Over the past year I have gotten back in to shooting 35MM. I'm looking for any suggestions in my process that may reduce the cost accrued. The cost that I am facing right now is roughly just under a dollar a print, when taking into consideration a $14 dollar roll of fuji pro purchased a local store and $16 development at same store. That results in 4x6 prints that I later scan and retouch to remove dust which proves to be a time consuming process. I don't mind spending the money, but if there is something that I'm missing that can save a couple dollars I might be more apt to grab the film over the DSLR on a more regular basis. I've considered buying non-pro film, but I'm not sure that is a good place to cut my costs. Any suggestions?

  • Do you want the prints? Does your scanner scan slides? – user13451 Mar 11 '15 at 19:28
  • I just thought of something...are you shooting slide film? – SailorCire Mar 17 '15 at 16:51

For me, time is more limited than money, so I've usually had the shop scan the film and skipped prints altogether. Film scanning ought to result better quality by skipping an intermediate transformation and by detecting and "removing" dust automatically (except with black-and-white film).

You can save money by scanning from film yourself, especially if your scanner has the dust removal feature. It's hard to achieve quality of a drum scanner at home and you'll have to spend some time getting colors from negative right. Wet mounting might improve the results.


Do you shoot B&W or colour? If you shoot in black and white, have you considered developing the film yourself? Developing colour film is more tricky, but black and white film development is a relatively easy process. I realise my answer will be much less relevant if you're shooting in colour, but thought I'd put my suggestion in to help anyone else who may come across this question too.

You don't need a darkroom, you can use a special bag with holes for your arms to get the film out of the canister and into a developing tank. Once it is in this and the lid is on properly, it is lightproof and you can then process it.

There will be an initial outlay for the reusable equipment, but you can buy a starter kit on amazon, and maybe it is worth investing a bit in some tuition to get you started, but long term your only costs are new films and chemicals.

I have old cameras that I want to start to use and I am about to buy the equipment again to do exactly this myself because I learnt to develop film about 7 years ago, and I will need to remind myself of the process, but I can't warrant paying the amount people want to charge for developing a film when I've done it so much before and don't even know if any of the negatives are going to be any good.

Additionally, as an initial investment, you may decide to buy a negative/slide scanner, even a cheap one would allow you to see images at enough quality to decide whether individual negatives are worth taking to a shop for printing

  • At $14/roll for film, I'd opt for some 'non-pro' film if you're going to learn to develop your own film. Equipment may have changed since the early 80s, but I managed to ruin more than a few frames by not getting the film from the canister to the developer properly. Winding it on that spool without having any film touching itself can be tricky - at least when you're in high school working with low-bid products... – FreeMan Mar 11 '15 at 12:10
  • @FreeMan yes that's definitely a good idea. And as mentioned in my answer, paying for a bit of tuition from someone on a one-to-one basis if you've never done it before is a worthwhile investment. I learnt it as part of a 2 year A Level (british qualification) in evening classes. Cheap film and films of experimental shots rather than your best work is good for testing – laurencemadill Mar 11 '15 at 12:42
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    I have done a bit of B&W developing over the years (but not for a while now), but one thing that has stuck in the back of my mind is how environmentally friendly is the chemical waste from DIY processing. Although I potentially am ignoring that issue when I drop my film off with a local guy who runs a small processing business - I have no idea what he does with his waste and I haven't asked! – Peter M Mar 11 '15 at 14:58
  • Color is easy to develop. I've been using these kits for months. filmphotographyproject.com/store/… – Matthew Whited Sep 9 '16 at 20:10

$14 a roll! My goodness that's a lot of money!

$16 prints? Where are you going!? That's more than my local drug store as well as my local photography shop. It should be close to $12 for 24 prints.

All that aside, you could self develop color (it really isn't that hard if you know how to take a hot bath!) and can get over 20 rolls for about a $100 set up and anything past that would be 20 rolls for about $40.

That would be my first step. Then getting a scanner that can scan film. Epson has some that are around $200 and obviously you can use that to scan your negatives until the bulb dies.

So an initial investment of $300 dollars for (20 * 24) = 480 shots gets you to your goal of under a dollar (less cost of film).

In all honesty, you can get Fujicolor 200 and be happy starting off. It's about $10 for four 24 shot rolls at Walmart. I normally purchase the cheap stuff for low speeds (800 and less) and I haven't had a bad roll asides from whenever I make a mistake.

