I’ve been using film as my photography medium of choice since the day I started out with photography back in the 1980’s (obviously there didn’t used to be a choice in those days!). When it got to the late 00’s circa 2008, choices for film processing services were getting fewer by the day. I remember 2008 quite notably; there was literally only a handful of places to get film processed, scanned and printed, in the UK and none of them were local to me; all required postage.
I remember at the time sending film to each of the labs (not every one but several) and trying to determine which offered the best value for money and best service before eventually settling on one that I used, and still use, to this day. I also recall hearing of one “UK Film Lab” that I heard offered a bespoke individually tailored service for professionals that I also used a few times but sadly they relocated to Canada which was a shame because they were very good (now “Canadian Film Lab“). I remember getting some stunning results back from them not long after I first started using my Hasselblad. So I went back to my usual lab once they moved on.
However, I learned recently of a new lab, here in the UK, that is a small business offering just the kind of tailored film development service that I like to see, and that I got with UK Film Lab. I like small businesses and I like to support them where I can. Obviously, like most of us, our pace of life means we do generally have to rely on big corporates for a lot of things, like our food shopping and so on. I use ASDA and Sainsburys as much as the next family. I use Amazon too because often I just don’t have the time to drive 20 miles to whichever specialist store might be stocking my goods, or drive to several stores, when I can get all of them at once via Amazon even if I do have to wait a day or two. So I make no lie about that. But that is not to say I support those big companies. I use them to suit my own convenience. But wherever there is a feasible and reliable small business that I can use at the same or similar cost, I will, even if it is slightly more expensive.
SilverPan Film Lab is new lab in Bristol. Now, full disclosure : I have not yet used them for work. However, I am already impressed by them for several reasons. I am a regular listener to a podcast about film photography where the company founder featured as a guest during one episode and I liked what I heard then. However I didn’t get around to visiting the website until a chance e-mail exchange where the lab very kindly offered me some advice on home colour development. During further e-mail exchanges and website browsing, it became obvious that this company does pretty much everything for your film development needs other than tie your shoelaces. They will develop your film in one of a variety of ways which you can stipulate, for one thing. So you can ask for your film to be developed in a particular developer, or for a particular duration. That’s a first! And that is a big thing for many serious film photographers because certain developers work better on certain films.
You can have your negatives scanned, but not only in one of several resolutions (commonly standard, large and extra large) but also in one of several formats, including the Hasselblad 3F (FFF) format, raw TIFF, JPEG, JPEG & TIFF, 16-bit, 8-bit, and so on. Now I can do, and do do, home development myself; at least of black and white film. But I have to say the scanning side of things is a royal pain in my butt, and is one of several reasons why I don’t like digital photography. I just can’t stand sitting about waiting for the scanner, and then trying to get rid of dust and then re-scanning, and then messing about with post-processing, which, I might add, I am not terribly good at. I’d rather have a lab do that for me, even if it does cost a bit; the results will always be better than my efforts on my Epson V550.
Furthermore, you can also choose between either having your pictures all burnt to a DVD, or uploaded to a cloud service for immediate download. Very hand in this day and age when waiting two days for return postage is (or can be) a nuisance.
And above all of that, there is clearly a customer focused friendly angle to this business. So I will be giving them a whirl when I next need some film processing doing. That is not to say I will stop using my usual lab, because they are fantastic as well. But it is good to have options; one lab cannot rule them all, hey! I am so pleased to have heard about another UK based film processing lab. We don’t have that many and it is pleasing to know another now exists with a great customer focus. Visit their website and try them out for yourselves.