Is Black and White Film Cheaper Than Color? Yes, But Not In The Way You May Think

With all of the focus lately being on digital photography and new technology, it is easy to forget that there is still great value in developing your film. There is just something special and unique about the film development process since it involves your own hands, rather than sitting and staring at a computer screen. However, there is a cost to developing your own film and you may want to know which type of film is cheaper when starting out. Because black and white style film requires a different process to turn it into a negative than color film, it is important to know the cost before beginning.

While color film is easier to find online and in stores, black and white film is less expensive to buy, but black and white film can be more expensive to have it developed through a mail-order company. However, black and white film is generally less expensive and much easier to develop at home than color film. This is why it often recommended to send your color film out for processing through the mail and develop your black and white film at home.

If you enjoy photography and want to start developing your own film at home, it is important to understand the cost associated with developing your own film at home, where to source your film at a reasonable cost, and the cost and best places to get your film developed including what they offer. We aim to answer those questions and more below. 

The Cost of Developing your Own Film

When thinking about developing your own film it is important to understand the entire cost. To develop your film at home you will need to some important items. Some of these items you may find in your house to save you some money but there are specialty items you will need to purchase to develop film. This upfront cost can seem daunting at first, but remember that almost all of these items can be reused over and over once they are purchased other than except for the film chemicals.

a darkroom in a bathroom
A Home DIY Darkroom Set Up In A Bathroom.

Upfront Cost of Developing Black and White Film At Home

See this article I wrote for the required equipment and the steps to take to develop black and white film at home but in general you will need the following items to develop black and white film at home:

  1. Film – black and white 35mm or Medium Format – around $7 a roll of 36 exposures
  2. Bottle Opener (to open the 35mm film canister) – $5.99
  3. Developing Tank and Film Reels (this one can do both 35mm and medium format film) – $33.70
  4. Measuring cups / Graduated Cylinders (for mixing developing chemicals) – $8.99
  5. Distilled water (I recommend getting this at your local store rather than online) – $24.69 (12-pack of 16.9 oz bottles)
  6. Stainless Steel Thermometer (for measure your developing chemicals) – $11.99
  7. Drying Rack with Film Clips (you can also use string over a bathtub with shower curtain rod and clothespins) – $17.99
  8. Clothespins, heavy paper clips, or large chip clips (to hang the film while it dries) – $9.99
  9. Scissors (to cut the film from the canister when placing it into the developing tank) – $10.99 (pack of 3)
  10. Plastic Funnels  (to help pour your developing chemicals in and out of the developing tank and storage bottles) – $5.81
  11. Rubber Gloves (keep you hands from getting chemicals on them – optional, but recommended) – $29.99 (black nitrile, box of 100)
  12. Apron (to keep your clothes from getting splashed with chemicals – optional, but recommended) – $12.99
  13. Kitchen Timer (you can also use a phone or a watch with a stopwatch function) – $7.99 (two-pack)
  14. Running water (I recommend a bathroom sink) – free
  15. A Dark Room (you should find this at your house, I recommend a room without any windows like a basement bedroom or bathroom, if this is unavailable then I suggest the changing bag listed below) – free
  16. Film Changing Bag (to use when placing the film from the film canister into the developing tank) – $22.88
  17. Bottles to Mix and Store Developing Chemicals – $34.99 (4-pack with lids)
  18. Black and White Developing / Processing Chemicals:
  • Kodak Developer (develops the images on your negatives) – $15.97
    • Powder – Makes 1-Gallon
    • Develops 16 rolls of film when not diluted, 8 rolls of film when diluted with water 1:1
    • For black and white photography only
  • Kodak Stop bath (stops the development process) – $19.85
    • Liquid Form – Makes 8 Gallons (dilute with water at 1:64)
    • Each mix will stop 20 rolls each so around 2500 rolls of film if mixed a liter at a time
    • For black and white photography only
  • Kodak Fixer (makes your camera film not be affected by light) – $17.89
    • Powder From – Makes 1-Gallon
    • 100 rolls of film per gallon
    • For black and white photography only
  • Wetting Agent / Photo-Flo (helps limit water spots on your film when it dries) – $17.99
    • liquid – 16 oz. bottle
    • Use only a cap full with the water in the development tank (around 600ml) – When used in this way it will do 190 rolls of film
    • Can be used on both black and white and color films

The estimated total cost for black and white film equipment and chemicals: $288.99 (without optional items)

However, the overall price could be lowered significantly to around $146.45 if you found things around the house to use like scissors, bottle opener, kitchen timer, paper towels, thermometer, distilled water, measuring cups, clips for hanging drying film, rubber gloves, funnels, or an apron.

NOTE: Remember that once you use any items to mix, store, or pour developing chemicals it is not recommended to use them around food again.

Upfront Cost of Developing Color Film At Home

See this article I wrote for the required equipment and the steps to take to develop color film at home. For color film, you would also need to purchase the items listed above for black and white film except for the processing chemicals since color film uses different chemicals to develop. The chemical kit below is what you would need along with the immersion water heater below.

The estimated total cost for color film equipment and chemicals is: $345.23 (without optional items)

However, the overall price could be lowered significantly to $181.82 if you found things around the house to use like scissors, a bottle opener, kitchen timer, paper towels, thermometer, distilled water, measuring cups, clips for hanging drying film, rubber gloves, funnels, or an apron.

Iford Pop-Up Darkroom

Ilford Pop-Up Darkroom
Source: Ilford

The darkroom company giant, Ilford Harmon, recently announced a new portable pop-up darkroom that is basically a tent that is light tight and can easily be set up and taken down in which you can make prints or develop film. The pop-up darkroom will be 7.2 ft (2.2m) tall and has a space inside of 4.2ft x 4.2ft (1.3m x 1.3m) which is big enough for a table for your enlarger and chemicals so you can develop film or make prints. It has a protective mat so it won’t ruin your floors if used indoors. It also has a built-in air vent at the top and bottom to help with air circulation.