  • Color has nasty dyes that take special disposal. C41 is a mess to do at home. E6 is a bit more doable, but in either case you have to watch out for the chemistry expiring. Velvia is $10.64 for 36 and $10.59 for processing if you don't have anything local that is cheaper. But then also, its slide (and that's a good thing if you have a slide scanner). – user13451 Mar 12 '15 at 18:06
  • @MichaelT that blix is strong stuff and stains almost everything. If use it in dark lighting then it looks eerily like blood. I think the best thing we can get out of all of the answers is: get a good scanner. – SailorCire Mar 12 '15 at 18:28

Devil's advocate: shoot digital. The ever-rising costs of film and developing as well as the cost (in time and/or money) to scan and clean an image is significant and from a non-artistic and monetary point of view digital is the clear winner over a fairly short time period.

That is, of course, over simplification -- but it bears looking at. When I used to shoot film I'd expose 10-20 rolls of 36-exposure film in a month. At today's costs, in 1-3 months I'd spend enough money on film and processing for a DSLR, depending upon the model of camera. How many rolls of film over what time period would it take you to justify getting a digital camera?

Perhaps you're shooting film for the specific look of the Fuji film you've bought. Film does have a certain look that is difficult to recreate digitally. Well, that used to be true: there are a number of good tools (that are getting better all the time) to help create familiar film looks. VSCO has some great film-look presets for Photoshop and Lightroom that do a great job, for example.

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    I grew up processing b&w film, spending afternoons in the darkroom. But I don't miss it much, and I have learned so much more creative skills on Photoshop than I was ever able to create in the darkroom. Since, unlike film, there is no incremental cost with each shot you take, digital encourages experimentation, which is the best way to learn to shoot, handle your camera, and process your images. – cmason Mar 12 '15 at 18:49
  • Unless I'm shooting big (4x5), for a reason (or long night exposures in a single frame), my reason for being mostly film and digital on the side switched to mostly digital and film on the side with the discontinuation of Ilfochrome Classic paper. – user13451 Mar 12 '15 at 19:57
  • I understand the artisanal, alchemic, hipster appeal of shooting on film but, having come through the analogue era of photography, shooting digital is always the answer I think - and never type – dav1dsm1th Mar 16 '15 at 14:14
  • Devil's advocate to your Devil's advocate - My day job is in front of a computer for 8 hours as a programmer. I didn't find spending hours in front of LR and PS to be particularly enjoyable. Analog workflow works just fine for me, and it'd be interesting to find out what film Jason was shooting. – Calyth May 17 '18 at 17:45

To answer your question directly, there are 3 spots where you're spending money for 'using film' and luckily for you there are cheaper options on all 3 fronts:

Film Cost $16 is way too much, even for the Pro stuff, you can get 36 exposure rolls of Fuji Pro from BHPhoto for $10.29 each. And sure, you could really cut costs by going to non-'Pro' film and get it down in the $3-4 each area.

Development Costs First of all, as others have mentioned, stop getting 'prints' if your goal is to scan the images in, just get the developed negatives back. There are many online services that offer development/scanning around $7 for just development, a few I've tried: http://thedarkroom.com, http://northcoastphoto.com, http://photoworkssf.com. I've also heard Costco does really good development really cheap from working professionals.

Scanning Costs Back to those online services, thedarkroom.com will develop AND scan (low res) for $11/roll total (bump it up to $15 total for better scans)

Granted there is ~$6 of shipping (total) for the online services, you can send several rolls at once to defray that cost. So you had developed (and not scanned) a roll previously for $30, you could be getting a developed (and not scanned) roll for $17.30 total or add scanning to that for $21.30 total (plus $6 shipping across all rolls).


You can often find inexpensive darkroom equipment, including developing reels and tanks, available locally by someone who had a darkroom but isn't using it anymore. Craigslist is a good place to look, and stuff is available more expensively, but still pretty cheap on Ebay.

You can find reasonably priced older film scanners on eBay too. It might cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but if you don't need it anymore or if it doesn't work out for you, you can usually sell it again for close to what you paid for it.

For black and white, check out buying a bulk film loader and purchase 100 foot rolls of film. If you live in the US, good places to buy are Freestyle, B&H, Adorama, the Film Photography Project, and others. For color, try those sources or as others have mentioned, purchase consumer grade film at local stores. You can get four 24-exposure rolls for around $10.

  • There are C41 development kits, so home developing C41 colour can be an option. Emulsive had an article where digitizing film using a digital camera and macro can yield better results. So if Jason already have a DSLR, grabbing macro lens may work just fine, and the macro would be useful on its own. – Calyth May 17 '18 at 17:40

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