I’ve been shooting film for 7 years now and I’ve learned all the ins and outs of the whole film photography process.
Typically it takes 3-5 days for the film from a disposable camera to be developed. It can take as little as 2 hours for film to be developed but most developing labs will have around a 3-5 day turnaround. This depends on where you get your film developed and whether it has to be sent somewhere else during the process.
If you want to find out where you should get your disposable camera developed and how much it should cost then keep on reading.
How Long To Develop A Disposable?
Naturally, if you’ve shot your first disposable camera then you’re probably wondering how long it should take to get your shots back. The wait can sometimes be frustrating but in my opinion, it’s part of the fun and excitement of film photography.
Each place is different but the turnaround for most places is around 3-5 days from when they receive it from you. This depends on what kind of place you take or send your film to. If you take your camera to a high street developer (like Max Speilmann in the UK, or Walmart in the US), then they may have to send your camera off to a lab as they may not develop it on-site, this could extend the turnaround time for your film.
Typically, smaller local developing labs may have a quicker turnaround time, possibly more like 3 days from the time they receive your film. Usually, small local labs have a higher quality service than most high street labs do, so I would always suggest using a local lab if you can.
Ultimately you’ll find out what the turnaround time is from the developing lab, but it certainly shouldn’t be much different from the timescales given here. Of course, there are still some places that develop film in an hour or two but these aren’t very common anymore and will likely be lower quality than most small labs.
There are some places where you’d have to send your film in the mail to the lab, so remember that it could take 3-5 days from when the film developing lab receives your camera/film.
Why Does It Take So Long To Get Your Film Developed?
The reason why it can take so long to get your film developed is that your order will be in a long queue of other orders. Most labs only have the resources to develop a certain number of rolls at once, and once they’ve been developed, they still need to be scanned which can take quite a lot of time, especially if they are high-quality scans.
So why can some labs develop and scan film in an hour or two and others can’t? Most developing labs aren’t set up to be one-hour photo labs these days, they might be relatively small places with a lot of orders before yours. Typically, the quality of a one-hour developing lab would probably be lower than that of a small local lab, so it’s worth the wait.
Where Should I Get My Disposable Camera Developed?
When it comes to where to go to get your film developed, I would always suggest going to a small local developing lab if you can. If this isn’t possible due to your location then finding a reputable lab that you can send your film to in the mail is the next best thing, usually, this ensures that you’ll still get a really high-quality service.
In the UK, the two best places to send your film are Filmdev and Take it easy lab, these two labs have some of the best quality and best prices available and they’re completely reliable and professional.
Otherwise, if you live in a city then there’s a good chance you should be able to find a local developing lab based in your city. Typically local labs are pretty fair prices and have a good standard of scans. Usually, if you search the name of your city and ‘film developing lab’ on google then you should be able to find something local to you. In this case, you can usually either send your camera to that lab in the mail, take it to the lab yourself or, some labs have drop-off points in different locations in the city where you could drop it off.
How Much Does It Cost To Develop A Disposable Camera?
When it comes to the cost of developing a disposable camera, it can cost anywhere between $10-25 and that depends on the overall quality of the scans you receive and whether you get prints too (prints are less common now than scans).
The price of film development really depends on where you go and what quality of scans you want. Here in the UK, I use one of the best-developing labs but they’re also one of the cheapest, Filmdev charge £5-8.50 for development and scans, and their high-quality scans at £8.50 are ridiculously crisp and sharp.
How Long Do Disposable Cameras Last?
A lot of people wonder if they can still use their disposable camera when it’s been sitting around for a long time, well according to most film companies, camera film stays at its highest quality for the first two years. After two years, the quality of your film depends on how your camera has been stored. If your disposable camera has been stored on a sunny windowsill then it will degrade more quickly than if it’s stored somewhere cool and dry (like a set of drawers).
A disposable camera doesn’t automatically become useless after two years, the camera film inside it starts to slowly degrade, so it may be less sensitive to light, more grainy and potentially have light leaks. This means if you were to use or develop a disposable camera from years ago you should still get pictures from it, it’s just that these pictures may look very underexposed or foggy.
I would suggest that if a disposable camera is as much as five years old, it’s still reasonably safe to use or get developed. After five years you would want to be sure that it’s been stored in a cool dry place or else there’s a very good chance that the film may start to become very damaged.
If you bought a disposable camera a long time ago and wanted to make it last longer, the best way to extend its life is by keeping it in your fridge! Camera film loves to be cold and dry, it helps to reduce any degradation and for the most part, the fridge is also nice and dark.
Camera film hates heat and moisture, these two things will accelerate the amount of time it’ll take to degrade. Putting your camera in either of these environments will ensure that the film inside doesn’t last very long at all.
Finally, you may be worried that the actual mechanics of the camera won’t work. Well, the only thing that may lose its charge would be the flash. The rest of the camera is mechanical and not electronic, so it should still work completely fine. You have to wind the camera on manually, so that won’t stop working and the lens is fixed so it should still work just fine!
Disposable cameras are fun and if you want to use them, I can totally understand. They’re the ultimate beginner camera and you can get some really fun shots with them. However, I strongly believe that it’d be much better all around if everyone that wanted to shoot film regularly just picked up a point and shoot camera and some film!
You can get better shots, save a little money and take more shots with a point-and-shoot camera. If you want to find a nice film camera for yourself, I created a great resource for this here.