HOW TO LOAD SHEET FILM - Tutorial
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
For you budding large format photographers out there! Here's an engaging tutorial on how to load sheet film. Enjoy!
All film loading must be carried out in TOTAL DARKNESS!
Whether 4x5, 8x10 or some other format, the procedure is the same. Keep your area neat and always follow the same steps while loading to minimize or prevent mistakes. If you are loading more than one film type I recommend working with one box at a time. Keeps those mistakes down!! If this is your first time don’t forget to close your film box after loading. I know the excitement of loading can be joyously emotional (or deeply frustrating), but it’s certainly unpleasant when you emerge from the dark to see that you forgot to close the box and burnt half or more of your stock! This video represents loading one sheet of film. But let's assume I loaded 6 sheets out of a 20 sheet box of Velvia 50. I would need 3 holders (a holder can load 2 films, one on each side). Then I label the box of fresh film with the remaining 14 sheets inside as you see at the end of the video. Never assume you'll remember! Always label the film type loaded in your holders and how many sheets you have in a box! If you are using a box that is not the film you are loading then label the box with the film type you have in there.
Try to handle the film by the edges where possible and dust off your holders with a lens blower after each loading session. I've had dirty/sweaty palms while loading out in the field and have never had issues with fingerprints or dust. I'm not saying it can't happen, just try to be as clean as possible. I was a little illustrative for the video so my film handling manners may be considered rude. So far all these years I've had a "clean" record!
Below is how I identify the status of my film holders. Everyone has slightly different working methods. For me, this technique has proven it's value over the years, preventing the dreaded loss of fresh/exposed stock or accidental double exposures. Click on the gallery below for more information: