I'm a newbie at film photography and only recently fixed up an old Canon AL-1. My first try at film photography was with a Fuji 35mm iso 200 film. Developed & printed the film at an expensive studio. The pictures were great and the colors very vibrant.

The second try was with a kodak 35mm iso 200 film as well. This time I developed it somewhere cheaper. The images are really pale (low saturation and contrast).

Could the bad color quality be related to the film type? or the development at a cheap place? If so is the film now ruined or if I print the pictures again somewhere else it would be better?

  • Did you expose both films under similar light conditions and are you sure that you had set the camera to ISO 200 when exposing both films? Low contrast and saturation from a colour negative film is a typical sign of underexposure. – jarnbjo Oct 16 '17 at 12:11
  • If you compare both negatives (the nice one and the bad one), is the density similar? Do the brightest positive parts of the picture translate into a well-saturated (ie, very dark) negative? If the "bad" negative looks too clear and "thin" then it was underexposed. You could post scans of developed pics, even the negatives (put them on a lightbox or on a paper stuck on a window and take a shot with a digital camera)... – bobflux Oct 16 '17 at 16:35

There are a lot of reasons for this low contrast of the photos. Film type may be one of them. Each film type has its own characteristics. One may me more suitable for daylight and other may be better for indoors.

As if the film is ruined is very unlikely, since all the color films are processing using the same process (C-41) and, usually, using automated machines.

Some cheaper labs process the film and then scan it and print the photos digitally. If the scanning is poorly done, it can lead to dull photos, low resolution and even I have seen, in te past, sawtooth borders.

Can you post a couple of pictures from each negative so we can have a look and give you better advice?

  • The films used by OP are consumer grade 'suit everyone for everything' films and don't really have any significant 'characteristics'. I would honestly doubt anyone claiming to be able to distinguish prints made from these two films. – jarnbjo Oct 17 '17 at 12:43
  • I also process and scan at a local, cheaper lab and lately they've been adding a lot of sharpening to the scans, I don't know why. It added a lot of colour noise, which was kind of like film grain, but not quite like it. It took me 3 rolls to realize it wasn't my fault and a little research later, it looks like oversharpening is the problem. I'll try to scan the negatives myself soon. – CamilB Nov 15 '17 at 9:06

Take several of the negatives to another developing shop and have them printed as 4X6 inch size. If these re-prints are better than the first printing, return the entire order to the lab that printed them. Show them the good re-reprints, as them to explain why the difference. Ask them the re-print the order free of charge applying corrections to achieve good re-prints.

  • This is good advice for asking if the ones you're asking know what they're doing. They might be "button-pusher" technicians who are happy if the prints aren't blank or black. – Stan Nov 3 '17 at 2:36

While there are wide variants in processing, the processes themselves are rather well defined and the photofinishers generally do a good job of stabilizing their processes.

Given your description, I would ask about the freshness of the film, and whether it was stored in adverse conditions (like high heat primarily). A week of baking in a hot car can cause what you are describing in a C-41 process film.

Next time you shoot a roll, put an exposure of a color chart or some reference on the roll. That will help you debug the problem.

With respect to printing, as far as I am aware, most shops are scanning and printing digitally. That gives them better control over the results.

You might have the next roll (or your previous rolls) scanned, and then you will have some digital images you can look at, and more easily share. Most of the big box photo labs will scan for about a dollar or so more, last I knew.

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