Ilford Pop-Up Darkroom In Bag
Image source: Ilford

The entire thing fits in the supplied storage bag and measures 26.6in x 9.8in x 9.8in (68cm x 25cm x 25cm) and weighs 17.5lbs (8kg). The pop-up darkroom will go on sale in November of 2021 and will cost around $265 USD. See this website for more information.

Ilford recently also announced a darkroom starter kit in partnership with the company Paterson that offers everything that is needed to make a print, except for an enlarger and a safelight. This will cost around $150 USD and includes the following:

  • 1 x Ilford Multigrade RC Deluxe Pearl Paper 8×10” 25 sheet box
  • 1 x Ilford Multigrade Developer 500ml bottle
  • 1 x Ilford Ilfostop 500ml bottle
  • 1 x Ilford Rapid FIXER 500ml bottle
  • 1 x Paterson 1200ml Graduate Cylinder
  • 1 x Paterson 150ml Graduate Cylinder
  • 1 x Paterson Chemical Mixer
  • 1 x Paterson Thermometer Small (9”)
  • 3 x Paterson 8×10 Trays (Red / White / Grey)
  • 3 x Paterson Print Tongs (Red / White / Grey)
  • 1 x Paterson Micro Focus Finder

Black and White vs Color At Home Developing Cost

As you can see above with the prices of the equipment, it is more expensive to purchase the equipment to develop color film. Even if you use things from around your house to save money, it is still around $40 less expensive for the equipment and chemicals to develop black and white film ($146.45 for B&W vs $181.82 for color film)

On top of the upfront price difference, another cost related to the developing chemicals makes color film more expensive after purchasing the equipment. The kit to develop color film I recommended above will only develop about 8-10 rolls of film. The black and white chemicals recommended above will develop around 16 rolls of film before more chemicals are needed to be purchased. In addition, if you want to develop more color film, you will need to purchase another kit at around $50 since the recommended, like most color chemicals, are only reusable in limited amounts. However, since black and white chemicals are much more reusable, you would only need to purchase more developer (around $20) until you develop 84 rolls of film before you need to buy more fixer at around $20 (about 5 more times) – with both the stop bath and Photo-Flo chemicals lasting way beyond that.

Hopefully, you can see that although there somewhat of a large upfront cost for the required equipment for developing both color or black and white film at home, it makes more sense to develop B&W film at home rather than color film because of how many rolls of film each type of chemicals can process.

Best Black and White Films To Buy, Price, and Why

When starting up photography it can be hard to know which film to purchase. We’ve listed below the most recommended films and why along with the best prices.

Black and white film is unique because it removes the color we are so used to seeing and abstracts our world. It is my favorite type of film for portraits. The Candian photojournalist Ted Grant even said, “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”

With black and white film, like all camera film, quality matters. Below are some of the best-known brands of black and white film for both 35mm and medium format as well as in both individual prices or prices in bulk.

Which Black and White 35mm Film Should I Buy?

We recommend the following options for beginners because of their price, consistency, longevity, and exposure latitude.

Note: When purchasing film is I recommend doing a cost analysis for each film you plan on buying so you can see how much each picture will cost before developing ($6.99 for a roll of film with 36 exposures + $3.99 shipping works out to be $.30 an image before tax). This can be a good way to compare prices among different stores.

  • 35mm Black & White Kodak Tri-X 400TX – $44.95 (7 rolls with 36 exposures per roll from Amazon.com or $19.99 for a 2-pack with 36 exposures each since)
    • This works out to be $0.17 an exposure with the bulk option since free delivery is included
    • The 2-Pack works out to be $0.27 an exposure
A roll of 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400TX black and white film
  • 35mm Black & White Ilford HP5 Plus 400 – $54.99 – (7 rolls with 36 exposures per roll on Amazon.com or just $18.48 for 2-pack with 36 exposures each)
    • This works out to be $0.21 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
    • The 2-Pack works out to be $0.25 an exposure
A roll of 35mm Ilford HP5 plus black and white film

Which Black and White Medium Format (120) Film Should I Buy?

Both of the above brands from Kodak and Ilford also make the same film sized for medium format cameras. One thing you will notice is that medium format film is cheaper than 35mm film overall. However, remember that you are getting less than half of the number of frames with medium format film (36 exposures with 35mm vs 3 – 16 exposures with medium format film depending on your camera). However, you are producing a larger negative which translates to more details and higher resolution with medium format than with a 35mm camera. Since most medium format cameras take 16 frames that is what I’ll use for the cost calculations below.

  • Medium Format Black & White Kodak Tri-X 400TX – $37.95 – (5-pack with 16 exposures per roll from Amazon.com or $10.99 for one roll)
    • This works out to be $0.47 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.68 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A box of 5 rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400TX  black and white medium format film
  • Medium Format Black & White Ilford HP5 Plus 400 – $34.99 – (5-pack with 16 exposures per roll from Amazon.com or $5.95 for one roll)
    • This works out to be $0.43 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.07 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A box of Ilford HP5 plus 400 black and white medium format film

Why Should I Buy Black and White Films?

