Call us now ! Send us an email N Oakland Ave Milwaukee United States

Back to Top

Call Us Today!
(414) 964-6626
Call Us Today!
(414) 964-6626

Frequently Asked Questions

B&L Photo Lab

Milwaukee’s Copy and Restoration Specialists

Preserving History Every Day!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should you choose B&L Photo Lab?

B&L Photo is a specialty photo lab combining the camera, the artist’s pallet, the computer, and the darkroom to provide the customer with the very finest in black and white and color prints. Customers needing copy and restoration services can rest assured that their photographic messages will live far into the future. Photographers can rely on B&L Photo to provide a complete line of lab services.
At B&L Photo you are dealing with professionals. Our passion is insuring that every print leaving our door is of the highest quality and will have the longest life possible. B&L Photo will go that extra mile to give your job the special attention that is required. In any project, you are the most important part and B&L Photo will strive to understand your needs and fulfill your expectations.
We take great pride in keeping traditional black and white photo finishing alive. All our black and whitework is done by hand. We produce 150-year silver gelatin fiber archival prints. Our color photographs are printed with Epson Ultrachrome Inks. B&L Photo also offers archival matting and framing to ensure that your photo and its message lives on into the future.

Can B&L Photo convert slides and prints to digital files? 

B&L Photo can convert all types of photographic media, artwork, documents, and flatwork into digital files for viewing on a computer or TV. (See How can I view my digital files in the FAQ section for additional information on using your digital files).
B&L Photo will accept color or black and white slides, transparencies and negatives of all sizes and formats (110 through 8x10). Slides can be mounted in paper mounts, plastic mounts, glass mounts or unmounted. Slides and negatives can be individual negatives, strips or rolls. In addition, B&L Photo will work with glass magic lantern slides, autochromes and glass plate negatives. B&L Photo will also handle nitrate base negatives in condition 1, 2 or 3.
B&L Photo will accept photographs, artwork, flatwork and documents from locket size through 4 feet x 6 feet. These can be loose, mounted, framed, under glass or in albums.
B&L Photo will convert any combination of media into digital files. Files can be placed on disc in specific order and placed in custom named folders if requested. Before conversion to digital form the item being converted is cleaned with an electrostatic brush. The item is then scanned or photographed depending on if it is transparent or reflective. Digital ICE is used on appropriate transparent media to remove dust and minor scratches, all other items are hand spotted. Converted files are corrected for color, density and contrast. This is done at no additional cost. (Please note: hand spotting removes normal white or black spots and small scratches, it is not restoration. Damaged items can be restored at additional cost.)

How can I view my digital files?

Photos that have been digitized as either TIF or J-PEG can be viewed on any computer either PC or MAC. J-Peg digital files will also play on DVD players in most cases. Unfortunately, because there are so many DVD players on the market, B&L Photo cannot guarantee that the disc we make for you will play on your DVD player. There are a number of programs available on line to prep files for display on DVD players.

What are TIF or J-Peg file formats?

A TIF file is classified as a closed file format. TIF files always stay the same size when moved from one place to another. For example, when a 10 megabyte TIF file on a hard drive is written to a CD, it takes up 10 megabytes of space on the CD. A J-PEG file is classified as an open or compressed file. A J-Peg file on your hard drive will be written onto a CD as a smaller or compressed file. This is done through a bit of computer code magic that deletes part of the file when it is written on the CD. That same code then tells the computer how to restore the missing information when the file is reopened. Problems can arise when J-PEG files are repeatedly written from one device or disc to another. After repeated rewriting of the file, it can become corrupted and fail. TIF files, being closed files, are not subject to this type of failure. You need to determine how you are going to use your digitized photos to be able to select the file format that best suits your needs. TIF files are larger than J-PEG files and will open more slowly on a computer or DVD player. TIF files are best to use for archiving, or to use for printing new photos. J-PEG files, being compressed and thus smaller, will open more quickly and are best used for viewing on a computer or DVD player and for emailing.

