4x5 Photography - Loading Film Holders

Continued from Part 3...

Now that all of our chemicals are prepared for developing it is time to load the film holders and make some frames to develop.    To do this you will need your film of choice  (I went with Kodak Tri-x 320), Film Holders, a brush of some sort, and darkness.


Film Holders and Brush

Film Holders and Brush

Begin by removing all of the slides and putting them to the side.  Then tap the holders against the side of a table or something and brush them all out with a brush of some sort.  Then you will want to also brush off the slides as well.  It is also a good time to organize them so they are all facing the correct direction.  All of this part can be done with the light on.

Holders with slides removed

Holders with slides removed

Next up we want to prepare the holders for the film.  The best way that I have found to do it is to put the slides in about 3/4 of the way.  But make sure you can still feel the tabs that the film slides under so you can check in the dark to make sure it is loaded correctly. The first time I did this I made the mistake of removing the slide completely in the dark.  They are not fun to try to put back in the holder without being able to see, trust me.

Holder prepared for film

Holder prepared for film

NOW TURN THE LIGHTS OFF!  For real, I am warning you.  If this part isn't done in complete darkness your film will be ruined and you will be wasting your time.  I use an extra bathroom with no windows to do this part.  I tape up the door with duct tape and do it strictly at night.  I also tell my roommates I am about to do it so they don't turn hall lights on until I am finished.  There is nothing worse than spending the time loading the film, setting up shots, developing the film, and then seeing that the film was ruined.  The pictures in this post from here forward are using previously exposed film so you can see what you need to be doing.  

Anyways, now you need to open up your film box and get ready to load the film.  The emulsion is only on one side of the film and you need to make sure that it is facing out otherwise your photo won't turn out.  The way to do this is to find the cutouts on the film.  As far as I know it is all the same, and the cutouts need to be in the top right or bottom left but make sure you check your film manufacturer before doing this.

4x5 Negative Cutouts

4x5 Negative Cutouts

Next you are going to slide the film into the holder very carefully making sure it is right side up.  I usually put the holder on the table with the bottom facing away from me and hold the film in my right hand making sure the cutouts are in the top right.

Loading film into holder

Loading film into holder

Now when the holder is upright the cutouts will be in the bottom left.  Once you get the film slide in a little ways, I like to check the tabs on the side of the holder to make sure that the film is seated correctly.

Properly Seated Film

Properly Seated Film

Once you are sure that the film is seated correctly flip up the bottom piece and push the slide all the way in.  You can also lock the slide in if you would like now.  But make sure that you check the locks again once they are all loaded and the lights are on.

Slide closed and film ready to go!

Slide closed and film ready to go!

Just continue to repeat these steps until you are finished with all your holders.  The first time I did this it took quiet a while to get the motions down in the dark but now that I have done it a couple of times it goes relatively quick.

For now this series of how-tos are finished.  I will be sharing some of the images that I make here on the blog and may go into a tutorial on how I "scan" the film with a DSLR, as well as some various development testing and what not.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions feel free to comment or send me an email!