Black and White film processing

I shot a roll of Black and White film last week. What a strange feeling – kept looking at the back of the camera. Nikon f2, Tri-X , with 50mm 1.4, 24mm 2.8 and 35mm 2.8 and no LCD! Battery was dead so I shot by feel, nice to have the latitude of film as I’m sure that I did not nail every exposure. Focus might be my worst enemy especially close up with the 50/1.4 wide open.

I’m getting my film processed and scanned today and am finding that this delayed gratification thing is kind of neat. While digital has brought the process of photography home and provided instant feedback this whole analog process is bringing back some cool feelings. Like patience!


So why am I going on about black and white film processing? Because I’m getting a contact sheet with my processing.  It was once an integral part of black and white photography – process your film, sleeve it and contact it. The term contact came from the fact that the negatives would be placed directly on top of photographic paper and exposed to light – in direct contact.  Your contact sheet told a story of your roll – a collection of images shown in the order they were shot that helped show the story you were trying to tell.  It also told you some technical things about your exposures, you could see if you nailed the focus (or not) and you would also use it as a reference to find your negatives. And you could hold it.

We’ve faithfully re-created the contact sheet digitally and you’d swear it’s the real thing. Starting today and going through May, if you get a roll of Black and White film processed and scanned we’ll also make a contact sheet – for free!


Olden and Golden

Remembering the Days of Film


They weren’t all that long ago but boy, it sure feels like an eternity has passed since the pro’s and serious amateurs had only 3 options: Black and White, Colour Print or Transparency. Really, its been less than a decade since digital imaging gave film the what-for! I’d say fewer than 7 years since the revolution really begun to rock our world and we started to see a serious decline in E6 and C41 film processing.

We embraced this new dawn even with its intense learning curves around every different file and lighting condition. Eventually film was just plain old and digital was the new and we haven’t looked back – much. Over the years Kodak and other manufacturers have been pulling the plug on photographic papers and films. The latest news to hit the industry is Kodak announcing it’s discontinuation of E6 Chemistry. The writing was on the wall. If they stopped making E6 film then why wouldn’t they discontinue the chemistry in which to process it? I know a lot of you will feel loss and maybe even some regret at this news. Maybe you feel like you have betrayed the faithful old medium. If only you hadn’t stopped using it, then it would still be around….

But I say (and who am I anyways?) lets have a moment to be sad. Lets even pull out the old film camera’s, the old film still frozen in our freezers and have a last go at it! 35mm ,120, 4×5, 8×10! Get out your rangefinders, your twin lens reflexes, your tried and very true Hassleblad. Rekindle the the romance and have some fun. Film ain’t dead yet and dare I say, in it’s last gasp there might even be a revival!

The Lab Works will continue it’s E6 line for as long as we can. We will keep you all informed as to the going’s on as it goes. PLEASE call us if you have any questions or need clarification. If you want to get on our email list, please drop us a line to let us know at

Tips for Cross Processing

Lomo is fun, sassy, sometimes cheeky, and very serious about being interesting and creative!

The Lomography Brand is a bunch of things, but to sum it up, they make “toy” camera’s that take film. Now indeed for some, film is a little bit mysterious.

This how Wikipedia explains film:

Photographic film is a strip or sheet of transparent plastic film base coated on one side with a gelatin emulsion containing microscopically small light-sensitive silver halide crystals. The sizes and other characteristics of the crystals determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film.

The emulsion will gradually darken if simply left exposed to light, but that spontaneous visible change is too slow and incomplete to be of any practical use. Instead, a very short exposure to the image formed by a camera lens is normally used to produce only a very slight chemical change, proportional to the amount of light absorbed by each crystal. This creates an invisible latent image in the emulsion which can be chemically developed into a fully visible photograph.

So, the low down is – there are a couple of different types of film that each follow certain rules. C41 is colour print film. It is a negative film that when printed becomes positive. It is called C41  because it is processed in a chemistry called C41.

Colour Reversal  film is also known as slide or transparency. It is also referred to as E6, based on the chemistry it is developed in. Colour reversal film is a positive film type.

Black and white film is just black and white. It’s process is based on the film speed and type (Delta 100, TriX, PanF, etc..). It is a negative film that when printed becomes positive.

Lomography has inspired a new wave of photographers who are shooting film. Not only is it super fun waiting for days to get your film processed, but it’s also fun to understand the photographic process and then mess with the rules!

What is Cross Processing?

Cross processing is a technique for C41 and E6, where you process your film in “the wrong” chemistry. (You can’t do this with black and white).