Can B&L Photo make black and white prints only from black and white negatives?

B&L Photo can make black and white silver gelatin fiber archival prints from all kinds of photographic media. Black and white prints can be made directly from negatives by exposing them onto black and white papers. Prints or slides will need to have a black and white negative made by first digitizing them either by photographing or scanning. Digitized images or original digital files are then converted to 4x5” black and white negatives using B&L Photo’s PCR8 Film Recorder.
Silver gelatin fiber prints can be made from:
  • Digital files
  • Black and white or color negatives 35mm through 8x10”
  • Black and white or color transparencies 35mm through 8x10”
  • Black and white or color slides
  • Black and white or color stereo slides
  • Glass mounted slides and transparencies
  • Lantern slides
  • Autochromes
  • Color photographs—any size
  • Hand oiled photographs—any size
  • Flat artwork—any size

Why does B&L Photo use silver gelatin fiber paper? 

We believe that all black and white prints made by B&L Photo should last as long as possible. Silver gelatin fiber paper is the only photographic material which can claim a true archival life; archival means 100 years or more. Silver gelatin fiber paper is made by coating a sheet of fiber paper with an emulsion of silver halide salts. Silver gelatin fiber prints made with B&L Photo’s rigid processing procedures will have a life of 150 years or more. See B&L Photo Lab’s Archival Black and White Print Process below. Other photo labs provide black and white prints made with RC black and white paper, color paper or as ink jet prints. These materials have a limited useful life.
Only silver photographic papers produce true blacks. Blacks made by combining dyes as is done in color papers and ink jet prints are never really black. There is always a color cast to the black. This problem increases as the dye based print ages and begins to fade. This is why color dye processes are not good enough for black and white prints made by B&L Photo.

What is print toning?

When black and white prints are made, they are black and white. Print toning is done for two reasons. The most popular reason is aesthetic. Changing black and white images to a warm red-brown or soft yellow glow humanizes the image. The second is that toning chemically alters the silver in the print to a more stable form, lengthening the print’s life. B&L Photo offers three tones. Brown tone and spilt tone are sulfating processes, and selenium tone is an ion replacement process.
Brown Tone: A warm red-brown tone that lends a rich look
Selenium Tone: A cool purple-brown colored tone
Split Tone: Blacks remain black but highlights take on a warm yellow glow

Can B&L Photo make color prints?

B&L Photo can make color Epson Ultrachrome Ink Jet prints up to 24”x30”. B&L Photo makes Epson prints rather than type C prints because of the projected 80-year life of the Epson prints compared to the shorter life of type C prints. B&L Photo’s color prints receive the same attention as its black and white prints. They are cropped, dodged and burned-in and corrected for color and density so as to produce the finest print.

What can be done with faded color prints and negatives?

There are several options for color prints or negatives that have faded. The extent of fading will determine which correction option will be used. If the print or negative has minor fading, or has lost contrast due to fading, the print or negative can be digitized, the colors brightened and the contrast restored. If the print or negative has experienced extreme fading or color shift, there are several options available at B&L Photo Lab. The color print or negative can be made into a black and white, brown tone, selenium tone or split tone silver gelatin fiber archival print; it can be left as such or photo oils can be applied making it a hand tinted photograph. See What are Photo Oils? in the FAQ section.
Another way is to add color to the photo in the computer and output an Epson Archival Color Ink Jet print. See What is Digital Colorization? in the FAQ section. No matter which manner of restoring the color is chosen, the customer will need to give a color description. This can be the colors as they were, or the way you wish to see it now.

What is digital colorization?

Digital colorization is using the computer to add color to faded color photos or black and white photos. A lasso is drawn around an object in the photo, let’s say a shirt, and a wash of color is laid over the object. This wash of color adds color but allows the detail of the photo to show through. On faded color photos this process is used to enhance the colors already present. On extremely faded color photos or on black and white photos this process can put down any color requested by the customer. The difference between a hand oiled photo and a digital colorized photo is the expected life. Oiled photos have a life of 150 years. Computer colorized photos have an expected life of 30–50 years.

