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Film Loading

Lesson 9 from: Introduction to Large Format Photography

Daniel Gregory

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Lesson Info

9. Film Loading

Lesson Info

Film Loading

So, large format film, you're gonna get a film holder, and it's gonna have only two sides, so each shot's only gonna have two shots for the film. It's super easy to load in the daylight. Takes a little bit of practice, because to load this, you have to be in the complete dark. So the key to working with the film is you gotta be in complete darkness, and you gotta load the film. One of the big questions people ask, though, is, how do I know what kind of film I'm actually loading? How do I know the film from one generation to the next? One of the things they did was they created these little notches, so if you see, each film has a custom set of notches. That tells you by feel what you're actually seeing behind the camera, what you're actually feeling, the film when you're loading it. So, if you feel really sharp edges, you know you're Tri-X. If you've got a little loop, can you bring the film stuff? You'll be able to do that. The film gets loaded into film holders like this. What's gonna...

happen when you get your film, though, is it's gonna come in kind of a cool box. It's a box, you're gonna open it up, there's gonna be a box inside a box. Now, this is already exposed film, so I can show you what it was, it was expired film, and then, inside there will be a package. Inside the package will be your film. You have to deal with this box and everything in the complete darkness. So if you've got an internal bathroom, you put a towel under the door, but you need to be in the complete dark. You're gonna take out a sheet of film. I'll do it on eight by 10, 'cause it's larger. One of these has a secret sheet of film in it. Okay, here's the sheet of film. This piece right here is called the dark slide. It keeps the film from being exposed. The film, you're gonna wanna put in your right hand, and the notch is gonna go, if you're gonna do it horizontally, you're gonna load the film this way, the notch goes in the lower right hand corner. If you're gonna load the film in portrait, it goes in the upper right hand corner. You want that notch to be in your right hand. What that does is make sure that the emulsion is gonna face the right direction, so the part that actually exposes on the film. This little flap's gonna open, and inside the film is gonna be these little slots you're gonna go under, and what you're gonna do is the dark slide's on the top slot, and you're gonna take the film, and you're just gonna slide it into the bottom slot, and then it's gonna push all the way to the back, you're gonna close the flap, and then close the dark slide. You wanna make sure when the film is unexposed that the white part is facing out. When you look at the dark slide, there's also a black side. When the film's exposed, we turn the dark slide around, and then that tells us that the film's exposed. So basically, you're gonna load one side with the film, you're gonna flip it over, and you're gonna do the same thing on the other side. What I recommend you do is just get a piece of film, and you're just gonna practice over and over again, because it's gonna be in the dark, and so basically you're just gonna have to get used to that feel. If, for some reason, it's not going under that slot, the easiest thing to do is just kind relax for a second, 'cause you don't want your hands to get really sweaty, or you're gonna end up with fingerprints on your film. So you want really dry hands, you wanna stay nice and calm. And the other piece is if for some reason the dark slide doesn't go back in, that usually means that you're in the upper track, so then just back the dark slide off a little bit and try to reload the film agan. Close down, and it'll close up like that. So, the loading the film is, it just takes a little bit of practice, but once you've done it literally about two or three times, it goes by really quick. There's a couple of other types of film you can use. One of is a, it's, in the old days, you could still get some Polaroid film, but not much. But there's a film called New Type 55, and it has a special holder like this. So you don't, this film comes on a sheet, you basically just stick it in here and pull it out, so you don't actually use film holders like this. But this is an option. It is not cheap. One of the great parts is you get a Polaroid plus the negative to actually process in the darkroom, so this is another option for types of films that are available. Not cheap, but a really nice way to go. They also, this company also makes something called a quick load, which works with this holder. The film is in a dust light type container already, so you don't need film holders for that. But again, it's not as cheap as using regular film. Couple of things if you're gonna be loading film. I recommend if you look on this film holder here, let me get one that's a little easier to see. You can see I have 413, hopefully, or you can see I have a 0201. This side says 414. You wanna label each side of your film holders, because if the film holder has a light leak and causes a problem, you'll know which one it was coming out of. And also, you need to record your exposure, so you know actually what the settings were, so you can tell the lab either how to process the color, or you can tell yourself, if you're developing your own film, whether you pushed or pulled the film, or what kind of processing that needs to happen.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Large Format Gear Resources
Slide Deck and Instructor Notes

Ratings and Reviews


Daniel is an excellent teacher. His approach of teaching common mistakes and then explaining the proper way to do something is very helpful. The entire film series is excellent. I can't say I have a favorite over any of the others classes in the series. Each class covers great information. I learned photography back when digital didn't exist. Even after shooting film for so many years, I still learned some great tidbits from these classes. I highly recommend this series for anyone considering learning film or getting back into film.


Very detailed Large format Course. Learnt a lot. Great job Daniel. Would love see in the future an in depth course building on this but for studio portraits and camera movements for portraits in different situations explaining why. Happy i purchased this.

Art Majerus

Shooting medium format since the 70’s on Whidbey Isand. Recently bought a 4x5. This class helped me clarify all the little things needed to get going. Well presented. Thanks

Student Work