Comparing The 4 Best Options for Getting Film Developed from DIY to Online Services for Film Development

Comparing The 4 Best Options for Getting Film Developed from DIY to Online Services for Film Development

Undeveloped film isn’t much use, which is why you need film development options to turn your rolls of film into precious heirlooms. There are a few different options for film processing, but they aren’t all created equal if you want high-quality color film images. Plus, they have different costs, and turnaround times and work with different types of film

Capture has preserved over 12 million memories, and we’re dedicated to making sure your memories are preserved as well. That’s why we put together this guide on how to get the film developed. That way, you can choose a developing process that protects your film photography and provides the best possible results for your priceless moments. 

Keep reading to learn all the information you need to know about the 4 best film processing options, including developing your own film, choosing a professional film lab, using an online provider, or going to a local store, as well as information about digitizing your film. 

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Option 1: Home Development

It’s entirely possible to develop film at home, and many professional film photographers prefer to do it this way because it gives them control over the outcome. In fact, you don’t necessarily need a darkroom, but you will need some equipment and materials to process film effectively. 

You can purchase film-developing equipment from places like B&H Photo Video, Freestyle Photographic Supplies, and The Film Photography Project. What you’ll need depends on the type of film you have because black and white film is easier to develop than color film.   

No matter what, you’ll need a developing tank, reels, changing bag, a timer, a digital thermometer, a work area, film clips, nearby access to a water supply, and chemicals, including a developer, fixer, stopper, and wetting agent. 

This will likely cost you somewhere between $100 and $200. If it sounds complicated, it can be for beginners, but some people enjoy it. However, it’s important to have a clear step-by-step tutorial and be familiar with the whole process before starting. Finally, the turnaround time is short, at only about 20 to 30 minutes after you have all the materials ready. Once you get familiar with the process, it could be as short as 5-minute film processing in some cases.

Despite those benefits, there are some downsides as well. First, you will still have to create quality scans of the developed film in order to create photo prints and high-resolution digital images. This can require film scanners that add to the costs as well as add more time to the entire process. Second, if you’ve never performed the developing process, then you could potentially damage your priceless film and the memories it contains. 

Cost: $100 to $200

Timeline: 20 to 30 minutes (after getting all the equipment)

Pros

  • Affordable with only initial startup costs 
  • Fast turnaround time 
  • Can be fun to experiment with film developing 

Cons

  • Can be complex, especially for color film 
  • Could potentially damage your memories
  • Requires extra steps and equipment to create photo prints 

Option 2: Professional Lab Development

Another option is to use a professional film development lab and there are tons of benefits to doing so. Most of these types of labs offer local and online services, which means you can sometimes find them near you. 

Even if you have to contact them and fill out an order online, all you will have to do is mail in your 35mm 110, C-41 color, negatives, e-6 slide film, true black & white film, medium format film, or other types. Then, they’ll process the film, send it back to you, and even create professional photo prints of the size you prefer. 

Some of the most popular online professional labs include The Darkroom, Richard Photo Lab, and Indie Film Lab. All of these options are known for superb results with high resolution and accept a wide range of different film types. Some will even process your disposable cameras, Advantix APS, slides, and more. You can use the Ilford Photo store locator to find a lab near you as well depending on your country.  

In general, you’ll pay somewhere between $5 to $15 per roll of film without any prints, and then pay extra depending on the size, color, and number of photo prints you want. In addition, certain film types cost more. For example, you will pay more for APS Advantix film than you would pay for 35mm film or Fuji disposable cameras

One of the major downsides is the long turnaround time answer to the question, “how long does it take to get film developed?” While some professional lab development companies are fairly fast, others may take 10 weeks or longer. Plus, if you have lots of film and want prints too, it can get really expensive, especially when you consider added shipping and handling costs. 

Cost: $5 to $15 per roll or film canister, plus extra for shipping and photo prints

Timeline: 4 to 10+ weeks

Pros

  • Professional quality development and photo prints
  • Many offer local and online service 
  • Accept wide range of film types including disposable cameras 

Cons

  • Turnaround time can be long depending on the provider
  • Can get expensive for large orders, especially with shipping costs 

Option 3: Online Film Development

Online film development and film processing services are professional lab services that offer complete online ordering, which means they are extremely convenient. You can do everything from filling out the order form to paying, checking order status, printing orders, and more online. Some even offer USPS mailer options so you can just fill it up and send it back. 

