As you can imagine we get quite a bit of mail coming through our doors (in fact we may or may not be best friends with our local postman). And during the five years that Carmencita Film Lab has had its doors open we have seen a lot of wrong ways to mail film to your local lab. So we thought we would put together a post on the do’s and don’ts of preparing, packaging, and sending your film off to your lab. So here goes!
- First off, fill out the Order Form. This step is crucial for us in order to know who sent it, what was sent, what your scan preferences are, and any and all comments you may have about your project (seriously, lay it all out, we want to hear it = )
- Secondly, we highly recommend placing those precious film rolls in a resealable bag. The reason for this is your film will more than likely be subjected to a variety of weather elements. This can include rain and snow, so to eliminate the possibility of your film rolls getting wet or from getting sand in them we recommend taking a moment to place them in a plastic resealable bag to provide extra protection for the journey that is to come.
- Thirdly, we recommend protecting your film with some bubble wrap. For those who want a more eco-friendly option, old newspapers or plastic bags (like those found at your local grocery store) will also suffice. This ensures that if our local friendly postman plays a little game of soccer with your package, it will arrive safe and sound, cushioned by the protective elements you placed inside.
- Fourthly, boxes are your new best friend. Get rid of those flimsy paper envelopes! They will not hold up or provide much protection when tossed around or sat on or who knows what. Don’t take the risk. Place your precious film goods in a box to eliminate the possibility of us having to make that dreaded call to you to let you know that a roll or two arrived in a not-so-good condition and …sigh… it looks like you now have light leaks on your rolls. We hate making those calls, so please, put them in a box.
- Fifthly, when paying for shipment, pay for tracking. Yes, this does cost a few extra euros/bucks but the peace of mind is worth it (also if anything should happen, it’s much easier to track down). Also, while on the subject of shipping, we recommend checking out the deal DHL offers through our partnership :). Not only can you book your pick-up from your home, but it will only take 24 hours for your film to journey from your home door to our lab door (within the EU). Outside the EU, shipping might take anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to get to us, but it’s equally as safe!
- Lastly, in our experience of successfully running a film lab, we have found that chocolate, candy, and sweets add an extra layer of protection to your packages. We haven’t quite figured out how and why that is, we just know that it is. So we encourage you to throw in your favourite candy for the sake of your film. As Charles Schluz said “All I really need is love, but a little candy now and then doesn’t hurt.” And we certainly agree with that.
Other things to know about shipping film:
We truly and sincerely encourage you to use the comment section on your order form to convey any pertinent information regarding the rolls you’ve sent us. We sometimes find that the comment section is underutilized and so we want to take a moment to express to you that we have that comment section there for a reason, and that reason is for you to tell us anything you would like about your film rolls! There is never too much information* when it comes to understanding how you shot those rolls or how you would like them processed.
Additionally, it is totally fine to add more than one project in your package. Do you have three separate family sessions you want to send us? Maybe you’re sending us some rolls from two separate trips you’ve taken? Feel free to put it all in the same box! You can put one project all in the same resealable bag with the relevant order form inside, and then put your second project in another resealable bag with the relevant order inside. Place both projects in your box with some padding and send it off! We’ll handle the rest!
While most packages are x-rayed during the shipping process we’ve never had any problems with them. The x-rays that are used for shipping have a lower intensity than the ones used on planes. However if you want to be on the safe side, Kodak has handy-dandy downloadable “Do Not X-ray” labels you can print out and place on the outside of your box. This will let the postal worker know that there is magic inside that should be handled with care during the shipping process.
The whole X-ray topic could cover an entire post by itself, so to sum it up, your film is specially vulnerable when it is underexposed since the emulsion is not as dense and the flaws of the film can appear, there is several effects that derive from X-ray, and we’ve only seen them on packages that have traveled on the check-in bag of an airplane, there’s an article from Kodak that sums it up quite well**, but be ready to enter the internet from the 90’s when you open the link.
We know that it can be stressful letting your film rolls leave the safety of your hands. But, hopefully with these tips, we’ve given you a little more peace of mind and a little more confidence in sending off those precious rolls to our lab so that we can bring to life those memorable moments contained inside!
Still got questions? We’d love to answer them!
** the Kodak article focuses a bit more on slide film which is even more sensitive to X-ray damage than color negative film, but the artifacts are similar.