Loading Film Into The Camera


Introduction to Black & White Film Photography


Lesson Info

Loading Film Into The Camera

I want to talk really quick just about loading the film. Because this is one of those things that for people to get started, this is, I think, a point of trepidation, is I gotta get the film in the camera. Because my digital, I'm like, close. Film. Now this is a very huge memory card. It holds 36 photographs. So this is the other thing about shooting film. You're gonna have less to work with, so you're gonna be a little shorter. Now William Albert Allard is a mentor of mine I've been fortunate to shoot with for a number of times, and hang out with. And I asked Bill about, and he's National Geographic for 40 years. And I told Bill, I'm like yeah, just, there's just something about shooting film that just slows me down. He's like, "That's not true." I'm, "No, it's true, Bill." He's like, "No, it's not true." And I'm like what is he talking about? I go out with my digital camera, I shoot like 1000 photographs, come back, I've shot three rolls of film. He's like, "You know, when I was in P...

eru "one time, I shot 3000 rolls of film." It's like, you're paying for the film, that's why you're slow. If film was free, and development was free, you'd shoot just as much on film as you do digitally. So I bring that up because this does force you to slow down a little bit. It does cause a shift to your mentality. And this is one of the reasons I love film. I have found that that translates back into my digital work. So the pace and consideration and framing that I think about with my film because I'm like, "I only have one roll of film with me, "because I forgot my bag, huh." So I've got one roll of film, so I gotta be selective about how I frame and compose, 'cause I'm not gonna have multiple shots. So if I'm going to take a portrait, I'm not gonna be like, click click click click click click click click, and hope that something comes out. I'm gonna really think about how that happens. Guess what, I could pick up my digital camera and think about how things happen. So I found that that translation works really well. But basically, most of the cameras are gonna have some way you're gonna open the film. I'm gonna load a 120 film, which is the medium format, and a 35mm, because those are the two formats people would normally pick. This is the film rewind mechanism. You pop that open, and the back door's gonna pop open. This goes up and down, and there's a little sprocket here. That little sprocket is what holds the film. So we pull that back up. The film then goes on, underneath that side, and then you're gonna pull this leader across. Now this one has these little white, I'll call 'em pillars, because I can't think of a better word right now. These little pillars. And so the film needs to catch in to those, 'cause that's gonna allow the film to wind. Some films, they're gonna have a little line over here, so you're just gonna run the film over to that line, and then when it closes it's gonna grab. But you're probably not gonna be able to see it on camera, but when you run your finger over here you're gonna feel some little sprockets. The sprocket holes just need to get on the sprockets. That's what mechanism pulls the film. The other trick I like to do, if you get a camera like this, is to take and just bend the end of the film a little bit. And then you can stick that bend in between the little pieces of plastic. And then that comes back down. And I always make, before I close the container, I make one wind of the film, to make sure it came across and started to load. At that point I close the back, and then I take and fire until my film count says 1. And what that's doing is, it's pulling enough film across that I don't have to worry about the film being exposed, and light leaking back in. The last thing I always like to do, because I'm paranoid, is the film winder is this way, to rewind the film, but I like to back it a little bit, and when it starts to feel tight, I know the film's properly loaded, and it hasn't pulled it back off the sprockets. So that's loading the 35mm. And at that point, I'm ready to go. So I can shoot, oh, took a picture of Al. I can promise you're not in focus. Okay. Medium format will all have some variation of a different back. And the way medium format film works, is there is a roll of paper, and then the film. So this is a weird little mechanism, it's how they keep it light tight, and yet get the film in there. And medium format comes in different sizes. You have 645, 6 by 6, which is square, 6 by 7, 6 by 9, so there's a bunch of different formats. But on this particular camera, I'm gonna pull this out, and then this is what's called the film back. So the film back is what the film's gonna load onto. Now the cool part is I need to somewhere get a spool to roll the film back onto. This was the last roll of film I shot. So I basically am gonna take this spool off, and I'm gonna put it over here on this side. Wow, this is really weird upside down. So now this is gonna be my takeup reel for this roll of film. So that way I'm always in the position, and not being able to do the film. And then just take, and it's gonna come with a little band. They all have a little band of tape on them, to keep the roll from coming undone. Which is also kinda weird to do on a ... Put that down. Do this the normal way. There we go. You're just gonna break that band. Okay. And then ... It's got unexposed ... You've gotta put that in so you can read the words. Okay. And then in this case, if I come across this way, and put this in, and start shooting, the film is gonna be back here. So what I have to do is, I have to get the film to wrap around the exposure side. So I wanna wrap the film around. And then here's that little tab. They've already given you a little tab. And then that just slides right in to that spool. Then I'm gonna roll that film a little bit. And if you watch here, you're gonna start to see a little arrow. Ooh, not quite yet. Everybody be patient. I know the internet has no patience. Come on, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll. There we go, okay. So there's that line that I wanted you to see. That line, and then right here you can see there's a little white triangle. Okay, that little white triangle, I get that line lined up to right there. That's as far as I wind the film. The film's now in a position to be loaded. So now I can put it back into the camera, close the back of the camera up, and just like before, I'm now gonna wind the film, and then it's gonna stop at number 1. And now we can make big noise. (shutter clicks) Okay. So that loads the film. When those get done, and I just have to rewind the film, and I can pull 'em out. On the medium format, it's gonna pull out, and there'll be this little tongue of paper. That little tongue of paper, you just lick the end and it'll stick, and it keeps the film from coming unrolled. So that's kind of the loading of the film. So, at this point now we've picked film, and we've picked the camera, we have film in the camera. So now we're ready to go take some pictures. Question? Yeah, before we get into taking pictures, just a question had come in about the difference between the 35mm and the bigger negative 120 film. Texas Beauty says, "What advantages are there "to bigger negatives with the medium "and large format cameras? "Does the larger negative simply offer more detail, "or does the dynamic range or other properties change?" And I know we have a whole class on large format, but maybe a little tidbit on that. Yeah, so that's a great question. There's a couple of pieces there. If this is the relative size of a medium format negative, this is about the size of 35mm. So part of it is that, yes, I absolutely end up with more tones and gradations. I have more space. If you think about, if I take the exact same picture, and I've got 2 millimeters to create a gradation, or I've got 12 millimeters to create the gradation. The amount of silver in there is able to respond to the volume of data that comes across, and you end up with a more subtle tonal range. You end up with a more subtle gradation. The contrast, or that micro-contrast, can develop a little more. The other thing that happens, and I've seen this with everybody I've ever taught. It happened in my own work. You start working with 35mm, and then you take your first medium format negative, and your response is, "Oh my gosh, "it looks more three dimensional." And what's happened is, because of the size of capture, and the volume of data that's being captured is higher, there's just more room for everything to separate, so you get more tonal depth. Yes, it's conceptually the same, but a lot of it is the volume of real estate that's available. In 35mm film, one roll of film is 36 shots. On a 120, on this camera it's 10 shots. The amount of square inches on a roll of 35mm, and a roll of 120, is about the same. So you just think about the number of images captured on a square inch, you just end up with a lot more information. And on an 8 by 10 camera it's one shot is equal to a 35mm roll of film. So you think about serious tonal gradation.

