in the life of a film shooter, beyond you, your camera, and your clients, there is one HUGE player that will make or break the quality of your work-- the lab you choose to process your film.
your lab is in essence your post production team. they save you time by not only developing your film, but taking those film negatives, and scanning them into their digital form (dig, you know, the stuff you see on my blog? and the files i hand off to my clients) . when a lab scans your film into digital files, they are making very particular judgement calls on white balance, contrast, brightness, exposure, etc...
so basically all those important visual things we photographers freak out about when it comes to our images--is a call you have to be able to trust your lab to make. if they do their job well, they should save you hours of photoshop/lightroom time. if they do a baaad job, you're kinda up a creek.
allllll of the above begs the question,
yan, what lab do you use?
for a while i didn't have a straight answer. i was a bounce around shooter. trying this lab or that. getting good results one time, mixed the next, fussing with my "film look," as i tried to make it uniqe-- pulling out my hair because i couldn't hone in the "just right," i was searching for.
finally, the last lab on my list to try, as it was one of the newest to the scene, ended up being my salvation.
first let me tell you in my endless experimenting the things i realized i needed in a lab.
1. good customer service-- you have to have open communication with your lab in order to achieve the exact film look you're going for. the guys at indy, in particular my main man josh responded to any concerns i had immediately, and would go above and beyond to check back in with me to make sure i was satisfied after the fact.
2. frontier scanners -- labs these days are typically using two kinds of scanners: the noritsu and the frontier- some will disagree with me, but to my eye they each have their certain look, and color palette. i happen to prefer that of the frontier, but this is an older and more time costly machine. not every lab uses them. indie does though! bless them.
3. turn around time reliablity -- with film shooting getting more popular every day, labs in the last year seem to have found themselves overwhelmed with a surplus of clients they weren't sure how to accomodate. with growing business this happens, so please don't take what i say next as a diss to any lab out there. but. as a business owner, this posed a huge problem for me because i would be told by a given lab to expect my scans in xxx amount of time, which i would then turn around and tell my clients. then that time would come and go and not only did i not have scans in my inbox to download, i also didn't have an email telling me when to expect them. as you might guess this put me in a terrible position with my client homies! my lab wasn't communicating with me and i couldn't communicate with them! with indie i never have to worry about that. i get my scans when they say, or if there is a hiccup, and this is real life so yes, sometimes that happens-- they TALK to me about it. i appreciate that so much.
4. general quality of scan. i'm talking color, density, dynamic range, etc at indie film lab there is a person i know and TRUST making these calls for me. you and i both know it takes a trained eye to make these decisions. further, not any joe schmoe off the street, not only knows color, but knows it well enough to be able to cater to the whims of different photographers. the staff at indie is TALENTEd. they KNOW the idiosycraies of the rainbow, if you know what i'm saying. their scans are beautiful and you can see in the shots i have below--
5. variety of scan sizes. this is going to be a wee bit too techinical for me to go into. but film shooters, lets just say indie has options, which allows them to be more affordable than some other labs out there.
i'm officially an indie girl. they have my business for the long haul, and i want to shout to the world that you should use them too. but don't take my word for it, (reading rainbow reference).......
i wanted to share one of my most beloved family sessions of the last year (honestly i have so many lovely ones to show, but this one is special because) --
brooke doesn't remember but i met her a few years ago at wppi when she was manning her and her husband's genius creation, the smilebooth. she was pregnant at the time and so was i and even though i felt uncool and shy i struck up a convo on the subject, making sure to compliment her gutsy rad super cute short hair. she was so kind. and normal. which in the wppi cool kid madness was such a refreshing and reassuring relief. i then rushed home to look at her work and quickly obsessed with not only her photography but just her eye and aesthetic---its in everything she does, her branding, her home, the way she dresses, the way she dresses her kids, her coffee cups--and i know all of these things seem material when you think of them as things, but when you do what brooke does and take your inner artist self, and infuse it into the aesthetic of everything around you, it goes way beyond material. its creating a world filled with your soul...