How to Talk to Your Film Lab

Don’t be intimidated.

For real—we’re humans, too! There are no stupid questions. We want to hear what you think of your scans and we want to know if you have questions. Why? So we can help you! We’ve helped many photographers reach their goals, and we want to help you, too. But don’t just take our word for it:

“I remember back to the days when I used to be nervous to call my old film lab or ask them questions out of fear of embarrassing myself or bothering them. Even after hearing, ‘Communicate with your lab!’ and encouraging others to do the same, I often held back. I now realize that there should truly be no fear in the matter. The entire PhotoVision Team is made up of humans who understand that mistakes happen. And they not only want you to succeed in your work and business, they want you to love your work AND your process.” — Kallie Dawn Photography

What are the most effective ways to communicate?

Angry emails at 1 a.m. We kid. In fact, some of the best ways of talking with your film lab don’t involve any words. We’re visual people, after all!

Reference Images

The first step of communicating with your film lab is to show them what you want your scans to look like. How do you do this? Reference images! Reference images help your film lab understand your aesthetic, and the best ones show the skintones, density, contrast and saturation you’re striving to achieve in your film scans. Learn how to choose good reference images and send them in.


What do you do when your film scans are "off" and you want your future scans to look differently? Written feedback can be subjective and tricky for even the best color techs in the world to decipher. Try sending side-by-sides of our original scan next to your edited version instead! These “before and afters” take but a moment and can greatly reduce the time you have to spend behind your computer editing your scans. Learn more about side-by-sides and how to send them in.

Feeling frustrated with your scans?

Don’t lab hop—hop on the phone instead! We want to troubleshoot the issue with you. Was it your exposures? A camera snafu? Did we miss your vision? Reach out and see what can be done. Show us examples of what went wrong and what you had hoped to achieve instead. Remember: even the best color techs in the world don’t know what you want unless you show them!

What if your lab doesn’t listen to you or build on your feedback?

This is a red flag. 🚩 And, sadly, you might want to consider trying a new lab. The best film labs we know listen to their photographers and do everything they can to help.

Remember: we’re humans, too.

Your film lab isn’t a black box, spitting out perfect scans. We are a team of dedicated, talented artists with mounds of experience and some of the best color eyes in the biz. But at the end of the day, like all artists, we have feelings (so many feeeeelings!). So please, take a beat before you fire off angry emails at 1 a.m. This doesn’t help any film lab help you reach your goals. Instead, consider the easy tools we’ve outlined above. They are so much more effective in getting what you want! And a lot kinder to the team who wants nothing more than to see you succeed. ;)

Be a co-conspirator!

We are invested in every step of the process, from the time you shoot that roll of film to the day you hold your prints. Everything that leaves our doors carries our team’s signature touch, and we want nothing more than to help you succeed. But we can’t do this without your collaboration. Keep us updated as your aesthetic shifts (so we can tweak our scans to match) and tell us when something goes wrong (so we can help fix it).

Let’s talk!

Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help. You can email, call (503) 588-3686, DM on IG @photovisionprints or schedule a Zoom call.