Keeping It Affordable

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by pukalo, Dec 21, 2007.

  1. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    How about a thread on reducing costs associated with film photography - it does get expensive. Here are my tips for keeping it affordable (others please add your tips):

    - For 35mm negatives - get them developed at Target for only 94 cents, next day development only. Buy the $100 photo gift card to save another 20%, or about 76 cents a roll for negs only. Add the Target Photo CD for 2.99 if you need it. Includes both hi and low res scans. Better quality and less expensive than the Kodal CD they also offer. (Kodak has lower res scans, but you get a pretty yellow Kodak disc rather than a red Target disk)

    -Get a Costco or Sams Club membership. Those negs you got developed at Target can be printed at Costco on a top of the line Fuji Frontier using Crystal Archive paper for only 15 cents a frame for 4x6 or 37 cents for 5x7 or 1.49 for an 8x10 or 8x12. Need even larger? As I said, they have the most expensive/best Frontier you can buy, and can do 11x14 or 12x18 prints for only 2.49. Plus, their quality is great, as good as any pro lab. If you have a film scanner, you can get pro color profiles and e-mail in your order, But I figure, why waste Your time scanning when they will do it for you and print it for only 15 cents? Plus, even with my Minolta Scan Elite 5400 top end film scanner, I notice that with high speed grainy film , their scanner and algorythyms do a much better job at reducing grain and smoothing the image out.
    Sadly, they used to do send out slides for 3.19/4.19 a 24/36 exp. roll, but cancelled the sendout program last Fall.

    -For Kodachrome, use the much hated Walmart via their sendout envelopes for only 3.88/4.88 a 24/36 exp roll. But sleep well at night knowing that it is not Walmart, but Fuji Processing and Dwaynes Photo in Kansas getting the business.

    _For Medium Format, again there is a great deal, but you will have to walk into a Walmart store. I hate walmart too, but I keep my consious cleen by remembering that their sendout service is to Fuji Labs. Fuji is keeping film photography alive, and still bringing out new films. I would rather support them, than that over priced pro lab down the street that has sold out to digital and delivers mediocre quality and poor customer service. Even if Fuji were more, I would use them. But the beauty is that they are not. In fact, they have great prices. Check this out: 1.80 for negs developed AND 16 3x5 prints from 120 film. Strangely, it is 6 bucks if you use 220 film with 32 prints. 120 OR 220 E-6 slides for only 4.88. Fantastic deal - and fantastic quality. Use the send out envelopes, and mark the Special Instructions box at the bottom, for example: 120 size C-41 negative film, 3x5 matte prints, 2 week special service. Or, 220 E-6 slide film, 2 week special service. Dont worry, it never takes 2 weeks, usually about a week.

    For 35mm slides, you have 2 choices: Use Fuji Processing thru walmart or get the Fuji Slide mailers. THe slide mailers will get you better looking slide boxes and mounts, both printed with the Green Fujichrome label. Thru walmart you get an ugly black plastic box and 1960's style slide mount printing ("Color Slide" printed in a funny looking red font). Sendout thru the store is 3.88/4.88 a 24/36 exp roll. The mailers are 5 bucks each thru BH Photo or Adorama. To save on postage, mail 2 or more at a time in a larger envelope and postage will only cost 40-60 cents a roll.

    BW (not C41) film - get negs only developed at Fuji Labs thru Walmart. About $1.50/roll. Have best frames printed for 30 cents ea. or so.

    Film - order online from BH Photo and Adorama both out of NYC. Shipping is 5 dollars, so order several rolls at a time. But their prices are unbeatable, as well as a huge selection of films still available.
    www.bhphoto.com or www.adorama.com

    Hope this helps others keep on shooting without going broke or digital. Any other tips would be great.
     
  2. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day pukalo

    one phrase springs to mind, "false economy"

    you may well save money doing the above, but is it worth it?

    my experience of cheap colour processing is, it's cheap colour processing

    for many reasons a photographer who cares about their work insists on the best processing possible

    maybe you could economise by shooting less and better images

    or shock/horror switch to digital, as i have done for all my colour work, the main reason being the lack of affordable good quality colour film processing and printing

    Ray
     
  3. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Great suggestions for budget work. One thing to add- for B&W there is no greater economy than processing your own. No darkroom needed, total control, best quality if you are paying attention, minimal investment, and ROI is as fast as you shoot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2007
  4. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    When I moved to the mainland and needed to find a decent printer. On the phone they said,
    "We are not the cheapest, but we offer the best quality."

    Those were the words I needed to hear. In photography, printing is half the battle in achieving a good quality print. Don't waste your efforts with a cheap printer.
     
  5. Snapshot

    Snapshot Member

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    I find bulk loading a great way to save on film costs. However, there are some who would argue that the extra work and upfront costs doesn't make it worth while. There is also an argument to be made that there is the increased risk of scratched film. Nonetheless, I was able to purchase excellent film (Agfa Optima II) for $18USD per 30m roll to bulk load and saved quite a bit on film expenses. I've had great success with this 'penny pinching' approach.
     
