View Full Version : Photos: Cheap developing == same negatives?
09-06-2004, 12:22 PM
Let's say I want to take a whole bunch of photographs (several rolls), but I'm only going to want high-quality prints of two or three of them. Can I just have all the rolls developed on the cheap, decide which shots I like, and get duplicates made from the negatives from a professional photo shop? Asked another way, are negatives from a one-hour joint equivalent to negatives from some place that painstakingly does everything by hand? Or do negatives from cheapo developing processes end up being of a lower quality?
09-06-2004, 01:20 PM
The cheapo place uses exactly the same chemistry as the pro lab. They also use a developing machine of equal quality. There is no human input once the film is loaded (unlike printing). What can differ is how much care they put into quality control. The state of the chemicals should be regularly checked by running test strips and other simple tests. The machine should also be kept clean to avoid streaking and marks on the negs.
There are cheap labs who maintain their system as well as any pro lab - it's not rocket science. The hard part is finding one. IME even labs from the same chain vary greatly and depend on the attitude of the employees. Try to avoid those that send your films off-site for processing. Ask other local photographers for their experiences of local labs.
09-06-2004, 01:20 PM
You risk a little by getting them developed at the cheapo place. Some cheapo places do excellent work, and some don't keep their lines clean and will totally destroy your negatives. As long as you've got good negs, you can always make more prints. But if they screw up the film development, then you've got zilch. It can't hurt to test your local cheap place by running a few rolls of stuff you don't care about as a test.
That said, I've been satisfied with the cheap 1-hour developing for the most part. Don't give them unusual film (e.g. less than ISO 100 or greater than 800). And, of course, for chromes or black and white you'll almost certainly want to visit a real lab.
09-06-2004, 01:36 PM
Consider taking them to a pro lab and ask them to develop the negatives and make a contact sheet.
With a magnifying glass, check out which images you want produced as genuine photographs.
I have done the develop + contact sheet many times. It is a good way to deal with a roll of film that you find kicking around in the bottom of your camara bag.
09-06-2004, 02:36 PM
The cheapo place uses exactly the same chemistry as the pro lab. They also use a developing machine of equal quality.Even using the same machines and chemistry, you have to wonder how many rolls of film the cheapo places run through before changing chemicals. Exhausted developer does mess up negatives. If you've found a cheap place that keeps their chemicals fresh, use it. Going into a random photo store and expecting good results is asking for trouble.
09-06-2004, 04:29 PM
Even using the same machines and chemistry, you have to wonder how many rolls of film the cheapo places run through before changing chemicals. Exhausted developer does mess up negatives. If you've found a cheap place that keeps their chemicals fresh, use it. Going into a random photo store and expecting good results is asking for trouble.
It's a bit more complicated than that. Commercial processors work on the principle of continual replenishment. At regular intervals some of the used chemical is drawn off and replaced with fresh solution. The idea is to keep the relative proportions of active and by-product components within proscribed limits. In principle it is possible to keep replenishing the same chemical bath indefinitely, though the need to empty the machine periodically for cleaning makes this impractical. In fact, when a fresh set of chemistry is required, the developer must be 'seasoned' by adding a starter solution to mimic a well maintained used solution.
The secret to consistent results is to, as a minimum, stick to the manufacturers replenishment schedule. Optimum results require periodic testing of the chemical composition to adjust the replenishment to correct for any drift away from the ideal. Poor labs may not be so conscientious.
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