New member- Color, b/w and slide processing questions

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by landman, May 23, 2013.

  1. landman

    landman Member

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    Hello all, new member were excited about the vast resources of this forum. Thanks in advance for your help.

    I am relearning the 35mm film world after shooting primarily digital for the last 10 years. I find I do not like the feel of digital so I am going back to my roots as a amateur (wanting to be more) film photographer. I have been a hobby film shooter since I the 80's as a teenager. I have some specific questions regarding processing film in today's world. Any help would be greatly appreciated

    1) Do any pro labs do film or b/w photo processing via an enlarger or do they ALL use mini labs that if I am correct, use a scanning function then print to paper? If so have labs (pro labs) always used these machines or did they ever do projection enlargement printing to paper in the last 30 years or so?

    2) Do the mini lab machines with scanners that then print to paper do any less of a job than traditional enlarger/projection print developing? If they do b/w this way, would I get better b/w prints enlarging and processing prints myself in the traditional way or do the print machines do as good of a job on b/w?

    3) Do the dip and dunk processors then run the negatives through a scanning machine that prints to paper or do dip and dunk use traditional enlarger methods to make prints?

    4) Is there a distinction between printing methods of pro labs, ink jet, RA-4,etc as far as quality?

    I am trying to educate myself on how traditional film prints are developed these days, both color and b/w. The scanning to digital thing is the next step in my education:

    I want to shoot some slides for vivid color, b/w negatives and color negatives. At this point I don't want to get into scanning myself. Are the best results from each of these mediums, in order to eventually print paper photos to do as follows:

    Send slide or negative film to pro lab to process, then have THEM scan to cd at which time or later if I want prints, have the pro lab print them from the digital file? Is this the ultimate way to get the best paper prints in today's world (other than possibly developing,enlarging b/w myself)?

    Sorry if any questions are redundant, just trying to understand the process today and how to achieve the best prints in each medium. I like to hold photos in my hand, not look at them on a computer.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2013
  2. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    Most labs will develop&scan and then print from the scanned data. When a scan is made, they usually adjust the tonal range so that the whole gamut of the output medium is covered, so the results will look quite different from optical prints:
    • With b&w you lose the degrees of freedom offered by different film developers and paper, as digital prints go to standard RA4 paper. Results will look more grainy than direct optical prints in my experience.
    • With color negative film the tonal stretch/compression can save shots that are poorly exposed or have too high scene brightness, but will look a lot grainier than direct optical enlargement.
    • With slide film you don't really have the commercial option of direct optical enlargement any more :smile:whistling:smile:, as Ilfochrome process is more or less gone, and I have not seen internegative based enlargements offered anywhere so far. The upside is that scans generally look ok.
    I use scans as fast index prints and optical enlargements for the few shots that warrant the effort.
     
  3. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Depends on where you live or are willing to ship your film to. In my area there are still full-service labs which can offer a range of options.
    But as mentioned above, going from a slide directly to a positive chemical print is an almost extinct path. Nowadays, one can go from a color
    neg directly to RA4 papers, or from either neg or chrome via scanning to either RA4 paper or inkjet. What represents better quality really
    depends on several factors, the most important probably being the competency of the lab and the quality of their equipment, upon how well
    you communicate together, and upon your individual taste, as well as the reproduction quality of your original shots. Quickie automated
    printing services might be cheap, but they can't control many variables. Pro labs can offer machine prints or contact sheets or a disc; and
    then can go back and custom print anything you find particularly desirable. But a cheap scan can give you a very misleading idea of what
    to expect. Like everything else, you're only as good as the weakest link in the chain, and you might have to experiment with different labs
    for awhile to find one you trust.
     
  4. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG!

    Depending on where you live there may be a darkroom that you can use. Post your location.
     
  5. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    +1

    Jeff
     
  6. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    For example, if he is in the Washington DC area, I could point him to a darkroom that includes chemical, tanks and enlargers for $7/hour. Or I could show him how to use a Jobo to process color or black & white film.
     