  6. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    In the long term a free printer and processor especially in B&W is best. He/she is called YOU. I take it you will work for yourself for free? OK the peripherals such as equipment and chemicals for darkroom printing will cost you a little but in even the medium term it will pay for itself. I am also assuming you intend to have prints made for the medium term at least. If so, give it a go yourself. Even in old age I assume I will live forever or if not forever then at least so far into the future that I cannot possibly predict an end date.

    The last sentence may well cover the future of analogue photography as well. There's plenty of time to try the " all his own work" strategy. There's even a guy on APUG willing to show you how's its done on video for free and how laid back it can be. He's so laid back that next time he makes a video I expect it to involve a rocking chair. He's called Macfreak or similar but what he wants you to ingest is non fattening and a whole lot healthier than the other Mac.

    There's cheaper and better and combining both and calling it "doing it my way".

    pentaxuser
     
  7. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Pukalo, good first post, welcome to APUG.

    I agree with Ray regarding cheap false economy, but in the early days of your colour work I cannot see how you can do it differently. I disagree with Ray on the costs involved with colour film and processing, I still do my own as well as printing.

    Bulk loaded 35mm film is possibly the greatest money saver invented. I've been bulk loading B&W and colour film, continuously for over 30 years. It cannot be beaten for price.

    Doing your own B&W developing will in the long term be the cheapest for you, I firmly believe it will also make you a better photographer.

    Mixing up developing solutions from bulk chemicals is another important way to save money, but not always. Sometimes I don't worry about the slightly increased cost of mixing my own for personal satisfaction and consistency, as those two things are more important to me.

    With 4x5 B&W film I prefer Ilford FP4+. The cheapest and best way I currently know to get this film, is from the USA from Badger in 100 sheet boxes. Doing it this way I can purchase each sheet of film for about 50% less than the best price in Australia.

    Careful storage of B&W paper processing chemicals can mean you save greatly by being able to use the developer until it really is at chemical exhaustion instead of being oxidised out.

    Mick.
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Labs depend alot on your local places. Last time I checked the Walmart I was near did a fine job on processing C-41. The problem was the person who then handled the stuff. You really need to test and check the place out. OTOH the consumer labs didn't seem that much cheaper then the local pro labs and were more expensive then doing it myself.

    I'm all in favour of bulking loading but colour film doesn't seem to offer the same cost saving. It's nice to save room in the fridge but the cost of a 100' of film seems fairly similar to the cost of pre-loaded.
     
  9. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Another economy is to move up a format. I have recently moved up to medium format in 6x6. This means 12 frames per roll and a slower way of working. I will still shoot 35mm, but only in situations where a large camera would be impractical or obtrusive.

    <edit> and as said previously, developing your own saves a lot.
     
  10. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Nick, regarding colour film versus B&W bulk loaded, I think to some extent it could be country specific.

    With B&W film (Ilford) the saving is about 60% if you buy at the right time and place.

    With colour neg (Kodak) the saving is about 35%.

    This is with Australian prices.

    With home developing of the film I don't know about B&W as I have never sent any away for developing and within reason, I don't think it is offered. My costs are about $0.40 a roll.

    With Colour film I very rarely send any to a lab, only the very occasional party roll. The cost of developing a C41 135 36 frame roll, is about $3.50 to $4.00 locally depending. This is more than what it costs for me to develop with my own chemicals. My cost currently, is about $2.50 a roll. If I was doing more and mixed and developed at the maximum efficiency of film roll numbers, it comes down to a shade over $2.00.

    Mick.
     
  11. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    I dev my own c-41 for medium format but all of my medium format cameras have limit controls so it can be a bit hit or miss what I get out of them anyway. Then I can get the ones I like printed, but a c-41 kit costs less per roll of film than dev-only service (about half the price) and it's a fun new skill. For c-41 35mm I just get them dev&prints at RGB Labs. It's far away, I have to pay postage but they don't screw up my pictures/negs like all the local minilabs.

    Hey isn't this the same thread from flickr? http://www.flickr.com/groups/ishootfilm/discuss/72157601574874556/ :wink: It's like deja vu.
     
  12. TimVance

    TimVance Member

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    Sending out 120 c-41 through walmart seems like a good idea when I can't drive all the way to the lab when I need film developed (30-35 min one way) What was the quality of the negatives? Were they developed corectly? scratched, dirty?

    Thanks.
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    You need to test your Walmart. The one near me did a fine job with the processing. But then they didn't cut the film just shoved it into an envelope.

    If you buy the big jugs of mini-lab chemicals home colour is much cheaper then kit prices.
     
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  15. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I'm all for saving money... but when I really need help it is good to have a local pro lab to talk face-to-face with. I tend to "invest" in keeping that lab available to me by giving them my business on a regular basis.
     
  16. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Hmmm...when I checked; the poor OP had posted this in the "Color...." forum. So why all the B&W "advice"?
     