Both options will produce sharp images with fine grain and work well in various lighting conditions since they are both right in the sweet spot of light sensitivity (they both are 400 ISO). Even though Ilford HP5 film can be found online as the less expensive of the two, it has less contrast relative to what you’ll get if you use the Kodak Tri-X 400TX film with more subtle tones (not to be confused with Kodak 400 T-Max which is a different product. See this comparison between 400TX and 400 T-Max for more information). Kodak Tri-X 400TX Tri-X film is generally the more popular choice for black and white photographers (especially photojournalists) because of its stronger contrast and high exposure latituded. While both films respond well to pushing and pulling but Kodak Tri-X tends to handle overexposure better. However, you can’t go wrong with either choice as both are able to produce great images. Here is a fantastic comparison between the two 35mm film stocks from TheDarkroom.com

To save even more Money, see the following bulk prices:

For Ilford Black and White Film
For Kodak Black and White Film

Best Color Films To Buy, Price, and Why

Color film is different than black and white film. The development of consistent color film was available to the public later than black and white film so it is a newer process. With color film, you need to make sure what you are getting before you buy it because quality does matter. Color film is more sensitive to temperature variations than black and white film and it is important to find a reliable source that you can trust.

Which Color 35mm Film Should I Buy?

When purchasing film is I recommend doing a cost analysis for each film you plan on buying so you can see how much each picture will cost before developing ($6.99 for a roll of film with 36 exposures + $3.99 shipping works out to be $.30 an image before tax). This can be a good way to compare prices among different stores.

Here some of the best brands of color film, complete with estimated prices and reputable places to find it. When purchasing color film, you’ll usually find the best prices online, and we recommend these film options for beginners:

  • 35mm Kodak Portra 400 – $52.95 – (5 rolls with 36 exposures on Amazon.com)
    • This works out to be $0.29 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
A roll of Kodak Portra 400 color 35mm film
  • 35mm Fuji Pro 400H Color Film $69.99 – (5 rolls with 36 exposures from Amazon.com)
    • This works out to be $0.38 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
A roll of Fujifilm Pro 400 H color 35mm film
  • 35mm Lomo Color Negative 400 ($23.90 – 3 rolls with 36 exposures from Amazon.com)
    • This works out to be $0.21 an exposure for the bulk option since free delivery is included
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.68 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A roll of 35mm color negative film by lomography.

Which Color Medium Format (120) Film Should I Buy?

Both of the above brands from Kodak and Ilford also make the same film sized for medium format cameras. One thing you will notice is that medium format film is cheaper than 35mm film overall. However, remember that you are getting less than half of the number of frames with medium format film (36 exposures with 35mm vs 3 – 16 exposures with medium format film depending on your camera). However, you are producing a larger negative which translates to more details and higher resolution with medium format than with a 35mm style camera. Since most medium format cameras take 16 frames that is what I’ll use for the cost calculations below.

  • Kodak Portra 400 Medium Format ($46.79 – 5-pack from Amazon.com)
    • This works out to be $0.21 an exposure for the bulk option.
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.68 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A box of 5 for Kodak Portra 400 medium format film
  • Fuji Pro 400H Medium Format Color Film ($69.99 – 5 rolls with 36 exposures from Amazon.com)
    • This works out to be $0.21 an exposure for the bulk option.
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.68 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A box of fujifilm pro 400H medium format film
  • Lomo Color Negative 400 Medium Format ($23.90 – 3-pack from Lomography.com)
    • This works out to be $0.21 an exposure for the bulk option.
    • The individual roll works out to be $0.68 an exposure (assuming you get free shipping from Amazon.com)
A box of 3 Lomography Color Negative 400 Medium format film

Why Should I Buy Color Film?

All three options produce sharp and colorful images but Kodak Portra 400 is still the number one choice for film photographers because of the faithful recreation of skin tones and beautiful overall color saturation. The film overexposes well while creating softer, warmer, more pastel colors which is difficult to recreate with a digital camera without post-processing/editing. Kodak Portra 400 also works well in many different lighting situations and the fine grain makes it great for digital scanning. However, it can be more expensive compared to other films.

While Fuji 400H has never been as popular as Kodak Portra 400 it is a solid professional film that has many of the same great qualities as the other films recommended. It overexposes well like Portra 400 creating softer more pastel colors, great for portraits, sharp, and has a fine grain that works well for scanning. Beause of it’s consistency it is used in shooting weddings. However, Fuji Film Pro 400H does tend to have a green tint when it isn’t shot in natural light and it tends to be more expensive than Portra 400. In addition, Fujifilm recently announced they are discontinuing Fuji Film Pro 400H in both 35mm and 120mm formats in 2021 but you might be able to still find some available but I imagine the lack of supply will affect the price difference even more.

Lomo Color Negative 400 is another great option for color film. Its main advantage is that is much cheaper than the other films. However, it has fine grain for scanning which appears sharp, and has cult status for its consistent color reproduction with a lot of contrast and vintage feel (though it is not as revered as Porta 400).

Cheap Color Film Alternatives to Kodak Portra 400

While Portra is the king of color film it can be very expensive if you shoot it a lot. Because of this, there has been a following growing for cheaper color films like Lomo Color Negative film. Kodak UltraMax 400, and Fuji X-TERA 400 are two other alternatives to Kodak Portra 400. These films also have the advantage of being found online as well as in a drug store or Wal-Mart, which is something you can’t say for all the films above (even the black and white film). Though, unlike Lomo Color Negative film you can only find these in 35mm format.

Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm film – $44.99 (5-pack of 36 exposures per roll from Amazon.com – Works out to $0.24 an exposure)

A roll of 35mm Kodak UltraMax 400 film with 36 exposures
  • This film has been growing a following lately because it is great for shooting outdoors in bright sunlight and has a great amount of saturation overall but especially in blues as well as strong contrast. It also handles overcast days as well as artificial light well so it well suited for general photography, portraiture, and landscapes. However, the grain structure isn’t as fine as Portra, Fuji 400H, or Lomo Color Negative Film so the grain is more noticeable. It doesn’t handle underexposure well but does hand overexposure well so it is recommended to overexpose it by 1-stop (set your camera to 200 ISO and develop it as 400 ISO). It is also only available in 35mm format but it is much cheaper than the other color films mentioned and can be found locally at drug stores and Wal-Mart.

