Unless you have a great local lab, most likely you will be sending your exposed film to a lab in another city in another state. And because I have about 20+ years of experience in packing shipments for USPS, UPS, and FEDEX when I used to own an internet based boutique, I thought I would share some of my tips on how to pack your film.
Packing is packing, no matter the item is big or small. You want to secure a safe passage for your shipment from your hands to its final destination. Here are my 8 steps to secure your film rolls a safe journey to the lab:
1. Identify with a fine point Sharpie
On every film roll, I make sure to write down my name, or at least my first initial and my full last name. I also mark each roll for pushing (push+1, push+2, etc), if needed.
2. Ziplock bag is your friend
I place the film in a tightly sealed Ziploc bags. I usually use separate bags for the normal process rolls and the push process rolls. Make sure that you also push out the air as you seal and to leave as little air in the Ziploc bags as possible.
3. Order form
I fill out a separate order from for normal and push process film rolls and place them in the appropriate Ziploc bags along with film rolls. You order form should be filled out completely and legibly. For Richard Photo Lab order forms, I first download a blank copy on my hard drive. Then, I use the PDF software to add my name, shipping address, process information and signatures directly on the form on the computer and save a pre-filled copy. So every time I need to send a film order into the lab, I only have to fill out the film processing information part.
4. Free shipping supplies
I request a pack of 25 Flat Rate Priority Mail Small Box directly from USPS online store. I do not recommend bubble mailers because I have seen so many items destroyed shipped in bubble mailers. Do you know your packages do not get the "white-glove" treatment at the shipping distribution centers? The possibility of your package being stepped on is VERY LIKELY! The possibility that it could fall into a puddle of dirty water is VERY LIKELY! You want to do your own part to make sure that the content of your package is secure and safe from rough handling. If the images on those film rolls are important to you, then choose the best way to ship them. Why take the risk? Besides, the USPS supplies are free!
5. Pack your film like it's gold
I use craft packing paper I purchased from a packing supply store and wrap the Ziploc bag with film tightly. Use a tape to secure the ends if needed. If you don't have craft packing paper, any paper will do, such as newspaper, grocery store ads, etc. Once the packaged film is placed in the USPS flat rate box, I make sure that any empty space between the film pack and the box is also filled. I simply wad up a piece of paper to fill the space. If you can feel film pack rattling inside when you shake the box, you'd want to add more fillers.
6. Packing Tape
USPS box comes with self-sealing strip. However, I don't rely on it to keep my box sealed. I use a packing tape and tape over any box joints to prevent water seeping in during shipping.
7. Print Mailing Label online
I print Flat Rate small box shipping label via USPS website with a tracking number at $5.25 and fix the lab on the box. I also use a clear packing tape to cover the label's entire surface. This is to prevent water from destroying the paper label during shipping.
You may request a free courier pick up (if it's available in your area) or drop it off at any USPS receptacle or USPS office.