Film photography is having a massive comeback. That said, it’s no longer as popular as it was during its golden era. The number of film drop-off locations has noticeably decreased since the advent of digital photography. But it’s still possible and relatively low cost, if you know what to look for.
So in this article, we’ll answer the questions:
- Where to get a film developed near me?
- How much does developing a film cost?
- What to look for when developing your film
What to Look for When Developing Your Film
Before deciding where to process your film, you should consider the following six factors:
1. Film Type
First off, you’ll need to identify the labs that can develop the film type you have. Most film-developing facilities can process disposable cameras as well as 35mm color and black-and-white films.
You’ll also have no trouble finding a location that develops 110mm, Advantix (APS), and slide films. Other film formats should be checked with the facility first to see if they can be developed.
By the way, some formats, such as a large E-6 slide, can be logistically challenging when developing a film via mail.
2. Film Scanning
The second question you must answer is whether or not you want your film scanned. Many labs provide the services of developing, printing, and scanning films. That said, if you only want your film developed, some places offer lower prices for film development only. Then the scanning or printing is up to you.
Whereas if you want someone to digitize the film for you, we recommend going to a specialized lab. To explain, if you have the film scanned elsewhere, there’s a good chance it’ll result in poor resolution.
Moreover, you must ensure that the size of the scans provided by a lab corresponds to how you intend to use them.
The third thing that comes to mind is the quality of film developing and scanning that you want. Professional labs typically provide high-resolution scans, giving you greater flexibility in how you can use them.
To be more specific, there are film development facilities that provide scan sizes that can be quite limiting. For example, a small-size scan will easily appear pixelated when uploaded or printed on a larger scale.
Thus, if the quality of the scans and prints is your primary focus, you should go with the experts. Naturally, they’re more expensive, but the results will be well worth it.
However, if the quality isn’t a deal breaker for you, a drugstore that offers film development and scanning will suffice.
4. Turnaround Time
The turnaround time for developing a film varies greatly from one location to the next. It could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
That’s why, if you’re in a hurry, you should check with labs that can process your film quickly. That’ll most likely be dedicated photo labs and, on occasion, online film-developing labs.
5. Returning Negatives
Getting the negative back after developing the film isn’t always optional. This won’t be a problem if you don’t mind getting the negative back or if you’ve already asked them to scan it.
On the other hand, if you only need developing and will handle the scanning yourself, this would be an issue. Thus, it’s critical to know whether the place you’re about to deal with returns the negatives or not, so you don’t lose your source for scanning.
Finally, after highlighting exactly what you require from a film development facility, the cost will follow. Keep in mind that if saving money is your top priority, you may have to give up some factors in return.
This can take the form of a lengthy turnaround time, medium to low resolution, or a lack of scans and prints. Yet, that’s not entirely a bad thing if you’re just starting out in photography or just testing some of your work. So the cost factor will really depend on the situation.
Where to Get Film Developed Near Me?
The number of film-development facilities has been decreasing since our world became more digitized. However, a few places, mostly drugstore chains, are still available at almost every destination. We’ve chosen to focus in this article on Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart.
In case you didn’t know, Sam’s Club, Target, and Costco all dropped their film development services a while ago, so cross them out of your list.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Developing Film at Drugstores?
We’ll give you a detailed comparison of Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart in a moment. For now, let’s go over some of the major pros and cons of having your film developed at a drugstore:
There are three benefits to processing your film at a drugstore:
Since the majority of dedicated photo labs are concentrated in major cities, not everyone has easy access to them. In contrast, the drugstore chains we’ll be discussing are spread across almost the entire country.
2. Digitizing Availability
These drugstore chains also offer digitizing services, which is quite impressive. They develop your film and provide you with a CD containing a scanned version of it as well as prints. That said, all of their services are available as a full package, so they don’t only develop your film.
3. Affordable Price
All three drugstores offer competitive prices in the film development industry. That’s why we recommend using them for trial-and-error projects, even if you live near a professional lab. You wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money processing films that might contain photography errors.
Moving on, here are three downsides of developing your film at a drugstore:
1. Quality Issues
We’re not going to lie, the quality of drugstore results isn’t the best out there. Besides, because most of their developing process is automated, the machines can leave scratches on your film, which will be visible in the final prints or scans.
Moreover, the size of their scans won’t provide you with the flexibility we discussed earlier without compromising the image resolution.
2. Long Turnaround Time
Although some of these chains used to process films in under an hour, that’s no longer the case. Because they now send the films to be processed by a third party, the turnaround time has increased to 1-3 weeks.
3. Discard Negatives
Unfortunately, none of the drugstores we mentioned will give you back the film negatives. However, a few users reported that some Walmart branches may try to return your negatives, but this isn’t guaranteed.
Walgreens vs. CVS vs. Walmart
Now it’s time to compare the three chains so you can decide which one will be best for processing your film:
|Store||Developing and Scanning||Turnaround Time||Return Negatives||Starting Price (CD + Prints Included)||Online Services|
Any Walgreens location can process color as well as black and white 35mm films. Certain locations can also develop disposable cameras, APS, 110, and 127 films. Simply call the nearest branch before you go to ensure that they offer the service you require.
Walgreens typically processes disposable cameras and color 35mm film within 7-10 days. If you’re developing APS, 110, 127, or 35mm black and white film, it could take up to 3 weeks to finalize.
In any case, once they’re finished, they’ll call you so you can pick it up; there are no mail services here. Walgreen’s final scans and prints are generally good, but they can be a little low-resolution.
CVS is now considered the best drugstore for film processing. Aside from having branches almost everywhere, it also has the highest quality of the two drugstores being compared.
CVS, like Walgreens, can process disposable cameras and 35mm film within 7-10 days. Other film formats can take up to 3 weeks. CVS’s services differ from one store to another. In fact, some branches don’t develop films, so double-check before going.
They used to have online services, but no longer do, so they’ll get in touch with you when your package is ready.
Walmart has one of the most affordable rates for developing films. Not only that, but it has one of the lowest charges for an extra set of prints, at $2. You’ll notice that film development services and policies change from one branch to the next.
For example, while the majority of Walmart locations don’t return negatives, we’ve discovered that one in Shreveport, Louisiana does on occasion. Plus, not all branches provide film processing services.
Although this chain’s incredibly low prices are tempting, it falls short in other aspects. When compared to the other two chains, Walmart has the lowest quality scans and prints. On top of that, it has an extremely long turnaround time, so don’t rely on them for urgent projects.
Similarly to the two drugstores mentioned above, someone from Walmart will contact you to arrange for the pick up of the results.
Is It Possible to Develop and Scan Films at Home?
Yes, you can process and scan your films at home. In fact, this will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Surprisingly, developing films at home isn’t as difficult as you might think. All you need are the following tools:
- Paterson tank
- C41 kit (Developer – Blix- Stabilizer)
- Bottle opener
You’ll just have to be extra cautious because you’ll be working with hazardous materials. Before you can develop a film without making any errors, it may take some effort and a few times of practice, but once you get there, it’ll be worthwhile.
Meanwhile, film digitization at home is now easier than ever. There’s a wide range of portable film scanners available, from which you can select and invest in the one that best meets your needs.
Now, if you ever hear a fellow analog photographer ask, “Where to get a film developed near me, and how much does it cost?” You’ll be well prepared to help him out!
Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart are unquestionably among the most accessible and affordable options. Nonetheless, if quality is your top priority, we suggest you look into other local or online film processing facilities.