In doing so, you can create some very fun visual effects that programs like Instagram are mimicking digitally.

I want to share a few easy tips to consider when cross processing. (You may want to do additional research if the terms I’m using are unfamiliar).

When crossing from colour reversal (E6) to colour negative (C41), the film tends to pick up density. This means that highlights or white areas will be “blown out” (lacking detail) and shadow areas will be very black and also without detail. The film you use will partially depend on the outcome as well. A contrasty E6 film will become contrasty colour negative. (I worked with one technician who called this “chewy film”). The opposite may be true when you shoot with a more neutral film, such as a portrait film. Sometimes contrast will be the effect you desire and sometimes it won’t be. To minimize the contrast gained in cross processing, you can always “pull” the film back either in chemistry or when you are shooting.

*This is where it can get complicated…

Ex: If you have an iso 100 film, I would rate it at iso 160, then process “as though” it’s been shot at 100 (you don’t need to instruct the lab other than to tell us to cross process). However, you could request that we process your film with a pull process. If you rate and shoot “normally” and want additional contrast, you can ask us to Push your film – or you could “push” in-camera. If you have a 100 iso film, you could shoot it “as though” it were an 80 iso film and then have the lab cross at “normal”. (No push or pull).

When crossing from colour negative (C41) to colour reversal (E6), the film tends to lose exposure and you can end up with almost nothing on your film. Mediate this problem by overexposing your film from 2-4 stops of exposure. Depending on how much light-leak you have in your Lomography camera, the film might already be over exposing itself! Bonus! If you aren’t 100% certain, you can ask us to “push” the film at least 1 or 2 stops in the development process, which will “add light” to the film. Keep in mind that once the film is processed, you should have it scanned where you can play even more with those digital files! Different saturation rules apply with this type of crossing. I prefer a super neutral film (drugstore film is good). Sometimes, when crossing C41 – E6 highlights can pick up pink. To offset this effect, try filtering with an 80A (Tungston balance filter). Play around and see what works best for you!

There is a lot of fun you can have with cross processing. Once you get to learn your camera and what it is doing with your film of choice, you can  bend and play with the rules.

I have posted a few images that were shot with a lomo camera (sorry, I have scant details). Our client wanted the “lomo look” so we took her C41 film, pushed it a stop and crossed it through E6 (Colour Reversal) and got these fantastic results. We love the way the photographer composed these shots and hope we get to see more of her work in the future!



Make History.

While we like to think that everything we touch here in the lab is to become important historic record, from time to time we really get to see some special pieces from our past.

In this case our client brought in 46, 4×5″ glass negatives for scanning. Glass negs were produced and used between 1850 and 1920 until they were replaced by roll film. Pinpointing exact age is something beyond my skill, but the owner of the negatives is quite certain that within the grouping is an image of King Edward the VIII – indicating some of these were taken sometime between 1901 and 1910. A local film archivists informs they were likely later-made “prefab” glass negatives, which implies a later year of manufacture and a higher film speed. The quality of these images is simply beautiful.

At the time these were taken, it wasn’t likely thought of as “history in the making” but are now valuable pieces of history. What can you do with your digital files or negatives that will be history in the making? Make some prints, design an album, what ever it is, once you have it to hold it will exist for another 100 years. Historic.



It’s January.

It’s cold outside, the daylight is still limited to a mere 8h 40 min. from sunrise to sunset.

To take your mind off the fact that its dark and cold, I highly recommend visiting the Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts this Friday night for the opening reception/booklaunch of  be.still, an exhibition by The Pinhole Artist Collective (PAC).

“PAC is a collective of artists interested in exploring the artistic plurality of analogue and digital photography. Growing out of the spirit of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day and the DIY artistic philosophy, they are hands-on, resourceful, playful, and open to constructive criticism. In regular gatherings, the collective engages in both critical discourse and artistic creation and is, from time to time, nomadic. PAC members participating in be.still are Sarah Crawley, William Eakin, lori fontaine, Beth Johnson, Jen Loewen, Merrell-Ann Phare, and Bonnie Tulloch“.

The reception is to begin at 7:00.

See for more information. Or,


Check out this link for some good old fashioned pinhole fun!


July Image Gallery

Hello everyone!

Thank you to all who took advantage of our Black and White film challenge and who participated in sharing their images on our blog!

We still hope to get a few late submissions from those who went on vacation after dropping off their rolls – but this is the gallery so far.

The draw for either 5 rolls of film or 1 – 8×10 black and white print will be on Friday August 3rd. We will be sure to post the lucky winner :)

Happy summer, happy shooting!


