and the feed is often a hoot.

Dwayne’s Photo

Dwayne’s in Parsons, KS, is perhaps the granddaddy of all by-mail labs. Their Web site is dwaynesphoto.com. Dwayne’s processes, prints, and scans 35mm, 120/620, 220, 127, 110, 126, Disc, and APS films. They process color and b/w negative and color slide films.

Dwayne’s is great, except that ordering is complicated. You have to print a paper order form from their site, the right one for the kind of film you’re sending, and fill it out. When you send them more than one kind of film, you have to fill out multiple order forms.

Processing and scanning a roll of 35mm color film costs $14 including return shipping. Other services’ prices vary. They don’t offer a prepaid label to mail your film to them. But if you send more than one roll of film, they steeply discount shipping.

Their scans are 2740×1830 pixels at 72 dpi. You can choose to download your scans or have them mailed to you on CD; the price is the same for either service. I’ve not ordered prints from Dwayne’s.

Dwayne’s pretty consistently emails me a link to my scans within a week. Quality is consistent and good. And I’ve had good, if impersonal, experience with Dwayne’s customer service.

Willow Photo Lab

Willow Photo Lab of Willow Springs, MO, is far and away the price leader. Their Web site is willowphotolab.com. They offer processing, printing, and scanning of 35mm, 120/620, and APS negative films, in color and black-and white, through their Web site. They process b/w film by hand!

With your first order they’ll include a list of all of their services, which includes 220 and 4×5 sheet films, the ability to specify D-76 or T-Max developer for b/w film, and discounts for large orders. When I order from this list, I pay directly through PayPal, print the receipt, write on it what I want, and mail it to them with my film. They always figure it out.

Processing and scanning one roll of 35mm costs just $7. Other services are similarly inexpensive but prices vary widely. Shipping costs depend on how far away from Missouri you are; most of my orders have been $3. They don’t offer prepaid mailing labels.

Scans are skinty at 1536×1024 at 72 dpi, sent to you on a CD. The last time I ordered their higher resolution scans, 3089×2048 pixels at 72 dpi, it cost me an extra buck. But that’s available only on their full service list. Willow still does wet-process printing on light-sensitive photo paper.

Willow is a small lab of just a few technicians. Send them film when time is not of the essence — they try hard to turn orders around within a week, but it can take longer. I hate to say it, because I really like Willow, but quality is uneven. I’m giving them extra chances because early this year a lightning storm took out a lot of their equipment, and it’s taken them time to get everything back the way they want it.

When you email them with questions, the owner responds cheerfully, personally, and promptly. A couple times we’ve struck up long email conversations about lab life and film photography, which is fun.

The Darkroom

The Darkroom, of San Clemente, CA, is the SEO king of by-mail labs. Google “film processing” and see where they show up! Their Web site is thedarkroom.com. They process, scan, and print 35mm, 120, 126, 110, APS, single-use cameras, and 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 sheet film. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

The Darkroom offers online ordering and payment. You can download a prepaid shipping label from their Web site, or they will send you a prepaid mailer if you ask.

Processing, standard scans, the scan CD, and shipping both ways for a roll of 35mm color film costs about $17. Prices for other formats are similar. Scans come with every order, both via download link and CD.

The Darkroom’s standard scans are puny, 1536×1024 pixels at 72 dpi. You can order larger scans, 3072×2048 and a whopping 6774×4492 pixels, for an extra $4 or $9 per roll, respectively. I’ve never ordered prints from The Darkroom.

Scans are usually ready about 7 days after I drop the film into the mail. It takes up to a week longer for my negatives and the CD to arrive, but I expect that they’d arrive faster if I lived closer to California. I’ve never needed to contact The Darkroom for customer service.

Film Rescue International

Any lab can process expired b/w or C-41 color film. But sometimes you’ll find some very old, very expired film in a camera. That film can be fragile. Or perhaps the expired film is newer, but it’s crucial you get the best possible quality images from it. Send it straight to Film Rescue International. They process any film, no matter how old, and use creative darkroom and Photoshop techniques to coax the best possible images from it. Their Web site is filmrescue.com. They’re expensive, and they’re not fast, but they do outstanding work.

I’ve used Film Rescue just once, 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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Cameras, Photography

Where can you still get film developed?