  7. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    At least one of the forum advertisers, Blue Moon Camera, operates an optical darkroom. The link I posted is to their processing services page, which says they accept mail-order processing. I'm not affiliated with them, and I have not yet used their services.
     
  8. CatLABS

    CatLABS Subscriber

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    Color services in Boston MA has full traditional BW and color printing and film processing services.
    Bill LaPete in Boston as well, has a "for rent" darkroom with all the facilities you can think of.

    As for BW prints from scans - many places, among them digital silver imaging in Belmont MA, prints using a special digital laser light jet printer on to traditional BW (fiber or RC) paper. The results are amazing, considering the material originates in digital files or scans.
     
  9. CatLABS

    CatLABS Subscriber

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    The answer is in the body of your question - do it yourself - get the best results possible, and save some cash while you do it.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    What he said.
     
  11. marenmcgowan

    marenmcgowan Subscriber

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    Blue Moon Camera is in Portland, OR. I have used them and they are dedicated film shooters, they have optical services (both in machine prints and enlargements), as well as scan-to-print services.

    Richard Photo Lab...Hollywood, CA
    I use them for events and weddings, online fulfillment for client galleries, and so on. They also do canvas and fine art prints, but I think they stopped all their optical services which makes me sad. They have a service called "ColorPac," where they do a profile for you so that the scans are consistently how you like them (i.e. warm, cool, neutral...etc), and I find this valuable for weddings.

    Both labs have awesome customer service and receive orders from all over the world. BMC is seriously analog and RPL is serious about film in a digital world...IMO.

    Another option...as stated above in the DIY suggestion...find a rental darkroom...printing your own stuff is an awesome way to learn how to shoot better, and save money at the same time. Plus, DIY darkroom is rewarding...I miss it.
    I also think you should post your location, as you will get lots of specific advice from folks in your area.
     
  12. tnabbott

    tnabbott Member

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    Rayco Photo in San Francisco provides a full line of equipment for rental from developing, enlarging, to scanning. No affiliation.
     
  13. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I don't know where you are in the world, but LomoLab in London can do analogue prints, without scanning, so presumably they're using an enlarger.
     
  14. landman

    landman Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I am in Raleigh, NC

    I guess to clarify my question, subject to finding the rare old school lab (thanks for the suggestions on these), just about all labs use scanning of some type to make prints from negative? When dip and dunk is advertised they still probably use a machine to scan to print?

    Thanks for all the replies!
     
  15. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    You might try Southeastern Camera over in Carrboro, NC. I haven't been there since 1999 (it's just too far from Charlotte), but their website seems to indicate some degree of wet darkroom services such as hand-developed black-and-white film. The site says they do "machine prints" from film but doesn't specify if they are scanned or optical. They also advertise that they sell darkroom supplies and equipment. Worth a look anyway.
     
  16. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    "Dip and dunk" refers to the processing of the film and has nothing whatsoever to do with printing.

    "Machine-printing" used to mean (in UK, where I worked in a "pro" lab) that the negs were printed using a projection-printing machine which would adjust exposure based on an average of the neg brightness. There were also similar machines with a vdu that enabled manual corrections for each shot, but in that case any lab would mention "individually corrected" or something like that to indicate added value (and a higher price).

    One thing you will face is that different lab operators will use different terms for the same service, and vice-versa. The only way to know what is going on is to go there and ask. For small colour enprints, the standard dev-and-print of a complete roll of film, then the scan and print system can work fine. Variations will come from the skill of the operators and the maintenance of the machines. "Best" results will be from optical enlargements on appropriate paper generally, but Lightjet RA4 prints can be impressive indeed and open up some size options which would be difficult by hand.
     
  17. mrcad

    mrcad Member

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    Dear Landman

    We are a Photographic shop in Pimlico London, we use a pro lab that process and print and provide a CD at the same time - 35mm to 120mm to 10x8 negatives Black and White and Colour all available. It allows you to just develop onto a CD and or have prints or slides made at the same time

    Please let us know if we can help you further
    Mr Cad
    12 Upper Tachbrook Street, SW1V 1SH - 020 8684 8282