Film challenge, day 9…

Film fanatics!

Don’t forget about our fabulous film sale! 22 days left in July. Get 20% on your black and white film and prints, show your best shot on our blog, and get entered in to a draw for more film or a hand printed black and white 8×10. Come see us for details or read


Analog vs. Digital


Photography by Paul Martens using a Poloroid SX70 (Not digitally manipulated)

This image was taken with a Poloroid SX70. I love this image as it serve to show what was possible with special film types before Photoshop – and what inspired many Photoshop techniques to take shape.

This is a fun one! I found some of the old printed news letters The Lab Works used to generate. My, how have times changed! Here are some old terms we used in the early 1990′s:

Internegative – a negative made from a slide or transparency in order to make a colour print.

Copy Negative – a negative made from an original print where the negative is not available.

Cibachrome  – a direct slide-to-print process which does not require an internegative.

Full frame – to print the full image without cropping onto a standard sized sheet of paper.

Bleed – an image that has no border, as  “the image bleeds off the edge”.

Push processing – to prolong the time of development in an effort to compensate for underexposure.

Pull processing – to reduce the time of development in an effort to compensate for overexposure.

You may or may not be familiar with the film related terms. Processes like cibachrome and interneg became obsolete as scanning became a more viable (and less toxic) option. Dodging and burning, while still a popular method, is now performed with “tools” in Photoshop. A very cute story was recently told to me by Ian McCausland about a young woman who didn’t know why Photoshop had icons of the “lollipop and OK sign”. Ian explained they are the dodge and burn tools -  explaining how in the darkroom dodging is generally done with a circular piece of card attached to a thin wire while burning is accomplished by making a circular opening with your fingers (allowing the rest of the hand to prevent the light from affecting the rest of the image). Naturally she understood, however never having been in a darkroom – the connections were never made.

But I digress.  As it goes with change, people made some fuss and the collective “we” fought the notion (as some still do) that anything could do better than film.

Some opinions still rest on the notion that a person hasn’t really learned photography until they have learned on film. I believe many newbies to the craft, who are only learning with digital cameras would beg to differ. After all, the task is still the same – use light to expose an image. Exposure can be on film emulsion, emulsion based photo paper or a digital sensor. The effects are similar – if you don’t expose the frame right you will blow out highlights, block up shadows and struggle to make a good print.

As it also goes with change – luckily -  comes the psychological flexibility and our ability to adapt.  The digital learning curve was steep and somewhat painful in those early years, but you managed to figure it out and become the photographers (and then some) you were with film! Nothing to stop anyone now! Darkrooms were sold, film camera’s were set aside and consigned. It seemed like no one was ever going to look back (or smell like chemistry ever again.).

Clearly the shift to digital has had an enormous impact on the industry.  As a lab, we had the extraordinary task of keeping up, and you as photographers, pushed us to keep maintaining the status quo. Now that film is disappearing faster than the polar ice-caps, I wonder if this immediate threat of extinction of a historical process is causing some collective regret. Or rather a secondary shift in thinking? Film actually is that great but so is technology. Instead of  re-inventing the wheel, technology is blending what was incredible about film and putting it in to digital camera’s. Fuji and Leica make a digital rangefinder that look and feel like analog camera’s and software companies like Nik have profiles that are meant to mimic film types.

One serious advantage of digital technology is how it encapsulates the camera, film, and darkroom all in one. Perhaps not as much with DSLR’s when shooting RAW, but fact remains with files “out of the can”, dodging, burning, contrast, and colour adjustments can be completed in one action. Sure, a few slides on levels and a tweak in brightness and contrast may be necessary, BUT. Digital filters make effects simple and creative where as back in the day, if you wanted special effects, you either learned  them in the darkroom, or you took up an interest in the myriad of lens filters available to add or subtract colour, polarize, vignette, blur, even “star” (wow!). Never MIND what was possible with some of the Poloroid films. Nowadays Snapseed is taking smartphone editing to new heights with filters like grunge or drama – but do not be mistaken – these are all inspired by the blood, sweat and tears of the film shooters who worked endless darkroom hours to get unique effects that were different from the norms.

So, what exactly am I trying to say? I suppose simply that the worlds are not different but parallel. They compliment one another – acquired traditional skills are used in the digital world and the creative freedom in the digital world inspires techniques to be used in analog methods. It’s actually kind of exciting.

I’d like to know what you think. With or without consequence, the analog-digital discussion is sure interesting and fires a lot of debate.

Happy Shooting!












Black and White Film Challenge


Photography by Tristan Fast

What do you have in store for July? Long summer days and nights means swims in the lake, cool drinks on the patio, and shooting film!

We know you probably look at your film camera and feel just a little sad for it each time you choose you DSLR. The remedy: pick up your awesome old gear and get shooting! Recall the satisfying feel of the shutter click and whirl, the manual wind of the film spool, and then the slightly-anxiety-inducing-but-mostly-excited-sensation of waiting to see what exactly you shot…..

The Lab Works wants to help facilitate your new romance with old technology.  During the entire month of July, 2012, when you order a set of black and white proofs at the time of black and white processing, The Lab Works will take 20% off the order!

To make the deal even sweeter, when you pick up your print order you will be invited to share one favorite image from each roll processed and printed with The Lab Works where it will be posted to this blog site. You will also be entered in to a draw that will get you 5 rolls of black and white film courtesy of Prairie View School of Photography OR 1 – 8×10 hand made black and white print of the image you selected to be shown on The Lab Works blog!


For complete terms and conditions, please read on.

If you choose to allow The Lab Works to scan and post your print to our blog site, these are some things you need to know.

1. This is not a contest. Images are not being judged and there is no prize to be awarded. Participants are however, entered in to a draw. There will be two names randomly selected in the draw. Prairie View School of Photography and The Lab Works, will provide one individual whose name is drawn first, their choice of one pro-pack of black and white 120 roll film OR 5 rolls of black and white 135-36 film. The second individual whose name is selected will get one (1) 8×10 traditional black and white print of the image chosen for posting on the blog – made lovingly by The Lab Works.

*The draw will be held on Friday August 3rd, 2012 and the individuals whose name are drawn will be contacted by phone or email by Tuesday, August 7th, 2012. If the selected individuals do not confirm contact to arrange collection of the film or print within one week of contact, two other names will be drawn and the same process will be undertaken.

2. Only images processed and printed in the July, 2012 sale promotion are eligible to be chosen for submission for The Lab Works blog site. Participants are invited to submit one image per roll processed and printed.  The Lab Works retains the rights to limit the number of images selected and posted per participant.

3. The image submitted will appear in a gallery on The Lab Works blog within one month of original submission.

4. The photographer retains 100% of the copyright of the image chosen for posting to The Lab Works blog. The Lab Works will credit the image with the photographers’ name. The image will not be used for any other promotional or advertising of The Lab Works or it’s affiliates beyond the dedicated blog post.

5. The Lab Works has the sole discretion to remove any images from the blog site as deemed appropriate or necessary.

6. Images will not be accepted for posting if they are determined to be offensive, obscene, provocative or otherwise inappropriate in nature. The Lab Works reserves the right to refuse any photograph they define as unacceptable.

7. The photographer certifies that the images submitted as their original work and they have never been copyrighted or, if copyrighted that the photographer is the sole copyright owner.

8. The photographer must ensure that they have the written permission of any recognizable model or person in the images to grant The Lab Works the right to publish their images on The Lab Works blog site and they will produce the written permission upon request.


If you agree to these Terms and Conditions and would like to share your image with The Lab Works blog site you will be required to sign this form in writing upon release of your image.

We want this to be a fun way to celebrate you, the photographer, who makes our lab so great. We also want to celebrate the time-honored tradition of black and white film, which marks the beginning of photography, as we know it today. We hope you will participate in making an awesome gallery for you, your friends and family, and the community at large to enjoy!

So, unearth your film camera, get some film and start shooting!






Black and White Prints from *Film*



1. a thin layer or coating: a film of grease on a plate.
2. a thin sheet of any material: a film of ice.
3. a thin skin or membrane.
4. a delicate web of filaments or fine threads.
5. a thin haze, blur, or mist.
6. Photography
a. a cellulose nitrate or cellulose acetate composition made in thin sheets or strips and coated with a sensitive emulsion for taking photographs.
b. a strip or roll of this.
c. the coating of emulsion on such a sheet or strip or on a photographic plate.
Well, at least film, the emulsion based type, has not completely left the public consciousness. Phew! Why would I be relieved?
Oh, only because The Lab Works is now printing traditional black and white proofs directly from your film!
We still offer our scan-to-print service for those of you who like the marriage of traditional with technology. But for the rest of you who never quite got used to scanning and printing, now you don’t have to with your black and white rolls!
So, shoot to your hearts’ content (well, you should be doing that no matter what) and get your scrumptious, truest, bluest, blackest and whitest 4×6/4×5, 5×7/5×5 proofs made right here at your favourite lab!
(We will update with new prices soon!)
Happy Shooting!