“How much does it cost to get film developed at CVS?” Is a question I get asked daily. The simple answer is – it depends. It depends on what’s being developed, and what’s being provided for the lab fees. And it depends on the size of the film being developed (small, medium, or large).
Most large facilities can take a large (5 GB) project and complete it within one month – sometimes less. This is because they have the tools and the expertise to do it quickly and efficiently. Smaller facilities are more limited in their capacity, and it’s a good rule of thumb to estimate about three times as much as the biggest facility. It’s also a good idea to find out if the facility will scan negatives for you or provide you with a CD containing all the negatives in their archive.
What’s the bottom line? It depends on who you ask. Some people say it’s expensive, others say it’s not. The reality is that there are a lot of different variables – not just the costs of doing business at these types of facilities, but also the kind of service you’ll get.
There’s a saying I like to remember: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” When it comes to using and preserving film, this adage is quite true. If a lab can take a pretty big photo and develop it quickly and cheaply, it will save you money. If they take a really small photo and make it look perfect, and ship it on time, it will save you money. If they charge you a fortune or require long hours or multiple phone calls just to answer your questions, it’s time to find another lab.
Don’t assume, however, that the lab offering affordable prices is one that will produce a shoddy job. If you’re paying a bit more, it doesn’t mean you’re getting bad merchandise – it means you’re paying for a better product. That’s because the pros spend more time on research and quality control. Think about it – wouldn’t you want the best product available, delivered to your door every time you order something? Of course, you would.
So, how much does it cost to get digital photographs developed? First, consider the equipment and skills of the staff. You might be able to develop your own pictures with a simple digital camera, but what about all those hours viewing film through the developing room? And how about working with chemicals, and mastering tricky techniques – and learning when to reject a shot because it’s not a good match for the style of the image?
When you factor in those factors, you might actually be surprised by the cost. For instance, a company that has been in business for five years might be charging you nearly $1000 just to get one roll processed. However, you could probably shoot that same picture several times, with each different look, and use a cheaper film. Even a small digital lab can run hundreds of rolls for a dollar – not to mention the expense for shipping.
Of course, technology is always changing, and the cost of getting film developed has dropped significantly. However, before you start thinking of settling for pre-digital photos, realize that even the most inexpensive digital SLR should still be better than the film SLRs of a few years ago. Today’s cameras offer many more features, great software and great picture quality. If you’re still asking “How much does it cost to get film developed?” take a deeper look at the options.