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Good Photo Labs

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by David Stout, Aug 21, 2000.

  1. David Stout

    David Stout Well-Known Member

    Finding a good photo lab seems to be a constant source of frustration and posts to these forums confirm this. Many mags including AP run regular reviews of labs but these are usually from small samples over a fairly short time frame (and, if they are lucky, the labs might just have put in fresh chemicals and their best operator has returned from holiday or is not hung over after a weekend party).

    Since AP now has an interactive web site, why not make it a bit more interactive and list a number of top labs (mail order and local e.g. Boots, High Street, Kingston-upon-Thames) with constantly-updated scores and voting buttons next to them. The idea is that readers may click the appropriate button if they are satisfied/not satisfied with a particular lab each time they get a set of prints back. Over time, we can see how the league table shapes up. Of course, other labs could be added at readers' request.

    It might be necessary to restrict this to registered users so you keep tabs on who is voting to ensure that the scores aren't being rigged.

    So, how about it Doug?

    David R Stout
  2. phil

    phil Well-Known Member

    Nice idea....

    My vote goes to Boots in Walsall (West mids) for a set of very good & mounted slides at a cheap price (<£5.00) and prompt service as well. But bottom of my list is Boots Walsall who wanted >£20.00 for 21 5x7 enlargements from two films. It turned out much and I mean much cheaper to have the two films reprinted at 5x7 than just the 21 out of 50 enlargments..... Alright its more work for the D&P service but who cares we pay throught the nose for the pictures - back to the dark room....anyone got a cheap second hand projector?!

    P.W. Cox
  3. Steve Lewis

    Steve Lewis Member

    We spend a lot of hard earned cash on top quality camera gear and accessories, spend hours of our valuable time trying to get a photo that pleases us and we use high quality film to do it. Why then do we skimp when it comes to the D & P ?. Surely our films deserve the best and I would have thought it obvious that you are not going to get that at Boots, Max Speilmans, Supasnaps or any other of the high volume, low quality, high priced processing houses that populate our High streets, especially with slide film.
    After all the money, time and effort you've spent on your hobby, "don't spoil the ship for a h'penny worth 'o' tar". Send your films to a pro lab. It may cost you a little more (although it need not do), but what's an extra 10 or 20 percent on £5 ?
    As a recommendation, all my films go to Peak Imaging in Sheffield. (www.peak-imaging.co.uk). They are back within a week, properly processed, clean and tidy, all for £2.90 a roll inc postage there and back. They will even give you a 10% discount off 10 or more. Over the past three years, I've sent them over 300 rolls and the results have always been spot on. Give it a go. You'll never set foot in Supasnaps again.


  4. David Stout

    David Stout Well-Known Member

    I entirely agree and I use a local pro-am lab that gives me consistently good quality. As you suggest, there is little point in spending lots of money on equipment only to use the cheapest processing.

    However, processing problems are often broken down into two categories - those caused by the photographer (wrong choice of film, poor exposure, poor technique, out-of-focus) and those caused by the lab (images not focussed properly, poor exposure [often the result of automatic exposure management by the equipment], poor cropping etc.)

    A reasonable lab will have good control over the processing and printing operation to ensure consistent results. An even better lab can go some way to correct for errors caused by the photographer - poor exposure for example. The suggestion of the league table is an idea to try to identify those labs that do give reasonable results over a period of time as an aid to photographers who have not yet found a good lab. This might be a mail-order pro lab or it could be a small hight street outlet with on-site processing but where the operator is switched on with respect to knowing how to produce good quality prints.

    David R Stout
  5. markb

    markb Active Member

    I am slowly moving towards DIY developing and printing, but I've decided to aim at printing initially & pay someone else to develop. As I use 120 film my choice of processor is limited compared to 35mm. In the dim and distance past I used Sky (in Soho, London) & have recently started to re-use them. I am impressed with their results, and with a one day turn-around (compared to 1 week for Jessops) I am not kept waiting too long. I'm sticking to b&w print film, so can't coment on colour or transparencies.
  6. DHarman

    DHarman Well-Known Member

    Who has been reading my mind? Have I got a spy in the office working for the AP readers?

    No, but your idea David seems like a darn good one, so good in fact, a constantly updated reader satisfaction 'survey' of all labs (including pro' labs I hope) is certainly something being considered for inclusion on the site.

    But once again I must frustrate you all further. This page is just part of the AP holding page, the process (no it really is) of building the full site is under way, but in order to get exactly what's needed by the readers and AP staff onto the site you must still be patient I'm afraid.

    Either way though, it seems processing and D&P generally is a problem area. During the six years I've worked for AP and during which time I've been helping test the labs, they've always left a lot to be desired.

    In the mean time there's nothing stopping you lot compare notes on this holding page, it might even help build a database of labs, and although it won't be particualrly interactive - yet - you'll all be able to see which labs are doing well - or not.

    Over to you lot...

    Doug Harman: AP
  7. David Stout

    David Stout Well-Known Member

    Black and white film is another matter since, unlike colour film where the negative processing is standard, it is possible to vary the exposure and processing technique and chemicals to give a range of results. Experience has shown me that the right combination can give negatives that are full of detail, punch and print easily. If you are into DIY processing (and I've had many enjoyable hours 'doing my own'), then you may like to move onto developing your own negs at some stage.

    Many years ago, I used to be wary of developing my own films and just used to make prints. However, after discovering that film developing is quite straightforward, I started doing my own developing. The trickiest bit, especially for 120 film, is loading the film into the spiral of the developing tank - I used to find that 120 film can sometimes buckle and fall out of the spiral. Best to practice with a dummy film first. You don't even need a darkroom to develop the film - just get a decent size changing bag and a good tank.

  8. markb

    markb Active Member

    You have hit the nail on the head, its the fiddling around in the dark (or without seing my hands in a bag) that puts me off developing myself, one slip and you have lost a film. Anyone who saw me spend 5 hours yesterday assembling 'simple' flat-pack furniture would reaslise Im useless at fiddly jobs.

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