Feature Friday – The Film Safe

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Interviews & Features | 0 comments

The Film Safe is the new lab on the block, what was the idea/motivation behind getting it set up?

In all honesty, we didn’t start out as a developing lab. We set up originally as a digitising service as a friend of ours asked us to digitally preserve the entire works of an old photographer friend of his that sadly passed away. We did always plan to expand into developing though. Ever since Hope left university she missed the ease of being able to develop her own film and also had lost a bit of faith in some of the bigger developing companies and chains, getting frustrated with the time it took and the quality she got back; I guess after you’ve studied photography you become a bit pickier with image quality etc. After speaking to a few of her photography friends and finding out they were feeling the same, we decided to take matters into our own hands and start developing ourselves. I suppose our motivation has always been to help others in the photography community. Be it scanning, developing or digitising, our incentive has been to provide a service that can be relied upon and to give a bit of faith and confidence to photographers.

We provide developing and scanning of 35mm, 120 and we can even do 6×4 sheet film both colour (C41) and black and white. We also provide scanning only services of Cinefilm (Super 8 and regular 8) and of all film types from 35mm, 120, slides, large format and even disc negatives!

What services do you guys offer and what equipment do you use?

In terms of equipment, currently we use the Noritsu LS-600 for scanning. For developing, we took a long time researching the best kit to use, obviously it is super hard to get your hands-on developing kit at a low cost and, as we were starting up, we didn’t have masses of money to invest. We took a lot of advice from a few experts we were lucky enough to cross paths with (Mr Cad in London, CatLabs in USA and the international film magazine @silvergrainclassics ) and decided on a Jobo ATL 1500 with Kodak, Rollei and Ilford chemicals. This machine is known for its reliability in water temperatures and results not just in C41 processes but E6 too which is the most sensitive to changes in temperature. Kit is something we are constantly renewing though so it won’t be long until this all changes again I’m sure! We are looking to upgrade very soon to the Noritsu minilab for colour developing meaning we can supply prints of images too as well as an even faster service!

Can you tell us about the team @ The Film Safe?

We have a very small but dedicated team at The Film Safe, two humans and a dog to be precise.

Hope is a Falmouth University BA Photography Graduate who has over 4 years education and experience in all things film, focussing her degree on colour darkroom and medium format film photography. She took advantage of all the knowledgeable staff at University learning all she could from the different developing machines, hand processes and darkrooms available. She was very lucky to go to a University with such incredible facilities. Since moving back home has continued film and digital photography ever since giving her over 7 years’ experience in the trade!

Jack has a keen eye for photography being one of those people who are annoyingly just naturally talented. He spent his time travelling expanding his photography knowledge across the world, soaking up as much advice and skills from the people he met along the way. After this, he spent his time learning and researching developing and processing film and shooting on his own Canon film camera. He has a lot of knowledge through experience of the machine on the best chemicals for different film types and is very precise with everything his does, always looking into new ways of developing, new chemicals and never switches off (exhausting at times). He is the brains behind the business so if you end up contacting us, you’ll likely get through to him!

Most importantly, however, is our third member Daisie. She is a long-haired miniature dachshund and is key to all things quality control and in making sure everyone is up and working on time in the mornings. She spends most of her time in bed, keeping a wary eye on proceedings and if not, she is notifying us on orders arriving at the door.

You guys donate a portion of your profits to charity (which I love btw!) I haven’t heard of any labs doing this, what was the reason behind this?

Thanks! This was something we always wanted to do when we set up. We were both very keen to give back in some way to the incredible world we live in with our business, the hardest part was choosing who we wanted to donate to. We spent a long time discussing the pros of all different types of charity. As we just couldn’t choose which is why we have 3 choices on our website allowing you guys to make the choice on who you want your order contribution to go to! I suppose we have never really thought much about the motivation behind why we wanted to give to charity as it was just an automatic agreement, we both had when discussing what we wanted to achieve from The Film Safe. As mentioned before, we want to be able to give back to the community and this was just another way of making this possible. In terms of our choices for which charities to choose, this was a much bigger conversation.

As Hope went to Falmouth and spent a lot of time in the sea, and Jack surfing on his travels an environmental cause was a must for us so Coral Gardeners became a perfect choice, rebuilding these important ecosystems in our oceans.

Alzheimer’s Research UK was another choice that we felt fitted hand in hand with photography due to the inherent link between photography and memory. This charity is one that we felt would impact so many people, hopefully one day finding a cure for this awful illness.

