Why Develop & Scan Your Film Photographs at Home?
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
So, you might have read my previous post about why I shoot film photography. Well, today I'm going to go one step further and talk about why I develop and scan my own film photographs at home. Let's jump right in.
Reason Number 1:
As I mentioned before, film is expensive and there's not much we can do about that. But what's also expensive is paying a lab to process, develop and scan your film. For the costs of buying the film and then getting it scanned, you're looking at almost €20 a roll. That means you're paying around 50c per photograph. That adds up quick. Developing a roll at home (after a relatively large initial investment) is much cheaper. You can process about 20 rolls of film at home for the price of developing only 4 rolls in a lab. So what's the catch? As I mentioned above, it's the initial investment. I bought what I would consider to be the bare minimum of what you need to develop at home. Those are as follows:
Film Developing Kit. I got this on Amazon, for €105.85 including delivery. It didn't come with a changing bag so I had to add that to my basket separately.
I bought this Epson V550 film scanner from Currys in Dublin for €245.98 including delivery. Apparently, it's a really great film scanner at a relatively affordable price. I have zero complaints so far and would definitely recommend it. And yes, it does scan 35mm and 6x7 negatives. It also scans physical photographs and probably regular documents too, haven't looked into that.
I bought these chemicals from ebay for €45.45 including delivery. Note: I bought all this during quarantine so it might be cheaper if you can buy it in store, I haven't checked.
So, yes, the initial investment adds up. To save you the math, it cost me just under €400 to be able to develop and scan my own photographs at home. But on the bright side, the scanner and the kit should last you years, if not forever. You have to continuously buy chemicals but if you buy the larger packs, they'll develop you up to 50 rolls before you have to buy more.
Reason Number 2:
Developing your photographs at a lab is kind of skipping a major part of the art of film photography. How you develop and print (or in this case, scan) your film is just as important as actually taking the picture. And while I'd love to use an actual dark room to develop my film, this is the next best thing. You feel like you're much more part of the process when you develop and scan your own photographs. Like it's you and nobody else that is creating this photo. If you mess up, that's on you; if you create an incredible photo, it was all you too. You take full responsibility. Which brings us onto our next reason to develop your own film at home.
Reason Number 3:
Creative Control. A processing lab doesn't know what your vision was when you took the photo. Sounds pretentious, I know. But a simple example is this. If you take a photograph at blue hour, the scanner and the person scanning might not know that it was blue hour and so they don't white balance it perfectly and the photo comes out looking warmer than it was on the day. I've seen this happen. When you scan your own photographs, you tell the scanner everything it needs to know about the photograph before it scans the tiff. Then, if you like, you can make further adjustments to it in Lightroom from a starting point that you intended when you shot the photo in the first place.
Reason Number 4:
No wait time. If you're like me, you dread having to go all the way to your developing lab, give them the film, and then wait hours, if not days, for your scans to be sent to you. Then, if you want your negatives back, you have to go all the way back to the lab again to pick them up. Well, when you develop at home, you don't have to do any of that. In fact, you don't even have to leave your house. Yes, it takes time to develop your own film but when you're doing it yourself, you don't care. In fact, it's great fun. And it's so exciting to examine the negatives before scanning them and then to see them pop up on your screen once you've scanned them in just makes it even better.
Reason Number 5:
It's just cool. Developing and scanning your own photographs is a cool thing to do. Someone asks you, "Hey, where do you get your film developed?" and you reply, "Oh, I do it myself." That's cool. But don't be a dick and walk away right after obviously. Give them a recommendation of decent film processing labs.
Bonus Reason: Once you have your photos scanned and edited, take your favourites and get them printed. I'll talk about printing your photographs in another blog post but I'll just say that I highly highly recommend it.
Thanks for reading everyone. I hope you found this somewhat interesting. Keep checking our Instagram @lostfilmstudios so you don't miss any blogs. And please let us know if there are any topics you'd like us to cover.