Day 67: Finding Your Film Lab

Let’s talk about what makes a great love. Is it being wildly attracted to one another? Or maybe it’s unwavering trust. Compatible personalities? Or maybe it’s just easy things like living super close to one another or simply being the same age. Most people reading this would probably think, “Well, it’s all of those things. It’s being attracted to one another, AND having compatible personalities, AND living close enough, AND unwavering trust.”

And I feel like that’s what it’s like shooting film.

For over a year of shooting film, I didn’t know why my film didn’t look how I wanted it to look. I had tried different film stocks, I had tried different cameras, I had invested in mentoring sessions with other film photographers, and I had tried every lab in the western hemisphere.

It wasn’t until my select a tech interview with the Find Lab that it all came together.

Finding a film look you’re happy with is the film stock AND the light AND the camera AND the scanner AND… AND the lab.

The first lab I tried was Richard Photo lab. I tried it because it’s the one Jose Villa uses. I sent in my first few rolls of film and said “Make this look like Jose’s for me!!!” and obviously it did not. What the foop?! What did I do wrong? I mean, I used Fuji 400, I used a medium format camera, I over exposed and I asked to use the same color profile as Jose Villa. Done and done, right?

Nope, sorry friend. Jose had found his great love. He worked hard to find HIS camera, HIS lenses, HIS film stock, HIS lighting, HIS lab, and that didn’t mean all his things would work for me. It was like me stepping into¬†Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen and expecting to cook like him. But I have his same knives! And ingredients! And the EXACT oven he uses! Oh, darling, it’s not just the knives or ingredients, it’s those things AND the artist. You’re a component too!

Not yet realizing all this, I switched to a new lab thinking maybe it was them and the same thing happened. Again. And again. And again. Until I found the Find Lab.

The Find Lab didn’t send me files and say “Here are your files, thanks! Bye!” Instead they gave me feedback on what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right. Instead they guided me through both direct and personal communication and through their resources online. Instead they said “This is a journey that we take together, and we are here to make your work look the way you want it to look.”

Just like everything else, this would also be a slow growth. No shortcuts here.

After several months, I signed up for their select a tech program, and during my interview I was describing the look I loved. I had shared several film files with them and she recommended that I use a Nortisu scanner and that I switch to Portra film. I took her advice and my work took on a new shape almost immediately.

Using a film lab is outsourcing your editing. You might not think so right away but it is… you’re turning over your unfinished work to another company to finish your work. That’s a big step! That’s personal! You want them to be a component in your great love of film. So when you’re looking for your lab, your home base, look for companies that will be there for you. Labs that understand they’re taking your art and finishing it. Labs that care about you the way they should. For you, that might be the Find Lab, or Richard Photo Lab, or Photovision, or any other number of labs out there. Hopefully this post helps light the way!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here! If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris