All of the Best Places to Develop Film in Chicago

Cover Photo: The Bean by Sean Benham, ( CC BY-ND 2.0 ), Taken on Lomography 400 Film on a Nikon N80

While Chicago may be the third-largest city in the country, it can still be challenging to find the right spot to develop your film. 

As is true in most major cities, Chicagoans are fortunate to have more than a few photo labs at their disposal; that doesn’t mean that all of these businesses will be the best option for everyone, though. 

Whether you’re a black and white devotee or a large-format fanatic, a Loop-lingering local or you’ve made the move to the suburbs…we’ve got you covered. 

To help you decide the best place to develop film in Chicago, check out our list of all of the options, including a breakdown of which services are handled at each lab, as well as a map of their locations

Film photo of busy Chicago street
State Street by Brian Crawford, ( CC BY 2.0 ), Taken on Kodak Tri-X Filmon a Fuji Discovery Mini Dual Plus

Our Favorite Places to Develop Film in Chicago

Chicago is a great place for film photographers simply based on the fact that there are still quite a few centrally located photo labs. 

Check out our favorite places to develop film in Chicago, all just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. 

Signage of historic Central Camera in Chicago
Central Camera by Phil Roeder, ( CC BY 2.0 )

Central Camera

Location: 230 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60604

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to respect a camera shop that’s been in business for well over 100 years; Central Camera first opened their doors in 1899 and have been a pillar of the Chicago photography community ever since. 

If you’re interested in developing some of your film at Chicago’s oldest photo lab, feel free to bring in your 35mm and 120 medium format film, whether it’s C-41 color, black and white, or E-6 slide film. 

Processing is far from the quickest (usually somewhere between 7 and 14 days depending on what type of film) and our experience getting film developed and scanned has been fine, but nothing to write home about. 

What we really like about Central Camera is the great selection of used film cameras (they also run a popular eBay account to facilitate camera sales to photographers all over the country), as well as standard camera shop offerings; batteries, straps, filters, etc. 

Another analog-specific gem that sets this lab apart is the selection of film for sale. While they surely carry your standard Kodak, Ilford, et al, Central Camera can help you track down rare, hard to find, film formats and special order them for you. 

For more information on Chicago’s oldest camera store, check out Central Camera

UPDATE: Central Camera was damaged severely by fire and looting during protests in the summer of 2020. The owner has remained positive as they worked to reopen the store. Read more about the incident here

The Pursuit Supply Co

Location: 4316 W Irving Park Rd Fl 1, Chicago, IL 60641

You may be surprised to learn (or maybe you’re somewhat of a lush who is already well aware) that Chicago has the most breweries of any U.S. Metropolitan area. As craft brewing and analog photography have seen a similar rise in popularity within the same time frame, it’s no surprise that there’s been many instances of crossover between the two interests.

Enter: The Pursuit Supply Co – part brewing supply shop, part analog photography store and lab. We’ve always had good luck at photo labs run by obsessive hobbyists, and this spot is no different. 

Most standard film formats are developed in house at The Pursuit Supply Co; 35mm and 120 film can be developed whether they are C-41 color, black and white, or even E-6 color reversal film. 

Aside from photo lab services, expect to find all things analog; darkroom supplies and equipment, batteries, fresh film, and used film cameras are all for sale. You may also be interested in checking out a class on different types of photography, or setting the camera down for a bit to learn how to brew your own beer. 

For more information on all of their offerings, head to The Pursuit Supply Co.

J&S Photo Service

Location: 660 W Grand Ave UNIT 1W, Chicago, IL 60654

Large format film shooters rejoice; there are very few labs in the Chicago area that develop sheet film, and one of those labs is J&S Photo Service.

35mm, 120, and large format film are accepted whether it is color, black and white, or E-6 color positive film. 

Don’t expect much else besides some basic printing options; J&S Photo Service is the definition of “no-frills”. That said, sometimes it’s nice to just drop off a roll of film without the temptation of shiny new toys. 

For a full list of services and accompanying prices, you can check out J&S Photo Service.

Film photo of a child playing on a street in Chicago
Lomo Action Sampler by Kevin Corazza, ( CC BY-ND 2.0 ), Taken on a Lomography Action Sampler Camera

CSW Film Systems

Location: 215 N Des Plaines St, Chicago, IL 60661

Loved by locals, CSW Film Systems is consistently praised for their high quality work, low prices, and quick turnaround time. What else could you ask for?

Film processing services cover 35mm and medium format film, whether you are shooting C-41 color or E-6 slide film. Black and white film is accepted, but you should know that it will be sent out to another lab for developing.

