How Long It Actually Takes To Get Film Developed

I’ve been shooting film for years and over that time I’ve taken my film to a lot of different labs to get it developed.

The actual process of developing and scanning film can take an hour but usually, your order will be in a backlog which means it wouldn’t be unusual for it to take up to a week for film to be developed.

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!

As mentioned before, the actual process of development and scanning does not take very long at all but of course, a lab could have hundreds of rolls of film to develop and scan and your film usually goes to the back of the line unless you pay more to have it done quicker.

Usually, if the process is quicker then it probably indicates that the quality is lesser. Scanning at a higher quality takes longer than low quality and if someone is working quicker then they may be more likely to make mistakes.

Personally, I wouldn’t go for a 1 hour process just because I’ve had bad experiences in the past in terms of quality.

High Street Labs

Most high street shops will offer a few different services that’ll mean you can get your film processed in 1 hour or in the usual couple of days.

Generally, the standard of a high street lab is pretty low so I wouldn’t suggest using one but unless they state that it’s a 1 hour process or they tell you that they do that service for a premium then I’d assume it’d be up to a week.

Small Local Labs

I’m talking about your little independent lab that is usually much better and much less expensive than the high street lab.

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

If you post 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!

Developing 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.

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