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Thread: The film holder nightmare we all dread and what to do

  1. #1
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Seattle, Wash.

    The film holder nightmare we all dread and what to do

    Most of us have awakened from the following nightmare in a cold, heavy sweat.

    Some of us (like me) have actually suffered the experience:

    You bring 7 loaded film holders, all identical, to a remote location. You’re there for a long weekend. No extra film, no film stores. Your first session, you take out 3 holders & expose all six shots. Everything goes perfectly. You put the holders back in the bag, no particular order. Hours later, your next session, you realize you didn’t reverse the darkslides for the 3 holders you used – nor did you indicate in any other way which ones they might be.

    All you know is that you have 3 holders w/ six exposed sheets, and 4 holders w/ eight unexposed sheets – all mixed together.

    After screams and curses, what’s your best strategy?

    Any tips to share about managing multiple holders? Do you use more than one safeguard?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 4x5 holder.jpg  

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Petaluma, CA

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    Always have extra film and extra holders. At least back in the car...

    I have two storage areas in my backpack. Once enough are used then one becomes the space for exposed ones. I can shoot a dozen holders in a day, without duplicating or bracketing. Why have only 7 for a whole weekend. Leave the camera on the tripod, take less time with each shot...

    Just my 2cents.

    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  3. #3

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    I have always,for decades that is, had multiple holders starting with 4x5, and presently 12x20. They have always been numbered 1 thru whatever the number is of that size. I have 10 11x14 holders and they are numbered 1 through 20, and in addition, I always keep a notebook of the date and the beginning holder # for the first shot, even if I start with say #7. The 4x5's always had the white strip like yours where you could sharpie the # in the corner. Now with the wooden holders in 11x14 and 12x20, I just take masking tape and put #1 on one side, #2 on the other, etc. (Fortunately, I do remember to turn the dark slide around after exposure). So IMO, just number your 7 holders 1-14 and shoot in their order AND KEEP NOTES for development of that #'d piece of film...( I do feel a notebook is your best friend )

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    I keep loaded film holders in plastic bags (simple bags from Uline that are a close fit for the size of holder I am using) - after they are exposed, I do not put them back in the bags. When I reload holders - I clean, load and put in plastic bags. If I use more than one film type, I can write the name of the film on the bag.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    your choices would be
    keep 6 and be done
    were they good shots?

    shoot all of them
    have 8 good shots and 6 original ruined

    take one holder off top and bottom and dont expose
    shoot all the rest
    likely save 2 of original 6 but likely leave blank one holder
    5 holders left two of which are exposed
    6 good shots remaining
    8 good shots total in all likelyhood
    how good were those first 6 to take the additional risk to save 2 of em?

    haven't you done this thread already?

    I don't bother with black/white
    i label with numbers 1a 2a in case of split darkslide use and make a note

    If I were jammed to make the decision I shoot all again
    a professional would have some deliberation
    I'd assume they call it quits and keep 6

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    near Seattle, WA

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    'nuf said in favor of always carrying field notebook and using it. Holders numbered + exposure notes for each image.

  7. #7
    Scott Walker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Okotoks (rural), