September 2012, July 2011
These are the labs I use for my own work.
Most are local to me, and they all do loads of mail order from around the USA and around the world.
Even though I'm always in such a rush that I drive to the lab to see what I got, postage still costs a lot less than car expenses, even if you only live a few miles away. From 1973 - 1993 I used to mail all of my film away for processing.
Many shooters FedEx their stuff to labs while they're out on location.
As lesser labs close, these better labs are getting busier. Tell them I sent you.
I've been using NCPS since 2006.
NCPS develops any and all kinds of film, from E-6 slides to C-41 color prints to real silver black-and-white negatives.
NCPS develops all formats from at least 35mm through at least 8x10." I've even dropped off obsolete, odd-sized roll film and they've been able to run it through their dip-and-dunk system.
They do the cleanest job I've ever gotten on my chromes. There are never any drying or squeegee marks on my film, and never any pinholes.
I learned another secret about them: they process all the film as dip-and-dunk, even their C-41(color print) and B&W. Everyone else, even pro labs, process C-41 in roller-transport minilab processors, which tends to lead to the scratches every other lab has to lie about. NCPS runs even their C-41 with the same care as they run E-6, with 1/3º temperature tolerances.
NCPS uses Fuji chemistry.
Here's what makes NCPS really special: for just a few bucks, they will scan complete rolls of 35mm and 120 film at very high resolution. In just a few hours, I've got everything I shot on a DVD. I load it into my computer, and Bingo!, I've got 25MP digital images (or better) from every frame I shot.
Not only are my shots already digitized and in my computer in the blink of an eye, I still have the original film and the DVD as dual, non-erasable backups. I'm done before I even started.
I find shooting film and having everything scanned as it's developed easier for me than dealing with digital cameras, chargers and computers while in the field. Shooting film is easier in the field, all my backups are already done for me when I return, and it looks better. End of story.
But wait! NCPS also does large and huge format printing on just about every medium, including great looking glossy plastic material.
NCPS also can print optically from B&W negatives onto real B&W paper in a darkroom, but only for very large jobs. Everything else they'll scan and print.
If you want prints, try NCPS, too. NCPS makes extraordinary prints from film or digital files at any size up to 20" or 24" wide by unlimited length. Want a 24" x 10-foot stitched panorama on incredible 3D metallic-backed paper? NCPS does this every day, and the metallic paper of course looks great even in 4x6" prints.
The cool thing behind all this is that the owner and founder of NCPS is also an avid working photographer, just like us. He wants his own stuff to look great just as much as we do.
Adorama's in-store lab does a ton of online printing.
If you prefer Kodak paper, especially the metallic materials, give Adorama a shot. I've tried them and the prints are great, even thought I prefer the Fuji materials used by other labs for my crazy color shots.
They don't develop film.
Adorama hand-makes photo books on real Fuji Crystal Archive paper. They are unique in that ever page is a centerfold: they use a unique binding method so that each pair of pages opens flat.
Also, as you'd expect from New York City, Adorama's print prices are unbeaten, and get even better when they run specials.
ScanCafe is a bulk scanning service which efficiently scans large photo libraries.
They can scan just about anything, prints, slides, video or negatives, do a reasonable job, and their prices are low.
ScanCafe is a great idea if you want all your old photos scanned well at a great price, and although they'll take a while to do it, they do small jobs, too.
Example Photos: Everything in my Gallery that was shot on film before 2007.
I've been using Chrome for my film developing from 1990 until they closed their La Jolla branch near my house in 2006. Since 2006, NCPS is closer to me than Chrome's downtown location, so I've been using NCPS instead.
Chrome has been the San Diego pro's scanning and printing center for decades.
If you want to know what's going on in San Diego's professional photo community, ask Chrome. Everyone uses them.
Chrome remodeled in July 2011, and stopped running film, and of course still does printing, huge printing and high-end scanning.
Everyone at Chrome is great. It's always a pleasure to go there. Unlike many of the crummy labs that closed long ago, the second time you walk into Chrome, they already know your name and how you want your work done. Chrome is always happy to see you.
Examples: Zillions of baby and vacation photos all over my family's albums, and loads of 12x18" and 20x30" prints I show at workshops.
I do most of my printing at Costco. I can get any size up to 12 x 18" by walking in. The quality is unsurpassed, and the prices are the lowest. So long as you want it on Fuji Crystal Archive as I do, Costco is the place to print. (Of course for larger sizes and materials, you go to a pro lab. Costco's 20x30" online prints only come matte.)
I never believed my pro friends when they showed me the great results they got at Costco. I kept using other expensive pro labs for my C-41 print film, and they kept getting better results at Costco. Of course those old pro C-41 wedding labs are long gone, and I tried Costco for C-41, and they're OK.
Costco usually does a good job, but you'll get different results location to location. Some times their machines are set wrong, and your CD scans won't have the resolution you thought you wanted.
Price Club (Costco) only processes 35mm C-41, and prints from any digital file, slide or negative.
Cibachrome Prints top
I have not used any of these guys, however other readers have pointed me to them as places that print on Cibachrome (aka Ilfochrome). Cibachrome is the most spectacular print material in existence, it lasts forever if you keep your fingerprints off it, and it prints directly from film without needing to scan.
J. W. Photolabs, North Carolina USA. They claim to offer a 200-year guarantee on the longevity of their prints.
Hance Partners, Arizona, USA.
Weldon Color Lab, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Elevator Digital, Canada, Great White North.
Untried B&W Lab top
I haven't tried these guys. Among other things, they print optically on fibre-based paper.
Images Photo Inc
Processing Mailers top
Although we expect color print film and 1-hour processing on every street corner, I haven't bought my film locally for over 30 years, and for much of my life I've mailed my film away for processing!
Back in the 1970s and 1980s I shot Kodachrome, which I mailed to Kodak's labs in New Jersey or Hollywood for processing. There never was local processing for Kodachrome, and still isn't, unless you're in Parsons, Kansas.
In 1990 when I started to shoot Fuji Velvia (E-6), I first used Fuji processing mailers because I could get them cheap. Even today, you can get them for $5 each at B&H. They don't include the direct-to-digital scanning I get at NCPS, but we all can get pro-level film and processing as close as our mailboxes as I did for decades.
It's only been recently that I've bothered with retail processing, because I like to see what I've shoot immediately as I'm reviewing a camera or lens.
If you're not in a rush, it's a lot easier and cheaper to do it by mail. If I lived in another city, I could mail my film to NCPS, with scanning, just the same.
Heck, If I wasn't always so curious to see what I shot, even living close to NCPS, I still consider using the mail instead because I'd save a lot of drive-time.
Postage costs a lot less than car expenses, even if you live only several miles away and even if you consider your driving time of no value.
Buying Film top
My local store never had exactly what I wanted, even back then.
Unlike digital, where everything is pretty much the same and therefore easy to find, film comes in so many types, sizes and packaging that you'll rarely find what you want at retail, and never at the right price if you do.
Even if you only shoot Velvia, you'll see over two-dozen different items at each link above. Multiply that by the zillion kinds of film, and you'll see why no store other than B&H and Adorama are ever likely to have what you want by walking in.
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!