  17. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The original post touches on B&W (not C41)

    I think mine and one other are the only replies that concerns only B&W.
     
  18. Stephen Frizza

    Stephen Frizza Member

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    Hi Pukalo from a lab point of veiw this is all I have to say "Pay peanuts expect to get monkeys". Would you rather the high school student who doesn't give a damn running your film through a roller transport machine prone to scratch film and which may not be well maintained and tightly monitored? or have a trained mature professional who measures the specific gravity of the chems and runs controls at least twice a day dip and dunk your film in a stringent environment?

    As for a print from 6x4" paper being 94cents ide love to judge such a mass run computer assessed print next to a hand crafted dodged, burned, masked, density and colour / contrast assessed print which was produced by an expert darkroom technician.

    I genuinely feel the drive towards cheaper and cheaper processing deals has really reduced the quality of acceptable process / printing.

    I do however feel that yes photography can become expensive raw materials such as film all adds up, but good film is not cheap for the manufactures to produce.

    I do feel a need to help make analog photography cheaper and easier for those who love analog to access so in my lab I do offer a mixed range of free film to holga and lomo photographers. I have a basket in my lab I let people take as they desire. Its a great way for clients to try new films and to save money. in the past year I have given out close to 50,000 free rolls of film. which as a small player I consider to be a large contribution to keeping analog cheaper and more accessible to shooters. I also offer discounts to students and people affiliated with educational institutions. Also All apug mermbers I discount materials too.

    Anyway I guess Im just wanting to add caution to anyone who goes down the cheaper path. Like anything else you always get what you pay for.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2007
  19. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Some random thoughts:

    • Processing your own, for either B&W or color, can be economical or not compared to sending it out, depending on volume, your own efficiency, etc. If you shoot relatively little, sending it out will almost certainly be less expensive, since doing it yourself will result in chemicals going bad before they can be used and/or the need to buy in smaller (and less cost-efficient) quantities to prevent stuff going bad.
    • Andy K suggests moving up in format. The film and processing for larger formats will be more expensive than for 35mm on a per-frame basis, so this suggestion only makes sense if you adjust your shooting style so that you take fewer photos. There's also the fact that larger-format cameras cost more than 35mm cameras. If you spend $1,000 on new gear, it'll take a lot of cost savings in materials to earn back that investment.
    • In the US, bulk loading makes economic sense for B&W (assuming you don't scratch the film and assigning your own labor a fairly low value). For color, bulk loading offered little or no cost advantage the last time I checked, although of course you might run across a great deal on bulk film -- OTOH, you might also run across a great deal on factory-loaded film, so this is a wash, IMHO.
    • As Mick Fagan suggests, mixing chemicals from scratch can be a way to save money. I put together this spreadsheet (OpenOffice.org and MS Excel formats) two or three years ago with various costs and formulas. I'm sure some of the costs have changed, though. I found that the cost savings are biggest for developers (both B&W and color). For stop bath, fixers, and blixes, the cost advantages of mixing yourself are slim, and sometimes even favor the packaged stuff.
    • A new suggestion: When buying by mail order, try to order as much as possible at one go, rather than place multiple small orders. Shipping costs tend to be bigger, as a percentage of the original purchase price, when you order few items than when you order many.
     
  20. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Well, we sure took care of this "pukalo" dude here didn't we? Imagine, having the nerve to express some frugal thoughts on his first post!

    Real nice going all. The guy's first post on APUG and he gets his head removed.

    "As the boys down at the loading dock are fond of saying at this special, joyous time of the year, and a Merry F---ing Christmas to you, Pukalo"!

    Congrats to all. By now he's probably listed his gear on eBay and is ordering a dSLR! :tongue:
     
  21. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    George... welcome to my "ignore". You are a noncontributor. What thread are you reading? Everyone but you has been "non-destructive".
     
  22. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    what thread are you referring to?

    the guy asked for advice on cost saving, that's what he got, a range of options

    what, of any value did you contribute?
     
  23. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Seems kind on ridiculous to respond to someone who's just put me in "Ignore".

    But here goes:

    When someone new walks into the room and expresses what those already there consider naive - the polite thing to do is to at least first ask the person to introduce themself.

    The poor OP made his observations and was immediately met with a "scold" that he was talking about "false economy".

    From there on - it was a bunch of how "go pro, or no go" - on and on; pile up after pile up.

    Did any of you even think that maybe the OP is a casual shooter on a limited income and was passing along some "savings" ideas to similarly-situated folk?

    Not everyone here needs or can afford pro processing. Some folk just want to enjoy shooting some film.

    No one in this thread extended a hand of welcome to a new poster. Maybe this site has just gotten too big for itself? :confused:
     
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Hey... this "ignore feature" really works! Don't see a thing! :tongue:
     
  25. Confusion Circle

    Confusion Circle Member

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    I would never send my film out to a 1 hour lab. 40C chemistry and roller machines will ensure your negatives get cooked and scratched.
     
  26. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Imagine. Now he'll never know I was going to "gift" him my Hassey for Christmas. :smile: