Film FAQ: Developing + Lead Time

The concept of shooting film (not to be confused with the fancy word for 'cinema') can get tricky.  Although it's a totally different medium than digital that requires a slightly different mindset. I often get questions from both clients and photographers, the main one being:  "So, how does that work, when you shoot film?  You just give us the prints....or.....can you make them digital?" The answer is this: Yes, they are delivered via full-resolution digital downloads (but hopefully you don't let your jpegs grow up to be jpegs and you PRINT THOSE SUCKERS!)

In the end the final product of film works just the same as digital, really, except instead of doing all of the color-correcting, culling and editing, I am doing that before and during the shoot by selecting my film stock (determine the color of photos), exposing my film (determines the technical aspects and effects the style and look), and limiting myself to a few rolls of film to shoot the very best of the best in that moment.  Making these decisions prior saves tons of time in the long run.

Developing + Lead Time:  After the shoot I head to the post office, fill out a form for my professional lab of choice (detailing my developing preferences) and mail the rolls off via priority mail (with tracking + insurance!) to be developed.  Then I wait while the magic happens.  The lab receives the film and within a few days or a week begins developing the rolls (like digital photographers who edit photos they get to me once they have wrapped up all prior client orders).  The film is then developed in a chemical base to 'create' the photo (you know, all that dark room stuff).  From there a  'scanner' (a skilled person paired with an actual computer  scanner specifically for digitizing film negatives) feeds the negatives through the scanning machine, viewing and in essence 'editing' each photo (using the scanner to color correct as needed--kind of like slightly editing images in Lightroom--a little bit more yellow, take out a pinch of magenta...).  Depending on the actual machine being used (Fuji Frontier vs. Noritsu-- different brands produce different colors + looks), scanning in EACH photo can take up to 20 minutes--this is why a scans from a Fuji Frontier take longer--but the colors are FABULOUS.  This is longer than the time it takes to individually edit most digital photos--but in my opinion creates a much prettier result ;P (that's a wink AND a tongue--in real life that's probably not cute rather crazy.  Also, can we talk about my over usage of quotation marks and parentheses here?  Actually let's not, we gotta stay focused....).

Once all the rolls are scanned they are uploaded onto the company's online sharing software of choice and delivered via digital download to the Photographer.  It's like CHRISTMAS every time I receive a "your scans are ready" email from a lab and sheer torture mixed with glittery unicorns popping champagne while I watch each image slowly download onto my hard drive.  From there I personally organize images, cull (I silently curse myself while deleting images where folks are blinking), and go through to make sure there is consistency in the scan's colors (this is where talking to + working with labs on what your personal style and look is helps a LOT!).  Then the photos are exported from my editing software, uploaded into the client's online gallery and emailed to the couple!  Often times all within the same day.

Final Images + Blogging:  

In this world of instant gratification (I'm talking to YOU, impatient Ashley) the one potential downside that isn't a downside at all is this:  with film, there are no 'sneak peeks'.  I have had to shift my blogging schedule to accommodate the wait time in film, although blogging images may not happen as soon after the event, clients are still getting their final images within the same time frame if not faster than with my digital.  The beauty of it is while I am personally being taught patience (and practicing not calling the labs every other day saying 'Hey!  Saw my film was delivered via USPS today, just wanted to make SUREEEEE!" #annoying.  I am able to spend the time I have eliminated editing images and can focus on a better client experience.  More time to put together cute packages.  More time to location scout. More time to hone my business.  More time to spend time guilt-free with my husband.  More to be be creative.  And all with an even more beautiful end product.


+ more importantly:  more time to float on donuts.

(hey!  Ain't half bad.)