Fuji Superia X-TRA 400 35mm film – $47.99 (5-pack with 36 exposures per roll from Amazon.com – Works out to $0.26 an exposure)

A roll of Fujifilm X-TRA Superia 400 film with 36 exposures
  • Like Kodak UltraMax 400, this film has been growing a following lately because of how great it is for shooting outdoors in bright sunlight and produces contrasty images with saturated colors leaning more towards cool magenta and green-ish tones. Because of this, it is better for more general photography and landscapes. However, unlike like Kodak UltraMax 400, the grain structure is ultra fine so it scans well with very fine grain. This has led some people to compare the way the image looks to being digital. It is only available in 35mm format but it is much cheaper than a lot of the other color films mentioned and can be found locally at drug stores and Wal-Mart.

The Best Places To Purchase Film

Other than the cost of equipment to develop your film as well as developing chemicals, camera film is another part of the process to consider. While there are plenty of reasons to still buy film, that does not mean you can just rush out to your neighborhood drugstore and find every kind of format. In fact, it is currently difficult to find more than 35mm color film at many physical stores like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Availability, quality, price are all considerations when determining where to purchase film.

Here are a few tips to think about when purchasing film:

  • Be mindful of shipping costs and taxes because they can add up.
  • Be aware of shipping times if ordering from another country. This is especially true with online stores like Amazon.com, Ebay.com, but also applies to Wal-Mart / Target.
  • It’s hard to know how the film was stored and this can make a huge difference when it comes to color film. This can be especially true when ordering from online stores like eBay. So, be wary of these stores when purchasing color film for consistency since it needs to be stored in a cool and dry place (some places even refrigerate film to keep it fresh). I personally have found color film ordered online from places like Amazon, B&H Photo Video, Freestyle, and Adorama to be perfectly fine.

B&H Photo Video

B&H Photo Video, named after its co-founders Bilima and Herman, is one of the largest photography stores in the world – the three-story store in New York City and has over 1,000 employees and over 400,000 products – this place has quite the assortment of film to choose from and cameras to shoot it with.

They have all of the popular types of camera film like color and black and white 35mm, medium format (120), large format sheet film plus infrared film, and unique formats (like 110 cartridge film and 620 foll film) while usually at the best price. They even have 77 different types of instant film. You can get many popular brands here like Kodak, Ilford, Arista, Fujifilm, and some brands that aren’t as well-known such as Rollei, Lomography, Cinestill, Foma, and KONA. You can also find film sold individually as well as in bulk to save some money. The website is easy to navigate and find what you are looking for.

B&H Photo Video currently offers a student and teacher discount program which can save you money on many purchases.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com is another great option for purchasing photographic film. You can find all sorts of color and black and white film here including 35mm, medium format (120), large format sheet film (4×5), instant film (for polaroid and fuji cameras), some specialty films like 110 cartridge film, and even infrared film. They also have popular brands like Kodak, Ilford, Arista, Fujifilm, Polaroid, and some brands that aren’t as well-known like Lomography, Cinestill, and JCH. You can find film sold individually as well as in bulk to save some money (like this pack of black and white film from Ilford). If you have an Amazon Prime membership you can also save big on shipping. You can also set up a recurring purchase and delivery for your film and film developing supplies so you never run out.

If you are a student and don’t have an amazon prime account, then I suggest signing up for the Amazon Prime Student account. It comes with a 6 months free trial and continues afterward for half the price.

KEH Camera

KEH Camera is a website and store based out of Smyrna, GA (USA) that has been in business since 1979. Their main focus is buying and selling used photography and video gear. Some of their used gear can be as much as 40% off retail with up to 60,000 products available on their website alongside new gear. They also offer a 180-day guarantee on most items. They also have a fantastic repair program and their website is easy to navigate to find what you are looking for.

KEH Camera doesn’t have as much of a selection of film as the Amazon or B&H, but they do have the most well-known formats like color and black and white 35mm, Medium Format, and Large Format film, instant film, and the most reliable brands like Ilford, Kodak, Polaroid and Fujifilm. You can find film sold individually as well as in bulk to save some money. They also have a student discount program and free shipping on orders over $49.

Film Photography Store

The Film Photography Store grew out of a podcast that started in 2009. They offer the most different types of film than any of the others mentioned. Like the others, they offer color and black and white 35mm, Medium Format, and Large Format sheet film and instant film but they also special films like infrared film and films that are only sensitive to blue light. They also offer some more esoteric formats like 110, 620, 220, 127, and APS. Like the other stores listed, they offer the more familiar brands like Ilford, Kodak, Polaroid, and Fujifilm but they also have some that are not as well known like Cinestill, Lomography, and their own brand of special handrolled color and black and white films. You can find film sold individually as well as in bulk to save some money. The website is also easy to navigate to find what you are looking for.

One of the coolest things they offer is an adapter to shoot 35mm film in a medium format camera.

eBay

eBay.com is a place that needs no introduction. Although you can find a lot of expired or old film, you can also find new film for affordable prices as well. This is a great platform to search for any film you might need since it puts you in direct contact with suppliers worldwide in regard to new film. On eBay you can find color and black and white film in 35mm, Medium Format, Large Format sheet film including every kind of camera film you may require at decent prices.

However, you need to be careful because when purchasing color film on eBay. Color film is susceptible to variations in temperature and should be stored in a cool, dry place for the best performance and this cannot always be confirmed when buying from places like eBay.

