Well hey! Welcome to a guest post for photographers from the FIND Lab, the lab where I send all my film to be processed, scanned, and magic-ified. Their customer service and results are plain fabulous, so I really dunno what you’re waiting for–go try them out.
(And get your first roll free! AND they’re sponsoring my workshop this November. Infinite reasons to love ’em, I tell ya.)
And now, their tips for creating a film look you love with your lab:
Film has a very personal look and unique aesthetic no photographer can achieve alone. Only with the help of a lab, can a film photographer achieve the look and feel they are going for. Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand the lab can wave to nail down your style. This can only happen with an open dialogue and two way communication between photographer and lab.
Here are a few pointers, from a lab’s perspective, on the best way to communicate to ensure they nail down your look every single time:
Whether it’s your first order with your lab or you’re wanting to fine tune your preferences, we’d recommend setting up a color profile.
When setting up a color profile you’ll have some homework to do. As photographers we are very visual people so providing images of your preferences is the way to go. Everybody sees color differently. A client may say they like warm skin tones, but does that mean golden, pink, or peachy in color? By providing imagery, we can see what you see. If we notice an inconsistency, we’ll put you back to work and encourage you to narrow down your images or hone in what you like about each image provided. Addition to color, we also like to ask about contrast and exposure. Do you like high, neutral, or low contrast? Bright, darker or neutral exposure? Again, if the images provided don’t match up with your description, we may ask you to go back to the drawing board.
We all wish we could be shooting under perfect conditions every single time. However, the reality is there will always be less than ideal situations. As a lab, we like to know how you’d want us to handle your images in these situations. When you underexpose do you want us to darken down the shadows so they’ll be less muddy, or leave them flatter to retain more detail? When you overexpose do you want us to scan for the highlights to save as much highlight detail as possible, or leave your images brighter? We’ll ask you to provide images in all different lighting scenarios, back lit, side lit, full sun, open shade, indoor, outdoor, under and over exposure. We want to know how you want your images handled in any and every lighting situation that you can think of.
Next, provide feedback, but remember, feedback works both ways.
If your lab processes your order and you’re not happy with the results, kindly let them know. As far as your lab is concerned, no news is good news. If you’re not loving what you’re receiving and not speaking up, your results will be the same. Your lab wants feedback and to give you a product you are both proud of. The best way for a lab to get feedback is with example edits of how it was originally and then with the changes you made.
That being said, your lab may not be able to fix everything.
Your negatives don’t lie and sometimes your final product may be less than ideal because of the way it was exposed. If you’re not happy with your scans, you should go to your lab with an open mind that it may be something that needs to be changed on the photographer’s end. If it is something your lab can improve, your lab should be eager to work with you to get your order on track. Who better to trust than the people who are looking at your negatives and who you’ve already trusted to develop and handle them?
Lastly, now that you have started a relationship, you need to foster it.
We’d love to say that as soon as a color profile has been made that everything will be perfect overnight, but that’s hardly the case. This back and forth communication may take a handful of orders until both lab and photographer are happy with the results. It may take time, but in the end it will all be worth it. So whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned photographer, start compiling images and get that dialogue started.
*photo by Noelle Reynolds, Portra 400
ONE more time infomercial style, seriously you’ve got to give The FIND Lab a try. I’ve never used another lab because I’ve never had a reason to–they treat every client like gold and are truly invested in your success as a photographer.