How to ship film safely (“meaningless tasks we all hate”) by Isaac Henson
Film is great. Can we all agree about that? The color, the bokeh, the detail in the highlights. But the one downside compared to digital photography is that you can’t see or use the images until they are processed in a lab. I have nowhere near enough time (or expertise) to do this kind of work, particularly at the high quality needed for use at Jordan Brittley. So, I do what everyone should do in this situation: I hire someone to use their expertise for me. My experts of choice, however, are not local, so I have to send the film through the mail. How do I mail film for Jordan Brittley? Here’s the step-by-step process along with some things to keep in mind:
Step 1: Choose a Lab
At Jordan Brittley, we work exclusively with Richard Photo Lab in Valencia, CA for all our lab work. They’re the best for a lot of reasons. They get the colors just like we want them, they’re (reasonably) fast, they’re reliable, and they have always done high quality work for us.
Step 2: Choose a Carrier
There are several carriers who can get your film from your business to your lab of choice. We use the United States Postal Service in part because of simplicity and in part because of price. Again, we’ve never had a problem with them, so we’re loyal customers.
Something to keep in mind: shipping can get expensive, so it’s a good idea to shop around. However, make sure you don’t sacrifice reliability to get a cheaper price. There’s no amount of shipping insurance you can buy to make up for what you will lose in profit, reputation, and hair if your film is lost or damaged.
Step 3: Fill out the Paperwork
Step 4: Package the Film and Paper
Once you have selected a lab and a carrier and have completed all the necessary paperwork, you have to package your film. Again, there are several things to keep in mind here. The most important thing is the safety of your film.
I use a small flat-rate box from USPS. I just bought one today, so I remember that they’re $5.95 regardless of how many rolls of film you stuff in there (my personal best is 25 rolls of medium format). Not only are these boxes fairly sturdy, but they come with tracking, insurance (again, nowhere near what you would have to reimburse a client if that-which-cannot-be-mentioned happened) and it ships half-way across the USA in 2 days. Good stuff.
Something to keep in mind: you’re going to be spending a lot of time and potentially money on shipping if you’re shooting film with any frequency. I encourage you to really take the time to find out what works for you in terms of packaging options. I tried several things before finally settling on the small flat-rate box.
Step 5: Send it Off!
Pow! You’re done. Your carrier will have their own policies for pickups and payment, but at this point, you’ve done all you can do. Now the only thing left is to:
Step 6: Chew your nails off in eager anticipation of the greatness that awaits you.
Enjoy your beautifully developed film!