Adorama

Adorama started in 1974 and, like B&H, is located in New York City. They sell more than just photography and video supplies but that is how they got started. Like KEH, you can sell your camera or video equipment with Adorma and purchase used equipment as well. They even have a rental program.

You can purchase all kinds of color and black and white film here including 35mm, medium format (120), large format sheet film, instant film (for polaroid cameras), some specialty films like 110 cartridge film, and even infrared film. They carry popular brands like Kodak, Ilford, Arista, Fujifilm, Polaroid alongside brands that aren’t as well-known like Dubblefilm, KONO, Revolog, Lomography, Cinestill, Rollei, and Foma. You can find film sold individually as well as in bulk to save some money. This company recently redid its website and it looks great and is now much easier to navigate.

Adorama has a loyalty program as well where you can receive free 2-day shipping among other perks as well as a student discount program.

FreeStyle Photo

FreeStyle Photo started in 1946 and is located in Los Angeles, CA with an online store as well as a physical store. They mostly offer photographic cameras, film, and darkroom supplies and are well known for their alternative process selection for developing film. The website is easy to navigate and easy to find what you are looking for.

FreeStyle Photo has one of the largest selections of photographic film online. You can purchase all kinds of color and black and white film here including 35mm, medium format (120), large format sheet film, instant film (for polaroid cameras), some specialty films like 110 cartridge film, and even infrared film. They carry popular brands like Kodak, Ilford, Arista, Fujifilm, Polaroid along with some brands that aren’t as well-known like Dubblefilm, KONO, Revolog, Lomography, Cinestill, Rollei, JCH, and QWD.

They don’t currently have a student discount or loyalty program but they do offer film processing at their physical store location. See this link for more details.

Antique Stores

While this might not be your first thought of where to get film, it is possible to find old and expired color film at an antique store for very cheap. Expired color film (around 10 – 20 years old) can still be developed with modern processes which is why color film is still relatively worth something. However, over time color film degrades if not stored properly (for example, in a cool, dark place) and will be unpredictable and inconsistent. However, it can be fun to develop this film if you are shooting low-risk subject matter because you don’t know what you are going to get.

If you are interested in shooting with old or expired film, see this article that I wrote for tips on how to shoot with old or expired film and get results you’ll be happy with.

Where to Get Your Film Developed Online?

Kodak Kiosk in Australia in the 1950s where you could purchase cameras, film, or get your film developed.
Kodak Kiosk in Australia in the 1950s where you could purchase cameras, film, or get your film developed.

While it can be somewhat expensive upfront to develop black and white film because of purchasing the necessary items and chemicals to develop it, over time it can be cheaper to develop your own black and white film at home rather than sending it out to be developed. Color film on the other hand is more difficult to develop at home because it has less latitude with temperature variations during the development process. The color process also requires more equipment and chemicals. Therefore, it can be more worthwhile to have your color film sent out for development.

If you want the best quality films, you will want to avoid the neighborhood drugstores or big box stores since they generally only carry color film and in limited ISOs. Also, if you have them develop your film you won’t get your film negatives back and the digital scans are mediocre, at best.

Instead, consider one of the places from this article about where to get film developed or scanned, other services available, and how much it costs. We provided the top three places we reviewed for you below.

If you are interested in learning how to develop your own film at home, see these articles I wrote about what you’ll need and the steps involved to develop black and white film or color film at home. In addition, if you’re concerned about the chemicals involved with developing black and white film at home, see this article I wrote about developing film at home with safer and more environmentally friendly methods.

The Darkroom.com

TheDarkroom.com

Now located almost exclusively online, The Darkroom has been in business for more than 40 years. They use the dip and dunk method of film development and have won many awards for customer service and quality over the years. They have a order tracking system and have been voted best photo lab. The Darkroom is located in San Clemente, CA and can be contacted only by a contact form on the website but they have an extensive FAQ section on their website.

Can They Develop Black and White or Color Film?

They can develop both color and black and white of 35mm or medium format film. They can also develop single-use / disposable cameras, infrared film, slide film, and other films like Advantix, 110 / 126 film for an additional cost.

How Much Does It Cost To Develop Film?

At the time of writing, The Darkroom website charges $12 per roll including “standard” sized scans and a digital web gallery to view and download your images. To develop a single roll of color or black and white 35mm or medium format film including the lowest price for return shipping of your negatives ($5.95) it costs $17.95 (not including tax). Use this order form to create a free mailing label to send in your film.

If you only want your film to be developed and don’t want scans or prints, the cost is $13.95 (&8 a roll of film plus $5.95 for return shipping of your negatives) a roll of film for 35mm or medium format black and white or color film.

Here are a few tips for sending in your film for development.

How Much For Scans?

“Standard Scans” are included free in the price when you develop film which are good for small prints (4×6 or 5×7 inches). However, you can upgrade your scans to “Enhanced Scans” for prints up to 11×14 for $3 more (the recommended option) or for much larger prints you can upgrade your scans to “Super Scans” for $8 more. All scans are automatically corrected for color, contrast, and density or you can choose to have no corrections made. All scans are done in JPEG format.

See this link for more information about file sizes for each version of scanning at TheDarkroom.com

How Do You Pay?

You can either pay by using on online form or by mail when mailing in your order form, which can be found here. However, paying online will give you faster processing and turnaround times. Use this order form to create a free mailing label to send your film to be developed.

Do You Get Your Negatives Back?

Yes, cut and put into plastic sleeves for protection.

How Long Does It Take?

It generally takes 3 – 6 days for your film to be processed and your digital scans to be uploaded to a web gallery for viewing and downloading. However, the more common film formats like 35mm and medium format process much faster than the less common film formats. It also takes about a week for you to receive your negatives back in the mail (depending on which return shipping option you chose). They can also mail your scanned images back on DVDs ($4) or a USB drive ($10).

