I’ve been shooting film for a very long time and in that time I’ve figured out how long it’ll take for film to be developed in all different kinds of labs!
It can take between 30 and 90 minutes for film to be developed and scanned but usually, the turnaround time for development labs is more like 3-5 days. Some labs provide a same-day processing time which can cost more than usual but most labs will take between 3 and 5 days.
If you want to find out how long it would take to develop film yourself, which labs have the fastest turnaround time and more then read on!
How Long Does It Take To Develop Film Yourself?
The process of processing film doesn’t actually take too long as long as you’ve got all of the equipment you need. It should take 5-10 minutes to actually develop the film but there are other aspects that go into the process.
Loading Film Onto Reel (5 Mins)
First, you need to load your film onto the reel, this can be done in a dark bag or darkroom but it can be really hard the first few times you do it! This could take 5 minutes for a newbie. Once the film is loaded onto the reel then you need to place the reel into the developing tank.
Mix Your Chemicals (2 mins)
You need to mix the correct chemicals together to produce your developing mixture.
Pour it all in (5 mins)
Pour your chemicals, stop bath and fixer, this can take a few minutes as you need to agitate your tank while you’re using your chemicals.
Squeegee Your Negatives (2 mins)
You need to squeegee our negatives to remove any water, droplets or dust from your film.
Hang Your Film To Dry (2-3 hrs)
You need to hang your film up to dry to ensure that it’s clean and ready to be scanned.
So this is the actual time for developing the film yourself and in a way, that’s the easy part! Then you need to find somewhere or some way to scan your film.
Scanning Your Film (30 mins)
If you’re scanning your film yourself or taking it to a lab to be scanned, it can be quite a time-consuming thing because you’re trying to get really fine detail.
This is the whole process unless you want to print your pictures too, as you can see, the actual developing time is reasonably small but there are other parts of the process that technically elongate it.
How Long Does It Take For Film To Be Developed At A Lab?
Film processing labs can develop and scan film quite quickly. Some labs can have a turnaround time as short as 1 hour!
Most labs tend to have a turnaround time of 3-5 days, this will be because they will have a backlog of orders to complete and manage.
1 Hour Photo Stores
Usually, when places have a very quick turnaround time it can indicate low quality as your film might not get the same care and attention it deserves.
There aren’t that many places that do such quick turnarounds anymore but I would usually avoid fast turnarounds unless it’s absolutely necessary.
High Street Labs (3-7 days)
High street labs like Max Speilmann in the UK or Walgreens in the US tend to have pretty long turnaround times, and really bad quality scans and they’re usually the most expensive places to go.
I would avoid high street labs where possible because they just don’t cut it!
Small Local Labs (3-5 days)
Usually, a small local lab will have a pretty moderate turnaround time, 3 days is probably the sweet spot. Every lab is different and has a different workload but usually small labs will scan at a pretty high quality and they have a lot of care and attention for your film!
Go to a small local lab if you can!
Postal Lab (3-7 days)
If you send your film to a lab as I do, it can take 3 to 7 days to receive your scans back. This process just takes a bit longer because you’re sending it off rather than dropping it off yourself.
Often, a postal lab will be a really high-quality lab that isn’t too accessible to everyone, I use one called Filmdev and they’re brilliant!
If you want to find out more about where to take your film and how to get it developed, read this article I made!
Where Should You Go To Get Film Developed?
In the UK, one of the easiest places to take it is somewhere like Max Spielman’s which is a High Street photography shop that still develops film. While this is the simplest thing you can do it’s also one of the most expensive and low-quality.
Alternatively, I would suggest searching the name of your city or town and the words film developing lab to see if there’s anything local to you. This is good because you can help a small local business and also probably get a better quality service for less money.
Otherwise, going to somewhere like Filmdev and Take It Easy Lab are great options because you can send off your film, and let them know what quality you want your scans to be and you should get it back within about five days to a week. This is a great option for someone who perhaps doesn’t live in a big town or city with a film lab.
You may want to get your film developed as quickly as possible, but that’s not always the best option. Sometimes you’ll exchange quality for speed and it’ll mean your pictures might suck!
Shop around and find the best place for you! If you do this you’ll save money and you’ll get a better service!