Thanks for looking here for where you can get your film developed! I’ve written a new and improved list of labs you can send your film to — click here to read it!

The question burns: Where can you still get film developed?

BurnedCVS

Not long ago, the answer was everywhere. Costco, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, et al., processed 35mm color film in an hour right in the store. The quality could be dodgy, but it was convenient and cheap: as little as four bucks for processing and scans. But one by one, these stores have gotten out of the one-hour photo business.

If your city has a camera store, perhaps they still process film, too. The one in my city does good work at a good price, but their hours and location are too limiting. I also considered buying equipment to process my own. I’m charmed by the idea, but I can’t imagine where I’d find the time right now.

So I mail my film to professional processors. I was already using them to process the films the local labs couldn’t: black-and-white and slide films, and other film sizes, such as medium format (120) and archaic formats like 127 and 110.

Plenty of pro processors are available. Some cater to photographers with exacting needs. They deliver top-shelf quality and enormous scans, offer expert advice, and remember your processing and scanning preferences. But their white-glove service comes at a premium price.

Fortunately, several processors target hobbyist film shooters, offering reasonable service at a better price. Here are the ones I use, including their total price for processing a roll of 35mm color film, scanning the negatives, and shipping. All of these labs charge a little more for other film sizes and for b/w film and slide film. They will also print your images for a fee, and offer other services I’m not mentioning here.

My favorite labs

Old School Photo Lab, oldschoolphotolab.com: I use this lab the most now. They process 35mm, 120, 110, 126, 127, 828, APS, single-use cameras, and 4×5 sheet films. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

They offer online ordering and payment. Processing a roll of 35mm color negative film and getting their standard scans costs $16 and they pay shipping both ways. Prices for other formats vary.

Their standard scans are a generous 3072×2048 pixels. That’s big enough for any enlargement short of mega-poster size. Uprgraded scans of 6774×4492 pixels cost $7 more. 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.

These guys are fast, sometimes scary fast. Once I mailed them a roll of 35mm color film on Saturday and got an email on Wednesday that my scans were ready for download. Awesome! And the one time I had a problem with their service, they handled it with aplomb.

Dwayne’s Photo, dwaynesphoto.comI’ve sent a ton of film to Dwayne’s in Parsons, KS. They process and scan 35mm, 120, 220, 620, 127, 110, 126, Disc, and APS. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

Ordering from Dwayne’s is a little complicated, with different printable order forms for their various services. Prices vary widely, but processing and scanning a roll of 35mm color film costs $14 including shipping back to you. You pay to ship your film to them.

Their scans are 2740×1830 pixels. This is the only scan size they offer. And hallelujah: Dwayne’s now offers downloadable scans! No more waiting for a CD to arrive in the mail. You can have either downloads or a CD (but not both) for the same price.

I’ve had great experience with Dwayne’s customer service. They really goofed once, processing a roll of color film as black and white. I got a handwritten apology and a roll of replacement film with my negatives and scans.

Willow Photo Lab: This is the oddest lab in the bunch, because they operate entirely through eBay. For now, anyway; last time I ordered from them, they said they were working on a traditional Web site. Anyway, go here to see their eBay store.

Willow is far and away the price leader. You get better prices the more rolls you send them. I normally buy their two-roll deal: $14 for processing and scans or prints, including return shipping. You have to pay to ship them your film. Their best deal is 10 rolls processed with scans or prints for $42.75 shipped to you.

The downsides: They process only 35mm and APS color negative film. Scans are skinty at 1524×1024, sent to you on a CD. They offer no option for larger scans or for downloading scans.

And ordering is quirky, as eBay isn’t a natural fit for selling services. The deal you used last time might not exist this time. If the listing says prints but doesn’t mention scans, I’ve learned that if you send a note with your film asking for scans instead of prints, they’ll cheerfully do scans. It’s all kind of a hassle, but these are the best prices I’ve found anywhere and their work is good. And if there’s a problem, the owner himself handles it, swiftly and kindly.

Worth a mention

The Darkroom, thedarkroom.com: I used to use this lab in San Clemente, CA, all the time. They process 35mm, 120, 126, 110, APS, single-use cameras — and 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 sheet film. They handle color and b/w negative and color slide films.

They offer online ordering and payment, and online downloading of your scans. The scans are usually ready about 7 days after I drop the film into the mail. It takes up to a week longer to get your negatives and a CD of your scans back. Processing, standard scans, the scan CD, and shipping both ways for a roll of 35mm color film costs about $17. Prices for other formats vary.