If you choose to have prints and scans made from film that was previously developed it will generally take 5 – 10 days, not including weekends. Any prints ordered from scans done generally take 2-5 days to produce, not including weekends.

See this link for more information about production times by specific films.

Do They Offer Other Services?

The Darkroom will develop other formats of film such as single-use disposable cameras for $12 and large format sheet film. They can also develop infrared film, old and expired film, slide film (E-6) for $3 more, Advantix and 110 / 126 film for $15, and they specialize in developing old and expired vintage film.

They offer cross-processing and push/pull film services for $2 more and they also can develop panoramic or half-frame negatives for an additional $10.

They offer color prints with a border or borderless and in glossy or matte finishes at $8 for 4″ prints or $20 for 5″ prints per film roll. They also offer genuine black and white prints or enlargements (silver halide-based darkroom prints) of your images in borderless or with a border in glossy or matte finish at $14 for 4″ prints or $20 for 5″ prints per film roll.

They offer scanning of your negatives or slides if mailed in. They charge $1.50 per frame for standard sized scans, $2 per frame for enhanced scans, and $4 per frame for the super scans option. However, there is a minimum order of $10 for scans.

They also offer a whole line of products for you to prints your images to outside of their development and scanning service. You can see those options here.

They also offer gift cards, which you can purchase here.

Is It Cheaper If You Order In Bulk?

While there is no discount for ordering in bulk for developing, it would be a good idea to send multiple rolls of film in for developing at one time because the price for shipping is the same no matter how many you send in. Currently, the price for return shipping is:

  • USPS First Class: $5.95
  • USPS Priority Mail: $8.00
  • FedEx 2 Day: $14.00
  • FedEx Ground: $15.00

Note: I have personally used this company and was very happy with the results. This company has an easy-to-use online ordering system that allows for tracking your film’s progress, fast turnaround times, and quality scans for a less expensive price.

Richard Photo Lab

Richard Photo Lab

In business since 1970, Richard Photo Lab provides premium film processing to its customers. They only use the Dip & Dunk process for processing with deionized water and do daily checks on the temperature of development chemicals, PH levels, and color balance.

Richard Photo Lab has an easy-to-use online ordering system with three options: Development + “Richard’s Way” Scans, Development with Custom Scans, and Development Without Scans. The ordering system allows you to track your progress, had quick turnaround times, and give you quality scans for a competitive price. Richard Photo Lab is located in Santa Clarita, CA and can be contacted via a contact form on the website, email, and phone number.

Can They Develop Black and White or Color Film?

Richard Photo Lab can develop both color and black and white of 35mm or medium format film. For an additional cost they can also develop single-use / disposable cameras, slide film (E-6), and other film formats like 110 / 126, 220, 4×5 sheet film, and 8×10 sheet film.

How Much Does It Cost To Develop Film?

At the time of this writing, Richard Photo Lab charges $21.85 ($8 for development + $7 for Universal quality scans (the middle level) + USPS first class return shipping at $6.85) to develop one roll of color or black and white 35mm or medium format film with shipping (without tax). If you get the lowest scan the price drops to $18.85. You can purchase a shipping label for your film to print out and attach to your packaging to send film to Richard Photo Lab on this webpage. The cheapest option is $11.95 (UPS ground and not for international packages).

See this link for more information about the process to have your film scanned.

They also give you the option to develop film without scans if you want to scan the film yourself. This option cost $14.85 ($8 for development + $6.85 for shipping) for a single-use / disposable camera or one roll of 35mm or medium format film in color or black and white film. Development of additional formats are available at an additional cost.

How Much For Scans?

 Richard Photo Lab’s film scanning technicians use their eyes to make sure your scans look consistently well done. They use a Noritsu or Fronter to scan create small, medium, or large sized scans. They also can create scans using a drum or flatbed scanner. All scans are done in JPEG format.

They have two ways to develop and scan film: standard and custom development. The standard development + scan (called Richard’s Way) is done on a Noritsu scanner. The process generally takes 3 – 6 days for your film to be processed and your digital scans to be uploaded to a free digital gallery for viewing and downloading, depending on what you have developed. All scans are automatically corrected for orientation, light/darkness, and color by human technicians.

Richard Photo Lab charges $4 for web scans, $7 for universal scans, or $12 for large project scans from single-use/disposible cameras, 35mm or medium format film in color or black and white on a Noritsu scanner or on a Frontier scanner for $2 more (Note: 4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14 sheet film can only be scanned on custom drum scans or flatbed scans only). For more information about the cost of scanning see this webpage.

All scans come with the following:

  1. Richard’s Film Report to help you understand why your images look like they do and identify issues with your film or camera.
  2. Free file rotation to the correct image orientation.
  3. Free roll numbering services.

More information about the three levels of scans available:

  • Web Scans: best for online use and prints up to 4×6. File size is 3 – 5mb, approx. 1025×1450 pixels or higher.
  • Universal Scans: our most popular size, best for all-around work and printing up to 16×20. File size is 12 – 18mb, approx. 2050×2790 pixels or higher.
  • Large Project Scans: best for special large print projects. File size is 30 – 45mb, approx. 3350×4550 pixels or higher.

How Do You Pay?

You can pay by using their online ordering form. Use this order form to pay for your choice of mailing label to send in your film to be developed.

See this link for tips on how to mail in your film for developments, scans, or prints.

Do You Get Your Negatives Back?

Yes! It takes about a week to get your negatives back in the mail depending on which shipping and return shipping method you choose.

How Long Does It Take?

Their average turnaround time is 3 – 6 days for your film to be processed and your digital scans to be uploaded to a free web gallery for viewing and downloading. It also takes about a week for you to receive your negatives back in the mail.

According to their website, there are a list of reasons why your film might take longer than their average turnaround time:

  • The number of rolls you send—high roll counts take longer to complete.
  • The quality/consistency of your exposures—film that needs extra love and attention from our scanners to achieve the best results will take longer.
  • The size of your scans—large scans take a bit longer to produce and go through our quality assurance checks, especially for black & white film.
  • Special requests—things like roll numbering, toy cameras, cross processing, pushes/pulls, and applying a color profile you built with us through the Color PAC process can all add to your turnaround time.
  • Your shipping method—the earlier in the day your film gets to the lab, the faster we can get it into production. Film received later in the day may not be processed until the next business day. We recommend Priority Shipping with FedEx.

See this link for more information for up-to-date production times.

Do They Offer Other Services?

Richards Photo Lab will develop other formats of film such as single-use disposable cameras for $8 as well as large format sheet film from 4×5 to 11×14. They can also develop slide film (E-6) for $5 more as well as 110 / 126 film for $8 but the price for scanning goes up quite a bit to $14 for web scans, $17 for universal, and $22 for larger project scans. At this time, they cannot develop are Kodachrome film, Disc Film, Advantix/APS film, C-22, Super 8, or other motion films.

They offer push/pull film services from $1.50 – $3.50 depending how much you push or pull.

They offer scanning of panoramic or half-frame negatives for an additional $5 as well as a rebate edge scanning service on specific medium format sizes of 6×4.5, 6×7, 6×9 for $3 more. This service includes the information around the frame on these film formats in the scan.

They offer color prints along with your scans for color and black and white images with with a border of 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch or not border in either Luster (more shine than matte) or matte finishes (no shine at all) at $6 for 4×6″ prints, $6 for 4.5×6, or $6 for 5×5″ prints per film roll. They also offer a digital contact sheet of all of your images for $8. For prints they also offer 4 styles of border for your prints: plain white, rounded, sloppy, and tear. You can also choose for you images to be cropped to fit your print size or left alone.

They also offer a whole line of products for you to prints your images to outside of their development and scanning service. You can see those options here.

Richard Photo Lab offers other services like digital post processing of images / retouching (see this link for more information) and what they call “PAC”, or Personal Account Consultation, which is a premium service that combines personal business coaching and a customized color profile for your prints.

They also offer gift cards, which you can purchase here.

Dwayne’s Photo

Dwayne's Photo Website
Dwayne’s Photo Website

Dwayne’s Photo provides premium film processing to its customers and offers just about any film developing process that you can ask for including movie film developing, movie film transfers to USB flashdrive or DVD, apparel, photo restoration, reprints from prints or slides, and purchasing of new film. Their website is very easy to navigate and easy to use. You can purchase film development from Dwayne’s Photo you can order through online ordering or by a printable paper forms.

Pros:

  • Easy to use and straight forward online ordering system with an online order tracking system
  • Website is easy to navigate
  • Phone number and email for questions
  • Get negatives back (for $5 + $.50 for additional rolls)
  • Can develop many types of film and formats including disposable cameras, slide film (E6), 110, 126, 127, and color Disc Film (after 1973 only).
  • Can process super 8, regular 8, 16mm, and 35mm movie film formats.
  • Get scans back via a .Zip folder in your email
  • Offers 2 levels of scans Standard and High Resolution scans and delivered in JPEG format
  • Offers push/pull and cross processing services for film
  • Offers scans from previously developed negatives
  • Offers other services like prints and prints from scanned negatives
  • Offers other services like photo restoration service, move film development and transfers to digital format
  • You can purchase color disc film and other types of film on their website
  • One of the cheaper options for film development

Cons:

  • No discount on bulk processing of film or scans that I could find
  • Cannot develop or scan large format sheet film

How Do I Contact Dwayne’s Photo?

Dwayne’s Photo is located in Parsons, Kansas and can be contacted via a contact form on the website, email, and phone number.

Can Dwayne’s Photo Develop Black and White or Color Film?

Yes. Dwayne’s Photo can develop both color and black and white of 35mm, medium format film, or disposable / single-use cameras. They can also develop slide film (E-6) and legacy film formats like 110 / 126, 127, Advantix (APS), and Disc film. They can also develop movie film as well as transfer old movies on super 8 and regular 8 film to either a DVD or Flash drive.

Can Dwayne’s Photo Develop Single-Use / Disposable cameras?

Yes, Dwyane’s Photo will develop disposable cameras for $6 without scans or $9 with standard scans, or $14 with the largest scans. All pricing levels are charged $5 for return shipping plus $.50 for additional rolls.

How Much Does It Cost To Develop Film at Dwayne’s Photo?

With Scans

At the time of writing this article, Dwayne’s Photo charges $14 ($6 for development + $3 for the standard resolution + $5 for return shipping – depending on your location and how many rolls you had developed) to develop one roll of 35mm, medium format, or disposable / single-use camera color film. The cost for 35mm and medium format black and white film processing goes to $15 ($7 for development + $3 for the standard resolution + $5 for return shipping – depending on your location and how many rolls you had developed). If you prefer the higher level resolution of scanning, add $4.

Without Scans

Dwayne’s Photo also gives you the option to have your film developed without scans. This option cost $11 ($6 for development + $5 for shipping – depending on your location and how many rolls you had developed) to develop one roll of 35mm, medium format, or disposable / single-use camera color film without scanning to their facilities. The cost for processing 35mm and medium format black and white film without scanning goes to $12 ($7 for development + $5 for return shipping – depending on your location and how many rolls you had developed).

Development of other film formats like E-6 and other legacy format films are available at an additional cost.