Will B&L Photo work with old negatives or slides?

Yes! B&L Photo can make prints from old black and white negatives from 35mm to 8x10” in size. We can also make black and white prints from glass plate negatives. Black and white prints are made as silver gelatin fiber archival prints in the darkroom. If you have older color negatives, we can scan them and make color prints, or we can take them into the darkroom and make black and white prints. (Note: many color negatives may be too faded to print as color prints and can only be printed as black and white prints; alternately, they can be converted to digital form and digitally colorized). Color slides and transparencies up to 8x10” can be scanned and made into color or black and white prints. (Note: Kodachrome slides have very good color retention, but Ektachrome slides are prone to fading and may only be suitable to make black and white prints). B&L Photo can transfer your slides, negatives or prints to disc or external hard drive so the images can be viewed as a digital slide show or electronic photo album.

Will B&L Photo work with old stereo slides or lantern slides?

Stereo slides or lantern slides can be scanned and printed. We have a dedicated film scanner, not a flat bed scanner, just for this purpose. These scanned images can also be placed on disc or external hard drive and viewed as an electronic slide show or electronic photo album. Because the seal on these slides are prone to failure, computer artwork maybe required to correct for dust or other contaminates that have infiltrated the slide.

Can B&L Photo work from a copy print or copy negative?

We can, but the quality of the final print will not be as good as if we had started from the original. If at all possible, it is always best to work from the original photo. Also, any damage that was in the original and is evident in the copy will need to be corrected.

What if my photos are in an album?

Do not try to remove photos that are mounted in albums, collages etc. The risk of damaging the photo is very high. B&L Photo has several options for you if the photo you need is in an album. We can photograph individual photos on the page, just bring in the album. If all the photos on a page are needed we can photograph the entire page or pages.

What can B&L Photo do if my print is adhered to glass?

The photo cannot be removed from the glass but this is not a problem for B&L Photo. B&L Photo’s lights and camera are set up to allow photographing prints behind glass without reflections. If your print is stuck to glass, even broken glass, or if the photo is too fragile to remove from the frame, we can photograph it just as it is. Dirt under the glass, glass cracks, or damage caused by the print adhering to the glass will show; this will need to be corrected by computer artwork after copying.

How big can B&L Photo make my prints?

The amount that we can enlarge your image depends on the quality of the print, negative, slide or digital file. If the focus is very sharp we can generally increase the size of the print 4 to 5 times (sometimes more). Also, where the new print is displayed plays a role in the amount of enlargement. If the print is placed where people can walk right up to it, focus is much more important than if the print is viewed from ten feet away. When you present your print, negative, slide or digital file to B&L Photo, make sure you discuss your needs and expectations.

How long will my order take?

Every job B&L Photo does is one of a kind. Jobs that look simple and straightforward sometimes present unique problems that may take several attempts to solve, and will require more time to complete. When the work is brought in, you will be given an estimated time for completion. We will do our best to deliver within that time, but if some problem arises we ask for your understanding. Our first aim is to give you the finest work possible. Sometimes that may take longer than we expected.

How do I get my photos to B&L Photo Lab?

If you are in the Milwaukee area, please visit us at our store at 3486 N. Oakland Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211. If you need directions, please call. If you are not in the Milwaukee area, we have found that the U.S. Postal Service is safe and inexpensive. The U.S. Postal Service has several methods of tracking packages so as to ease concerns about delivery. Package your photos by placing them between two layers of corrugated cardboard on each side. The cardboard should be 2”longer and wider than the largest print. Then place your print in a box with plenty of packing. Mark both sides of the box Fragile Do Not Bend.

Can I email my photos to you?