Unfortunately, The Darkroom’s standard scans are puny, 1536×1024 pixels, or 1.6 megapixels. You won’t want to enlarge them beyond about 5×7. You can order larger scans — 3072×2048 and a whopping 6774×4492 pixels — but you’ll pay an extra $4 or $9 per roll, respectively.

Fulltone Photo, fulltonephoto.com: I haven’t used this La Grange, KY, lab in a while, but they always did great work for me. They process 35mm, 110, 126 and 120 films, negative and slide.

They don’t offer online ordering, but they’re so close to my Indianapolis home that mailing time is cut way down for me. I usually get a CD of scans back from them in about seven days.

Processing a roll of 35mm color film with standard scans is a bargain at $11.50, including shipping both ways. Prices vary for other formats.

Their standard scans are on the small side, 1818×1228 pixels, which won’t print well much beyond 5×7. Enhanced scans cost $5 more, and are generous at 4535×3035 pixels. For a buck a roll, they’ll upload your images for you to download. If you spend at least $15 with them, shipping is free, which lops $4.50 off the bill.

Film Rescue International, filmrescue.com: If you ever find long expired film in a camera, these are the best guys to process it. They process any film, no matter how old, period, and use creative techniques to coax images out of even the most fragile old films. For a couple particular old color films, they can only return black-and-white images — but that you get images back at all makes it worth it. They processed a roll of Verichrome Pan I found in my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, returning eight good scans of a family’s late-1960s vacation to Niagara Falls. See those photos here. Cost depends on a number of factors and is not cheap, starting at $37 (including return shipping) and going up steeply from there. But if they can’t get images off your film, you pay nothing.


It’s never been less expensive to shoot film. Read why.

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Life

Laying down the law on bulk e-mail

Have you ever signed up for something online and then started getting e-mails from that company – special offers, newsletters, and the like? That’s bulk e-mail. The software company I work for offers its customers a bulk e-mail service, and so we send lots of promotional e-mails to our customers’ customers. I’m usually reluctant to admit that because the reaction I usually get runs along the lines of, “So your company is responsible for all the spam I get.” I usually respond that it’s true only if one of our customers isn’t following good bulk e-mail practices:

  • You should receive promotional e-mails only when you explicitly choose to receive them. Giving your e-mail address to a company as part of ordering from them doesn’t qualify. You should also have to check a box next to text saying something like, “Please send me promotional e-mails.”
  • It should be very easy to stop receiving promotional e-mails. At the bottom of a promotional e-mail, usually in tiny type, you should find a line that says something like, “Click here to unsubscribe.” Clicking that link should open a Web page were you can tell the company to stop.

You’d think that companies wouldn’t care whether you signed up or can unsubscribe, but a couple things have encouraged them to build and maintain a good reputation.

  • The CAN-SPAM act of 2003 insists on certain good behavior. This law lets companies send unsolicited promotional e-mail only if it follows certain rules, one of which is to allow the recipient to unsubscribe. Failure to follow the rules can lead to legal action.
  • The big e-mail providers punish senders who don’t play nice. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and so on, watch bulk e-mail like a hawk because it costs them big money in bandwidth and storage. You wouldn’t believe all the rules these providers have in place to prevent unwanted e-mail from reaching you. They also give you a surprisingly powerful tool in that little Spam button that appears on each e-mail. Every time you click it, your e-mail provider takes notice. Spam a sender a couple times, and those messages go to your spam folder instead of your inbox. If lots of people click Spam on a sender’s messages, the e-mail provider will blacklist the sender’s Internet address and not accept e-mail from them anymore.

All of this encourages companies to send you only e-mails you want to receive. That doesn’t mean, however, that companies still don’t occasionally do stinky things.

Some time ago, I wanted to print some photos. So I uploaded the files to walgreens.com and chose to pick them up at my nearby Walgreens. I immediately started getting one or two promotional e-mails from them every day. I certainly didn’t check a box asking for those e-mails. I’m betting they buried that checkbox in tiny type someplace I would be sure not to notice it, and pre-checked the box for me. How helpful of them. But at least Walgreens did include an unsubscribe link in every e-mail. I clicked it and that was that, at least for a while. Four months later, not having used walgreens.com at all, I started getting e-mails again. I unsubscribed again, and it appears to have stuck this time.