Some of the best online film development options include PhotoVision, Dwayne’s Photo, and Old School Photo Lab. They will provide professional results and many also offer color prints of your Kodak, Fujifilm, and other film camera memories. In fact, some even offer movie film processing!

Since these companies focus solely on online services, they are often cheaper than in-store locations with the same services. Plus, some offer digitizing services to turn your film into digital photography downloads. While they don’t specialize in that service, it’s a good benefit. 

However, the turnaround time can still be quite long for some of these options. Additionally, reviews can vary widely and some of them have bad reputations for lost film, poor color prints, and customer service complaints. 

Cost: $5 to $15 per roll or film canister, plus extra for shipping, film scanning, photo prints

Timeline: 4 to 10+ weeks

Pros

  • Professional development services for a more affordable price than some options
  • Convenient online service, ordering, FAQs, and more 
  • Typically accept a wide range of film types 

Cons

  • Turnaround time can be long depending on the provider
  • Some companies have a bad reputation for losing film, poor color prints, bad customer service, and more (so always check reviews!)

 

    Option 4: Local Camera Store or Photography Studio

    The fourth option is for those that prefer dealing only with local stores. Most areas have camera stores, photo studios, drug stores, and local film developing service labs that can develop common film types. This includes places like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart

    This is professional and locally convenient, but the main benefit is the fast turnaround time for some film types. In fact, some offer one-hour photo development and printing, which means you can get your color prints faster than any of the other options. 

    However, some of these may not be able to accept all film types. For example, disposable cameras may need to be sent off to another location for development, and in some cases, they may not be able to accept your film at all. 

    While these places generally offer great quality results, the quality of customer service as well as film development can be widely different from one store to the next. These unpredictable results are the main concern with local stores. Big chains offer some peace of mind when it comes to customer service though, which makes them a popular choice. However, not all of these locations will return your negatives, which is a significant downside for those who like keeping your film and preserving their memories. 

    Cost: $15 to $30 per roll 

    Timeline: As little as 1 hour for some film types or a few weeks for non-local services 

    Pros

    • Fastest turnaround 
    • Convenient local service 
    • Many options offer professional photography services including local camera shops as well as large chains 

    Cons

    • May not accept all film types 
    • Unpredictable results depending on the store you choose (read reviews first!)
    • More expensive than other options 

     

    Digitizing Your Film 

    A final option for developing your film is to digitize it instead. This is also a good option even if you want to get your film developed and turned into photo prints because it preserves your memories forever. It also makes it easier to share memories on social media and email, view them on any device, and enhance them with editing software. 

    Photographers, film enthusiasts, and archivists choose Capture to digitize their photos because of the exceptional service, fast turnaround time of less than 30 days, and high-quality professional outcomes that have been trusted for over 20 years. 

    Plus, Capture will make sure your analog memories are protected and we even invested millions of dollars into a state-of-the-art tracking and security system that monitors your memories every step of the way, through every hand, and all the way back to you. 

    Cost: $29.99 for the first 50 photos, slides, or negatives ($.50 per photo, slide, or negative after the first 50) 

    Timeline: Less than 30 days 

    Pros

    • High-quality digitization 
    • Safety and preservation of your memories including a satisfaction guarantee 
    • Accept most film types as well as photos, photo albums, home movies, Super 8 movie shooting film, and more. 
    • Affordable with add-ons for DVD and USB copies
    • Easy online ordering as well as cloud access and automatic upload to Google Photos

    Cons

    • Will not create prints of your photos (but you can easily with our digital download)

     

    Conclusion

    There are several options for how to get film developed including doing it yourself, choosing an online or professional development lab, or going to a local store that develops film. Each of these options offers unique pros and cons. For example, if you are worried about how much does it cost to get film developed, then online stores or DIY options are probably best, but if you want the highest-quality outcomes for rare film types then a professional lab might be what you’re looking for. 

    Whether you develop your film with these four options or not, we recommend digitizing it to ensure that those memories are preserved for future generations. Capture can digitize your film and other media at an affordable cost. Click here to learn more about Capture’s photo and film scanning services! 

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