You certainly can, but remember the copying of the original is one of the most important steps in the copy and restoration process. We have the right equipment and experience to capture all of the information that is available. However, if you are uncomfortable shipping your photos, or if you have the expertise to copy them yourself, you can. We prefer 300–400 DPI Tiff files in the size of the requested out-put. These files can then be emailed, or placed on disc and mailed to B&L Photo.
B&L Photo will be happy to give a quote on your restoration based on e-mailed photos. Photos e-mailed for quotes must be in focus and properly lit.

What will B&L Photo accept to work on for copy and/or restoration?

B&L Photo will accept nearly anything that requires copying and/or restoration. Originals presented can be in pristine condition or extremely damaged. This includes photos, documents, newspaper & magazine pages, paintings & artwork or any other kind of flatwork; photos can be convex. (B&L Photo will not accept Copy Righted work unless accompanied with written permission allowing B&L Photo to reproduce the work.)


Work to be photographed can be any size from locket to 3’x5’. Work can be loose, in frames, in albums, in collages, mounted to thick or over sized backings or mounted to plaques. Work can be under glass, adhered to glass or even adhered to broken glass. Copying convex shaped photos is easy for us.


Work to be scanned, includes slides, negatives and transparencies from 8 mm to 8”x10”.Slides can be in paper, plastic or glass mounts or unmounted. Negatives can be in rolls, strips or cut individually. B&L Photo can scan glass negatives (up to 8”x10”), Magic Lantern Slides, Autochromes, and x-rays (up to 16”x20”).


Please note: If your work has been contaminated with sewer backups or is moldy please advise us of its condition before you bring it into our store. Such materials need to be separated so they will not contaminate other customer's work. Thank you for your cooperation.

How do I present work to be Digitized, to B&L Photo?

B&L Photo will accept boxes of loose items, photo albums and slide carousels. When dealing with photos, the photos can be presented loose, in folders, in frames (even under glass), mounted to plaques or thick or over-sized backings. We also accept convex shaped portraits. When dealing with photo albums, do not try to remove the photos from the album page. We will photograph the photos in place. We can photograph each individual photo, or we can photograph the entire page. If not all photos in the album need to be photographed, mark the ones needed with a post-it note. If slides are presented in carousal trays all the slides can be scanned or you can make a list of the slide numbers needed.


You may place your photos in chronological order and the files will be returned in that order. You can place your photos into separate groups (such as grandpa Bill, aunt Mary etc.) and we will place the respective files into folders with your selected title.


When presenting rolls or strips of negatives we will scan all frames or you can make a list of frame numbers to be scanned.

What will B&L Photo do if I don’t like my order?

At B&L Photo your satisfaction is guaranteed. If you are unhappy with your final prints we will gladly take the order back and redo it. If you are still unhappy, we will refund your money upon return of prints and negatives.

B&L Photo Lab’s Archival Black and White Print Process—Technical Data

A strict regimen is followed when producing B&L Photo’s fiber prints to achieve maximum print permanence. The time the print is in each chemical as well as the number of prints put through each chemical is closely regulated. The process is as follows:
  • Developer 1.5 minutes with constant agitation
  • Stop Bath ½ minute with constant agitation
  • 1st Hypo bath 2 minutes with constant agitation
  • 2nd Hypo Bath 2 minutes with constant agitation
  • Rinse bath 2 minutes with constant agitation
  • Hypo Clearing Bath 2 minutes with constant agitation
  • Wash bath 45 minutes with constant agitation
  • 50:1 Selenium Bath 10 minutes with constant agitation
  • Final Wash Bath 10 minutes with constant agitation
  • Drying 1 to 2 hours
Only 20-8x10 prints or equivalent are processed through 1 gallon of each of the above chemicals. The chemicals are then discarded and replaced with fresh stock.

B&L Photo Lab, Inc.

3486 N Oakland Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211
Phone: (414) 964-6626

Hours of Operation:

Mon - Tue: 10:00 AM - 05:30 PM
Wed: Closed
Thu - Fri: 10:00 AM - 05:30 PM
Sat: 09:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Sun: Closed
Or By Appointment

Payment Options