View Full Version : Good B&W Labs?

Kirk Gittings
21-Sep-2005, 11:13
I have a Historic American Buildings Survey to do of 37 buildings that will generate nearly 1000 sheets of 4x5 b&w film. This volume is impossible to do myself in a timely manner. Any recomendations for b&w labs that can do archival processing in this volume?

Steve Nieslony
21-Sep-2005, 11:41

You may wish to try Cox B&W Labs in the Sacramento Area. He does a lot of work for the State Library etc... Jeff is a real good guy. If you speak with him tell him one of his 'camping buddies' sent you his way.


Link: http://www.coxblackandwhitelab.com/index.html


John Cook
21-Sep-2005, 11:47
Kirk, I would also be extremely interested to know (and absolutely dumbfounded to discover) that many labs are left.

Even if you managed to locate the last professional quality b&w LF lab in NYC, the trick would be to get the principal himself (not his new assistant) to handle such a large job. Volume and quality are not often good bedfellows.

Offhand, my first suggestion would be to hire a temporary in-house lab assistant, if you can find one.

Plan B (with its own set of challenges) might be to enlist the aid of some old, retired, chemically-fastidious fussbudgets from this site...

David A. Goldfarb
21-Sep-2005, 11:51
MV Labs in New York would be a possibility. www.mvlabs.com.

I'm guessing you'll be producing these negs over the course of some time, and not dropping off a thousand sheets at the lab for pickup the next day. With a 3.5 gallon tank line, ten 4-up hangers per batch, replenishable developer, it's not that unreasonable to do this kind of volume. How many buildings are you planning to shoot in a day? How many sheets per day, presuming you process at the end of the day or the next day?

Eric Leppanen
21-Sep-2005, 11:57
Image Control does excellent work in Orange County, California. They use a Refrema machine with Xtol chemistry. Their phone number is (714) 545-1385. Ron Regev is the owner and is a great guy to work with.

Dan Jolicoeur
21-Sep-2005, 12:07
John, are you looking for a part time job?

Paul Cocklin
21-Sep-2005, 12:35
I would second Cox labs in Sacramento. Fantastic work, and Jeff is a really great guy; he spent an extra 10 minutes explaining something to me (I'm a little dense, sometimes) and it was just for two sheets of TMax. He truly loves photography and the B+W experience.

Frank Petronio
21-Sep-2005, 12:56
My friends Edgar Praus and Mike Parks have been doing custom B&W processing, commercial prints, and archival museum prints for over twenty years. He gets work from all over the US and maintains high enough prices to do it right, but because of being located in Rochester he isn't as outrageously expensive as NYC labs.

Website: Praus Productions (http://www.4photolab.com).

Edgar has a RIT MFA and shoots a ton of large format - 5x7 and 8x10. See The American Highway Project (http://www.highwayproject.org). Gotta keep those MFAs off the street.

Joseph O'Neil
21-Sep-2005, 14:07
Sorry - cannot reccomend a lab, but a bit off topic, I am facinated by your project. did a google search and turned up the web site.

Question - yes it should be self evident - but how did you determine to use B&W sheet film? The reaosn I ask I am chair of ht elocal heritage committe here, and I ahve tried to explain th eimportance of not using digital to take pictures of heritage buildings slated for demolition, but love to hear how it comes from your side

(BTW - I'm in Canada)


Kirk Gittings
21-Sep-2005, 14:24
US HABS standards require a minimum size film of 4x5 and only in b&w.

Thanks all for the suggestions. I am checking some of them out.

Kirk Gittings
21-Sep-2005, 14:41
"Image Control does excellent work in Orange County, California."

I like the idea of a Refrema for that quantity of film. I have had great E6 processing done for years on Refremas but never b&w. Image Control says that they could turn around 200 sheets a day on their Refrema. Besides Eric has anyone else had experience wth these guys?

wm mitchell
21-Sep-2005, 15:33

You may want to call Jeff or Jim at LABWORK.
They're located in Cleveland, OH. Their number is 216.621.7567.