How Much For Scans from Dwayne’s Photo?

It generally takes a week for your film to be processed by Dwayne’s Photo and your digital scans to be sent via email in a .zip folder. Each roll of film processed with be sent in a separate email with an individual .Zip folder. The digital files will be available for 30 days. All scans are delivered in JPEG format.

Richard creates standard resolution scans for $3 or large resolution scans for $8 for disposable / single-use cameras, 35mm, or medium format film.

Resolution sizes for 35mm scans are as follows:

  • Standard: 1830×2740 ppi
  • High Resolution: 4492×6774 ppi

For medium format film, the resolution sizes are as follows:

Scan resolution for 120 film from Dwayne's Photo

How Do You Pay At Dwayne’s Photo?

You can pay by using their online form by choosing which film you want developed and how many rolls. If you’d prefer to pay by mail, use this printable order form and send in your payment with your film.

See this link for tips for frequently asked questions including how to package your film to ship to Dwayne’s Photo.

Do You Get Your Negatives Back From Dwayne’s Photo?

Yes! It takes about a week to get your negatives back in the mail depending on which shipping and return shipping method you choose.

How Long Does It Take To Get Film Developed At Dwayne’s Photo?

Their average turnaround time about a week for your film to be processed and your digital scans to be sent to you via email and a .Zip folder. Your negatives also take about a week to return. Each roll of film processed with be sent in a separate email with an individual .Zip folder. The digital files will be available for 30 days.

Does Dwayne’s Photo Offer Other Services?

Film Development

Dwayne’s Photo can develop a roll of 35mm slide film (E-6) with 24 frames for $7.50 and $8.95 for 35mm slide film with 36 frames. They also develop 120 medium format (standard size) slide film for $8.50 and 220 medium format for $11.

110, 120, 127 color and slide film can be developed for $10 and scanned for an additional $5. However, they can only be scanned in standard resolution (1406×2465 ppi) for 120, (2059×2130 ppi) for 120, and (3160×3162 pppi) for 127 film. For black and white 110, 120, or 127 film development, add $2.

Advantix or other APS film can be developed for $6. Standard scans (1406×2465 ppi) are $3 more and high resolution scans (3043×5535 ppi) are an additional $8.

Disc film can be developed for $12 but can only be scanned with the standard size scan for an additional $5. However, they can only develop Disc Color Film manufactured after 1973, since it was designed for modern C-41 process (color film). You can also get prints from your disc film.

**Dwayne’s Photo is not able to process C-22 type film, rolls of film labeled “Kodacolor-X”, “Process C-22” or “Triple Print”.

See this webpage for more information about film development.

Other Development Services

Dwayne’s Photo offers cross processing services for color film an additional $1. Just choose the option when ordering your film development.

They offer pushing/pulling services for color film an additional $3. Just choose the option and how many stops when ordering your film development. They offer pushing/pulling services for slide film.

See this website for more information about these services.

Movie Film Development

Dwayne’s Photo offers movie film processing for super 8, regular 8, 16mm, and 35mm format film. The price goes by the length of the film but starts at $12 at 50ft of super 8, $12 for 25ft of regular 8, $29 for 100ft of 16mm, and $12 for 30ft of 35mm format film.

See this webpage on Dwayne’s Photo website for additional information about the process.

Movie Film Transfering

They offer movie film transfering services of super 8 and regular 8 movie film. The prices vary depending on how long your film is but starts out at $9.95 for 50ft – $44.95 for 400ft for both super 8 and regular 8 to transfer it to DVD. If you want to transfer the film to Mini-DV, the price starts at $14.95 for 50ft of both formats.

Prints

Dwayne’s Photo offers prints along with scans and development of your 35mm film on either a glossy or matte finish at $3 for 4×6″ prints, $6 for 5×7″ prints per film roll. If the roll has 36 exposures the price increases by $1. If you order prints from medium format film, the rectangle negatives will be 4×5″ and the square will be 4×4″. If you order the 5×7″ for medium format film, the rectangle negatives will be 5×7″ and the square will be 5×5″. Prints from 35mm and medium format slide film are $4 for 4×6″ and $7 for 5×7″ (with the medium format film following the same sizes as color and black and white medium format film).

Dwayne’s Photo offers reprints from color negatives or DVD/CD, prints from slides, reprints from black and white negatives, and reprints from prints for various prices. See this webpage on their website for more information.

They also offer a 8×10″ digital contact sheet of all of your images for $3 (the images are 1″ x 1.5″).

Retouching Services

Dwayne’s Photo offers services like photo restoration service where you can get old, faded or damaged photos or improving or restoring new / current images starting at $19.99 (depending on what needs to be done). It usually takes about a week for the process and you will receive a 5x7in print of your restored photo along with a digital image written to a CD.

Other Services

You can also purchase new film from Dwayne’s Photo on this page of their website. The have all different types of color, black and white, and slide film in different formats include 35mm, medium format (120), and even disc film.

They also offer apparel, which you can purchase here.

Dwayne’s Photo offers a whole line of products for you to print your images to. You can see those options here.

Is It Cheaper If You Order In Bulk from Dwayne’s Photo?

While there is no discount for ordering in bulk for developing and scanning 35mm or medium format film that I could find on their website, I recommend sending multiple rolls of film in for developing at one time since the shipping price is the same (depending on the weight of the package). However, you may save money by just using USPS shipping first class or media mail if you are only planning on developing a few rolls of film.

*=Please be aware the prices were current at the time of writing. It is possible they have changed.

Sources: 

Lee

My name is Lee and I love photography and learning. I received a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 2010 and have worked as a university professor for the last 10 years in addition to being a working photographer. I started this website to learn more about digital and film-based photography and to provide a resource for all of my students.

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