I recently tried to get five rolls of 35mm film developed. After finding out how much this would cost me, I’m still sitting here, with the rolls on my desk, wondering if it’s really worth the bother.

Much of the following isn’t relevent if you develop your own film, which is something that I simply don’t have the space and time to do.

As a result, I tend to use some of the few film development labs that are left around here. Which isn’t many. This especially true with black and white film, which has already become a niche product, within a niche market – it is still possible to get colour film developed comparatively easily. Funnily enough, there was some surprised expressed on a photography forum recently, when film photography was described as an alternative process which, in the digital age, is probably an accurate term.

Two rolls of 35mm film – Ilford delta 3200 & Fujifilm Neopan

To develop or not to develop?

With film photo labs becoming so scarce, the costs have spiralled upwards. Sometimes to an extortionate degree. My local film photo lab closed down recently, so I tried various places around the city and, although one or two were not too unreasonable, they did not develop on a regular basis – often relying on third parties, such as students, to develop in their own time.

I needed some films developed more quickly than 7-14 days, and so I tried one of the larger labs in the city. $15 dollars per roll (develop only), with an extra $3 to trim the film into strips (seriously?). Now, I’m not taking issue with the cost of running a business and making a profit, but these kinds of costs make film shooting almost pointless. Add about $5-$7 to the cost of a roll of film (if bought online) and we are talking about $25 for 36 shots.

So, although concern has been expressed about the large photographic film manufacturers gradually discontinuing their products, I think it is the lack of reasonable development resources that will eventually lead to the end of still film photography. At least, outside of specialist university courses or amongst dedicated enthusiasts. And that’s a shame.