Finally, CALM was chosen due to being close to our hearts and with mental health effecting so many people especially since COVID has hit, we felt it was only right that we did our bit to give back.

(you can find more info on each charity and links to their websites on our own one!)

We expect that we will be doing a lot more charity focussed work as we expand as there are so many incredible charities out there!

Where do you want The Film Safe to be this time next year?

We have big aspirations! This time next year we hope to be able to employ a few people to help with developing and scanning, upgrade our kit and have multiple machines, as well as have a physical space where people can come and visit, get their films developed and, whilst they are waiting, be able to speak to other like-minded people in a safe community space.

We also have plans to expand this community side of things further, giving opportunities for exhibitions and interviews with photographers and creatives, a kind of inspiration space where you can come and take part, learn, ask questions as well as receiving a service. We think the photography community is so incredible, there are so many amazingly talented people out there that when we come together can support each other and make a lot of really incredible things happen.

Of course, this is all in the early stages and really depends on the pandemic and how the business goes… but dream big right?

What’s the film community/scene like in Southampton and do you know of any groups someone can join if they’re local and looking to get into film?

We can’t speak all that much about the photography scene in Southampton as we are still dipping our toes back into the water and finding other creatives in the area – but from what we have seen so far it is pretty great! We are both back in Southampton due to the pandemic, having been living in different parts of the country beforehand – so we are just now getting the chance to immerse ourselves in the Southampton community. In general, the photography community is so supportive and wholesome. We’ve always found it super helpful, with people keen to collaborate, work together and see each other succeed. And that is so great to see.

I (Hope) can however talk about the absolutely amazing photography scene in Falmouth and Cornwall. Falmouth is a hub of creative activity, whether you need a photographer, artist, musician, designer or illustrator you won’t be looking for long. The community is so supportive and creative, it is one of the biggest things I miss since moving home from University. I keep in touch with a lot of my friends that are still living down there and their skills are always flourishing! I think a lot of this is down to the sea air and beautiful scenery though.

In terms of groups to follow, I would recommend Mayn creative it is run at the University and is a space for all kinds of creatives. In terms of photography related groups, then any of the analog photography groups online are great, more specifically ‘35mm Photography’, ‘Film Photography Chat’ and, for those just starting out, ‘Photography Beginners Group’. These are all super kind and supportive groups; I am yet to see anything negative on them.

What’s your personal favourite camera/film stock to shoot? (goes to both of you)

Good question! We both have complete opposite styles and preferences. I (Hope) absolutely love natural skin tones, muted colour palettes and fine grain. Throughout my third year I shot almost entirely on a Hasselblad 503 which I adored due to the square medium format images so this would have to be my camera of choice. My final project was 3 large prints of Kodak Ektar 100 which was my favourite film for a long time, however, I also absolutely love the skin tones and fine grain from Kodak Portra 160. If I had to choose a 35mm camera too though it would be the Nikon F4 with a kodak film.

Jack, however, LOVES grain and highly saturated colours. He started off with kodak Gold 200 and always has roll of this in his back pocket, but he has recently really started to love Lomography films more specifically the Lomography colour 400; the saturated colours and slightly higher grain along with the versatility of the higher ISO allows more versatile shooting which he loves. In terms of camera of choice, his Canon FX was a great camera to start with, but he is now enjoying getting to grips with his Olympus OM-2 which is smaller and easy to carry around on his long trips around the house in this lockdown!

What advice would you guys give to someone looking to get into film?

The best advice we can give to anyone looking to start out in film photography is just to get shooting. Don’t be overwhelmed by the different types of film or camera and don’t get bogged down with the complications of light compensation and exposure triangles.

If you can get your hands on a camera that has a built-in light meter this will help you out a tonne. Look for a cheap SLR, charity shops have loads that are perfect, and then put your film in, set your film speed (the ISO on the side) and use the light meter inside to help you shoot your first roll. This is the easiest way to get an understanding of what your film can cope with light wise and allows you to just twist the shutter speed and aperture around to see what gives the perfect exposure!

Get yourself a light meter on your phone! This is super helpful if you don’t have a light meter on your camera as this will give you the ideal settings for your film ISO.

Finally, don’t be scared to ask for help or advice from other photographers, we all started out once and we are a community that LOVES to talk about all things photography related. Don’t feel embarrassed if you think your question is stupid, I can guarantee we’ve all asked or thought the same thing at one point in our lives.

As with anything, the best way to learn is to get out and start practicing, you will be surprised to see the improvements you make between each roll as you get used to film photography!

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