They do custom B&W work, and have experience with museums and archival work.

I've used them for years and their work is superb.

Hope this helps,


21-Sep-2005, 15:44
I have heard good things about Labwork from someone who used to use them. He is retired now and is not in good health, that is why he no longer shoots much.

21-Sep-2005, 16:02
www.gammaphoto.com/svct_bw_film.html (http://www.gammaphoto.com/svct_bw_film.html)

Kirk Gittings
21-Sep-2005, 16:25
I am very familiar with Gamma. I use them on my yearly stint in Chicago at SAIC.

Jim Bradley
21-Sep-2005, 17:17
I am a mere lurker here, but you might want to check Section D of the HABS standard. It calls for hand processing only.

21-Sep-2005, 17:24
Kirk, I was worried that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was going digital for summer sessions. (Unless you meant th SIAC _corporation_) :(

Henry Ambrose
21-Sep-2005, 17:35
Chromatics in Nashville.
chromatics.com (http://chromatics.com) or call 615-254-0063.
For a job of this scale ask to speak with Mike Borum, the owner. Tell him I sent you.
They have given truly excellent service for many years.

Kirk Gittings
21-Sep-2005, 17:41
"Kirk, I was worried that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was going digital for summer sessions."

I still shoot only film.

"Kirk, I am a mere lurker here, but you might want to check Section D of the HABS standard. It calls for hand processing only."

Excellent point, though the intent is archival processing and I do a residual chemical test on all my HABS film anyway. I had one rejected once twenty years ago and had to redo it.

21-Sep-2005, 18:39
68 Degrees is an excellent custom bw lab in New York.


21-Sep-2005, 18:44
kirk -

you might give dalmatian labs a call.
i haven't used them for habs work, but i know they have
a very good reputation, and do not put hardener in their fixer.
i've looked around for an archival b+w lab in the past
to help with habs submissions, they were the one i would use in a heartbeat.


7 D Dundas Circle greensboro, NC 27215 (800) 603-8107

good luck!


Ralph Barker
22-Sep-2005, 08:10
I can't recommend a lab, Kirk, so I'll resort to asking a rhetorical question. Will the chosen lab get equal credit for the project? ;-)

That is to say, while outsourcing the processing may make perfect sense from a logistics and "project management" perspective, are you sure you want to relinquish control over that aspect of the work?

jens peter
22-Sep-2005, 08:41
Two month ago Bob Carnie's lab in Toronto Canada did 450 sheet 8x10 and 4x5 for me in 6 days, including contact sheets. They use one-shoot chemistry in destilled water, I dont think you will find better quality!

Kirk Gittings
22-Sep-2005, 08:46

Please...............get real. This is the real world of making a living in photography. This is a commercial shoot not art.

A) I have to turn this around within two weeks of getting home. 1000 sheets of film........contact prints, and all the documentation and packaging. What would you do?

B) Every time I do a commercial shoot (of which everything but HABS/HAER projects are in color) I relinquish control over the color film processing. What's new. You find a lab that you can depend on and you spend your time doing what only you can do. I've done it for 37 years. It works.

Kirk Gittings
22-Sep-2005, 08:54

And NO the lab will get NO credit for my shoot. What are you thinking? They will get my heartfelt thanks and recommendations if they do a good job and my money. I don't see any lab credits on your website.

Daniel Schmidt
22-Sep-2005, 12:23
you could contact specialty photo in Santa Barbara, they are black and white lab.


Kirk Keyes
22-Sep-2005, 13:04
Since you need such a quick turnaround - what about splitting up the work between two labs?

22-Sep-2005, 14:11
You aren't saving all the film to submit it for processing at once, are you? GAMMA will take the film as you work, process and file it for you until you pick it up. It's a regular service (or was when I used them years ago.) I know a couple photographers who do this even when overseas - regular shipping as frequently as they can. GAMMA will probably even let you know if by the very odd chance something goes wrong - for example, a bad lot, stuck shutter, bellows-leak, etc..