As a student, affordable hobbies are much more enticing than the idea of spending hundreds on hockey gear you only use three times. Film photography could definitely be on the list of less affordable hobbies thanks, mainly, to developing costs (skrimping on Poundland film certainly helps). In aid of keeping costs down until I can handle developing, I need to pay someone for this, ideally, someone from the cheaper end of the bunch.
As part of this ongoing quest for budget film photography, I tried yet another developer: The Photo Shop Online. From the outset, I was drawn in by their prices, free return post, and 5% student discount – all lovely stuff. For developing and a 6MP scan, it would come to £4.95 per roll (or £4.70 to the Student Finance reliant). Higher resolution scans are available for an extra cost, although that’s only worth it if the scans are any good. To find out, I sent them two rolls of Fuji Superia 400 shot with my Nikon FM2n and EM.
I received the PayPal invoice the day it arrived, and it was processed and ready the same day – on New Year’s Eve. Top effort there. First class return postage brought it back even faster, and some of the photos came out pretty nicely. Here’s a couple of my favourites:
Overall, the scans are pretty reasonable quality, about the same as anywhere else for a fiver. However, the colour balancing originally was way off, giving casts over some of the images, suggesting the film was either developed slightly differently, or the scanner wasn’t set up properly. Some green shadow cast is typical with Superia 400, although these seem far more than usual. This can be edited in Photoshop, but that takes time, I’m lazy, I don’t like editing film photos, and other companies have managed this step pretty reliably. You can see a before and after my edits below.
For the edits, I just used Photoshop’s ‘levels’ tool to select the darkest point I could find as the black set point. Since the cast mainly effected the shadows, this removed the green tint to give a much more natural colour. I then tweaked the white and black limits a little since I was there, but no other edits were really necessary. This doesn’t sound time consuming, but searching a grid of dark pixels for the one that looks the darkest isn’t my idea of a hobby.
Overall then, expect your film to be processed quickly and cheaply, but colour balancing may be an issue for more discerning photographers, especially if you splash out on film more expensive than £1. If you’re just after the ‘film look’ then you should be fine, although for the same price other companies give more reliable results.
Really, I should be tweaking my photos anyway, but that takes time, and time is apparently money. So how much are a couple of hours worth to you? Might just be a quid or two. Might just be worth paying someone that extra then.