For a film photographer, my lab is my creative partner. It’s the photographer’s job to choose a film stock, find the light, pose the subject and create the photo. It is the lab’s job to properly process the negatives and scan the images in a way that meets the photographer’s vision and expectation. In this way, both bring their expertise to the table. The end result is a beautiful image born out of working together.

The importance of this partnership really can’t be overstated. The lab you choose will affect the look of your photos. You can take the same negative and have it scanned at five different labs and it will look different every time — trust me, I’ve done it!

After doing a ton of research, I decided to give Richard Photo Lab a try. I’d heard that they were the best film photo lab in the world, and I’ll admit, that reputation scared me a little at first. I was a total newbie at the time and wasn’t sure if starting off with such a distinguished lab was a smart move. Boy, was I wrong.

Richard Photo Lab comparison prints

Finding the right photo lab partner is imperative for a film photographer.

So how do you go about finding the perfect lab? With all the choices out there, how do you know which one is right for you? How do you find your creative partner? These are the questions I asked myself when I made the decision to go back to shooting film full-time.

I knew having a lab that could deliver consistently beautiful scans was important. I needed it for my business, but also for my soul. Part of the reason that I went back to shooting film was that shooting digitally had completely burnt me out! I hated the amount of time that was spent in post production. I hated editing. I’m a photographer — I want to spend my time taking photos, not sitting in front of a computer, and I knew that shooting film and working with a good lab would allow me to do just that.

Everyone at Richard Photo Lab was helpful and kind from the very start. I never felt judged or that where I was on my film journey was not important enough for a lab of their stature. They took my phone calls, answered my questions and even gave me advice on what to do better. As I grew as a film photographer, they helped me developed my signature look, which is now such an important part of my brand and has helped grow my business.

Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan

Because of Richard Photo Lab, I spend my time behind the camera, not the computer.

Remember the burnout I was feeling as a digital photographer? Totally gone. Because of my renewed love for film and the ease partnering with Richard Photo Lab brought to my process, I’m excited to pick up my camera — I love shooting again! And when my film scans come back from my lab, it feels like Christmas morning, every time! Best of all, I am no longer a slave to my computer!

This may shock you, but I rarely edit my images. The photos I give my clients and that I share on Instagram and Facebook are straight scans. That means that my editing time has gone from hours per session to minutes per session, giving me more time to take more clients (good for my business) and more time for me and my family (good for my soul).

I can order prints, cards and more through Richard Photo Lab as well. This is huge for me; I’m a big believer in the value of printed work, which is why I include a set of real, hold-them-in-your-hands, prints with every session. I also offer my clients wall art and album prints.

Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan

Richard Photo Lab works with photographers at all levels, even beginners.

If you shoot film and are looking for a lab I highly recommend giving Richard Photo Lab a try! Start by picking up your phone or sitting down to your computer and just introducing yourself. Let their team know where you are in your film journey and what you are looking for in a lab. Let them know what you want your images to look like. Communicate your preferences. Remember, labs are staffed by people and people cannot read minds. If you want your film to look a certain way, tell them what you like and then work together to get there!

Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan
Richard Photo Lab review by Sandra Coan

Now that I’ve worked with Richard Photo Lab for several years, I know why they have the reputation for being the best. They are consistently awesome. They are always open to talking and helping me troubleshoot when I need it. They have helped me grow as a photographer. They are my creative partner. We are in this together.

All images by Sandra Coan

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