Many years ago I made business trips to Louisville all the time. I rented cars from Hertz for all of those trips, and soon they enrolled me in their #1 Club Gold loyalty program. Of course I got promotional e-mails from them, but as a frequent customer they were very useful to me. After those business trips ended, I unsubscribed. When I wrecked my car a couple years ago while away on vacation, I rented from Hertz so I could get home. I didn’t ask for it, but they started sending me #1 Club Gold e-mails again. When I tried to unsubscribe, Hertz wanted me to type in my account number. I threw away my #1 Club Gold card years ago. Hertz gave me a link that would let me retrieve my account number, but I had to type in my driver’s license number to get it! And then it took them two days to e-mail me my account number. I went back to unsubscribe, but their unsubscribe form was crammed full of confusing options. It took me five tries to check the right boxes for the form to go through without returning an error. And then it didn’t work – I continued to get Hertz e-mails! So I started clicking the Spam button on them, and now Gmail delivers those messages to my spam folder so I never have to see them.

So to Hertz, Walgreens, and everybody else out there who sends me bulk e-mail, I am laying down the law:

  • Subscribing. If you absolutely must try to sign me up for your e-mails when I first use your service, please make the opt-out checkbox baseball-bat-to-the-forehead obvious. If you don’t and I miss it, I’m going to assume you signed me up without my permission, and I will click the Spam button on all of your e-mails.
  • Unsubscribing. When I click your Unsubscribe link, it had better do nothing but tell me I’ve just unsubscribed. Don’t show me a page full of checkboxes and make figure out which one means “send me no more e-mail period.” And good heavens, don’t make me look up my account number. Finally, don’t try to keep selling me on receiving e-mails from you – unless you want to send me free gold bars once a week, nothing you say will foil my nefarious unsubscribe plans. In short, if unsubscribing isn’t dead nuts simple, I will just click Spam on all of your e-mails.

Harrumph. That is all.

Thanks to Erika, who is Redhead Writing, for inspiring this screed. Read hers on the same topic here.

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Life

Why does Walgreens keep changing its logo?

You may not have noticed it, but Walgreens has changed its logo at least twice in the past five years. What? You haven’t noticed it? Well, I have, and it’s bothering me. But then, I’m a little OCD. Lots of things bother me.

I’ve done a little graphic design here and there in my career. I’ve created logos, laid out Web pages, and even designed book interiors. Much like my time as a radio disk jockey leads me to listen to the radio with a critical ear, and my time as an editor makes me notice every typo and grammatical error, my graphic-design past makes me more aware of branding and design.

For 15 years I’ve lived conveniently around the corner from a Walgreens drug store. Actually, I think part of Walgreens’ master plan is that every man, woman, and child in America will live around the corner from one. Four Walgreens stores stand within five miles of my house!

The Walgreens near me has a sign that looks like this. I’ve always liked this logo; I think it has kind of an elegance about it. Has anybody else ever thought that the amount of space between the g and the r in this logo makes this read “Walg reens?”

One of the four Walgreens near me was built last year. When you look at its sign closely, you can see that every letter in its logo has been redone. They’re all a lot taller. The W is now taller than the l; the end stroke of the W is now taller than rest of that letter. The letters are closer together and each letter’s stroke is narrower. The bowls (empty spaces) in the a, g, and e are larger. Also notice the differences in the r and the s.

That made me look at the sign another nearby Walgreens, which was built four or five years ago. I can see that it has differences from either of the other two logos.

Don’t think for a minute that these are just random variations. Companies are quite particular about their logos. Many of them have manuals describing logo usage rules! To produce anything – a sign, an advertisement, a letterhead, anything – that shows the company’s logo, employees are generally required to get the latest version from an approved asset repository. No, Walgreens ordered these logo changes.

But to what end? Only a design geek like me would ever notice the differences. If you polled Walgreens customers, at least 99.7% of them would say that Walgreens has had the same logo for as long as they can remember. Yet the company paid some graphic designer to tweak it not once, but twice! What was the point?

Ok, I feel better now that I have that off my chest. Maybe now I can stop compulsively looking at every Walgreens I pass to see which logo it has. My fellow drivers will be glad to know my eyes will now be on the road.

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