The general consensus seems to be that there isn’t anywhere in Chicago that’ll get your film back to you faster, for cheaper than CSW. 

Heads up: they don’t offer scanning services, so you’ll have to either take your negatives elsewhere or do it yourself. 

If you don’t have a scanner of your own, we’d recommend checking out Latitude, an awesome nonprofit that offers scanning services, as well as rentals for their high-end lab, outfitted with top of the line scanners. 

As of writing, CSW doesn’t have a functioning website, but they are listed on Google Maps and Yelp.

Gamma Imaging

Location: 222 N Des Plaines St, Chicago, IL 60661

Quite literally a hop and a skip (and maybe a few extra steps) away from CSW is another place to develop film in Chicago.

Gamma Imaging develops 35mm, 120, and large format film, both C-41 color and E-6 slide film. You’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re a black and white shooter. 

The main focus of the business is commercial printing needs, but we appreciate that they still offer darkroom services. Because of the type of work that they handle, Gamma Imaging is equipped to produce extremely high resolution scans, if you ever need that service. 

To see the type of work that they do, you can visit Gamma Imaging.

Chicago Community Darkroom

Location: 1130 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

During the analog photography revival that’s been building over the last few years, we’ve loved to see the emergence of community-focussed, non-profit darkrooms in most major cities. 

Unsurprisingly, this includes the Windy City, where Chicago Community Darkroom has been operating since 2011. 

Granted, this spot is for a very specific type of photographer; the darkroom is for developing and printing of black and white film only, and you must know how to do it yourself. 

While there are, of course, workshops and orientation sessions to turn you into a confident connoisseur of the darkroom, not everyone is interested in learning how to develop their film, and not everyone likes to shoot black and white. 

Monthly memberships are offered to those interested in using the facilities, which includes 24 hour access, and there is no commitment beyond the month you pay for. 

You can find more information at Chicago Community Darkroom.

Best Places For Film Developing in the Chicago Area

Film photo of a vintage Mercedes covered in leaves
Chicago by Paulo César León Palacios, ( CC BY 2.0 ), Taken on Ilford HP5 400 Speed Film on a Mamiya 7

You’ve still got options if you’re located outside of central Chicago. Even if you’re not, you may be interested in a short trip to one of these labs to get your film developed.

PJ’s Camera & Photo Supply

Location: Trader Joe’s Plaza, Pickwick Place, 662 Roosevelt Road, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

True to the name, PJ’s supplies cameras and just about anything else you need to make photos. They’ve been in business since 1975 and film processing is one offering they’ve maintained to this day. 

35mm and 120 can both be developed at PJ’s. C-41 color, black and white, E-6 slide film and even APS film are processed in house. 

Standard photo lab services including prints, restoration, video transfer, etc. You can  also check out the selection of used film cameras as well as darkroom supplies. 

If you’d like to learn more, check out PJ’s Camera & Photo Supply.

Quality Plus Photo Services

Location: 12240 S Harlem Ave, Palos Heights, IL 60463

About 30 miles outside of Chicago is another photolab that you can visit to get your film developed. Quality Plus Photo is an unassuming spot that does a good job processing film.  

35mm as well as 120 film can be developed, whether it is C-41 color, black and white, or even E-6 color reversal film. 

If you’re looking to get prints of your photos, a photobook, or have any other photo/visual related needs, Quality Plus Photo will probably be able to help. 

For more information, you can visit Quality Plus Photo Design Center.

V Lab

Location: 3740 Oakton St, Skokie, IL 60076

While many people are attracted to black and white photography for the delicate, intentional care that goes into developing the photos, that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to do things themselves. 

We’ve already mentioned the Chicago Community Darkroom, which is also a traditional black and white darkroom, but one that is for DIY developers. V Lab is a great option if you still want your film processed by hand in a traditional darkroom, but don’t want to sign up for a membership at the Community Darkroom. 

V Lab develops any type of film, so long as it is black and white. For a small additional fee, you can choose which developer is used for your photos, still giving you the maximum control over your photos, even if you’re not the one in the darkroom. 

On top of developing film, V Labs also offers traditional, RC darkroom prints, which are truly the most incredible way to see your photos. 

More details can be found at V Lab.

Map of the Best Places to Develop Film in Chicago

Anywhere Else?

Film photo of an aerial view of Chicago
Chicago by Sean Benham, ( CC BY-ND 2.0 ), Taken on Kodak Ultramax 400 Film on an Argus C3

Do you know any other places to develop film in Chicago? Any experience with any of the labs we listed? Let us know in the comments!

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