You know the Disney song, right?

“Someday my prince will come” — Snow White sings it to the seven dwarfs in the Disney animated classic from 1937. It was the beginning of serious animation. Who could forget?

When I was learning photography, back in the early 1970s from a friend with a good education in photography and an odd sense of humor, I learned a different set of lyrics. But first … the back story.

For black and white film (it was all film at that point … digital photography was decades in the future) … we did our own developing and printing. The university I had attended — and for that matter, that my friend had also attended — had a dark room which he ran. Whatever photographic work the school needed, he did it. But it left a lot of time for personal projects and having a spacious, well-equipped dark room and laboratory was a dream come true. All I had to supply was paper and chemicals. I learned a huge amount in those few years during which I had access to the facilities.

Color was different. For color work, we were dependent on a (very) few custom photography labs. You could cheap out and drop your film off at the drug store — if you didn’t mind negatives covered with scratches and bad prints on the cheapest paper. If, however you wanted some quality proofs and prints made by hand from negatives properly developed, you needed a trustworthy (expensive) lab. The equipment to develop and print color was too big and too costly for an individual. Oh how times have changed!

Custom labs took a long time. They called themselves “custom” and they really were. They hand developed the negatives and prints, though proofs were generally done by machine unless you specified otherwise. Usually, we order proof sheets and from these, selected the frames we thought were worth blowing up.

Today, you can get amazing, high quality work from laboratories that will take your files over the Internet and mail you prints on paper, wood, canvas, aluminum, or whatever. They will do it quickly and usually at competitive prices. In the old days, custom work was the province of professional photographers. This meant weddings, babies, other events big and small. Also, material for magazines and advertising agencies. Most of the pros used large format cameras which were (still are) so expensive they may cause fainting on the spot.  Like, for example, a Hasselblad, the preferred camera of NASA where the camera body alone costs more than my house …  and don’t even ask about lenses.

Being an amateur, my print orders were never at the head of the queue. So, I’d wait. Sometimes weeks just to get proofs … which would be the first time I even knew if the pictures were good. It was a time of great anxiety.

While we waited, we sang:


Eventually, they did.

I love digital cameras.

Categories: Humor, Movies, Music, Photography

Tags: , , , , , ,

29 replies

    • Writing this brought back a FLOOD of memories about the olden but not so golden days of pre-digital cameras. Even the parking tickets I got for leaving the car for a few moments to grab the prints before they towed me. AH, those weren’t the days. I think I was the happiest photographer in the world when I realized I would never ever have to pay for a batch of bad negatives again.


  1. oh don’t we all miss the days of “I’ve only got one shot left and Im saving it…” and “don’t waste your film on that stuff, there’s better up ahead…” “Well dammit that was my last shot. I could have sworn I had two left…”


    • I admit I don’t miss it at all. Mostly, though, what I don’t miss are the gigantic bills from the lab for developing the pictures. When we got back from Ireland, I had 27 rolls of 36 shot film, which today is nothing using digital, but then was several HUNDRED dollars.


  2. I love the instant gratification of being able to cuss right away when I see the result of the picture I took on the camera screen and see that the squirrel either blurred or jumped out of frame. Then again, it was like finding an Easter egg the time I scanned the negatives from the grocery store photo lab of pictures I took at the ballgame and noticed that I actually DID capture that bolt of lightning at the tail end of my roll of film. They didn’t see the streak I was looking for, so they assumed it was blank and didn’t develop it…


    • I have to say that the people who developed my pictures NEVER failed to develop and print every single frame, even if it was blank. It was just another buck in the till. It certainly made us all eager to embrace digital when it arrived 🙂

      I never got a bolt of lightening and I really TRIED. Everyone got the shot except me. It’s just one of those things it seems I will never do.


  3. love this! and to think how far photography and film have come… amazing!


  4. oh yes, digital. I borrowed my husband’s camera when he got it, back in the days of 3″ floppies, and when I got back home I told him he needed to get his own camera. I still have the camera, more for sentimental reasons than anything else… I love digital.


  5. Yes, I remember those days. While in Junior college, I took a photography class and soon after completing the course, my father built me a darkroom in the garage. Problem was, this was in Southern California and during most of the year, if I wanted to use the darkroom, I had to strip down to shorts or a bathing suit as that room was more like a sauna. I, too, love digital cameras!


  6. I remember when 24 hour film processing arrived but then that wasn’t fast enough and the city became full of 4 hour and then 1 hour print shops. They seemed to be on every corner but when digital photography became affordable they all disappeared.


  7. Cute…I hope your Prints arrive soon too…. but you don’t have to wait long these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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