Where to Develop Film in Chicago in 2023.
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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 disposable cameras and film in Chicago, check out our list of all of the options, including a breakdown of which services are handled at each lab and a map of their locations.
Where 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 where you can still develop film in Chicago, all just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan.
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.
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.
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.
Bellows has opened two locations – Miami and, more recently, Chicago. Both stores offer the same list of services.
All types of film are accepted in person or by mail. 35mm, medium, and large format can all be developed. Color, B&W, or E-6 slide film.
You can also develop less common formats like 110, APS, and ECN-2.
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. That said, CSW is claimed to be “the last film printer in Chicago” – you can check out a short documentary about the lab and its owner below.
Just 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.
Latitude is a nonprofit, community-centered lab in Chicago. They operate a digital lab with tools to help photographers and other artists complete their projects.
When this list was first published, we mentioned Latitude for the ability to rent their high-end scanners – a great option for film photographers who want more control over their final images.
Since then, C-41 color film processing has been added to the list of offerings, for both 35mm and 120. With developing came the option for traditional mini lab scans. (Just to be clear, film processing and mini lab scans are handled by the staff, while scanner and printer rental is for those who want to DIY).
As a nonprofit, Latitude has a lot more to offer than just their lab – workshops, print swaps, and artist residencies are just a few of the programs they provide.
During the analog photography revival that’s been building over the last few years, we’ve loved to see the emergence of community-focused, 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.
Where to Develop Film in the Chicago Area
You’ve still got options if you’re located outside of central Chicago. Even if not, you may be interested in a short trip to one of these labs to get your film developed.
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.
About 30 miles outside of Chicago you can find another photo lab called Quality Plus Photo – an unassuming spot that still processes 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.
Since 1951, Phototronics has been developing film and providing other services for photographers in Illinois.
C-41 color film is accepted and developed on-site, both 35mm and medium format. You can also drop off B&W or slide film, but those types are sent to an out-lab for for processing.
Outside of developing film, Phototronics offers most common photo lab services, like printing, scanning and archiving.
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.
Map of the Best Places to Develop Film in Chicago
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!