Class Description

The world of black & white photography is more than just “black and white.” With film photography you can control and create dynamic and detailed images that are timeless. Photographer, artist and educator Daniel Gregory will demonstrate how black and white photography can allow you to be more creative with your work. He’ll show the different types of film and how to meter for black & white as well as how you can get into the development process. This class will be your introduction into truly creating a photo from capture through print in the most hands on way.

You’ll learn:

  • Types of Film and how they impact the overall look
  • Zone System Basics
  • Metering for Black & White Film
  • Film Chemistry and development techniques
  • Safety and Storage for working with chemicals
  • Scanning your own negatives
  • How to push and pull film
  • Advanced exposure techniques and utilizing the zone system
  • Get hands on with your photography by learning to shoot with black and white film and learn techniques that you can bring into your digital workflow that ultimately will make you a stronger and more confident photographer.



    I am really fond of Daniel Gregory as a teacher. He does a great job. To me, his enthousiasm, his passion for and his dedication to film photography are infectuous. It's great that CreativeLive makes place for film photography and for such a pro teaching it. It can never do so enough for me. Thanks. I am a fan.


    This is an excellent course and Daniel is a great teacher! I'm coming back to shooting film and darkroom work after 20 years away. I have some wonderful film cameras sitting in my cabinet and I decided I wanted to use them--so I have decided to shoot BW with film, and shoot color with my digital cameras. I will develop the BW film myself and scan and print digitally. This class is perfect for me!


    Daniel is on fire! He gets better as the day gets longer. This is like being read a book by the author all in one day. Almost zero wasted words. Really intense—way beyond an intro course—and I loved every bit of it. Thanks, Daniel, and thanks, CL!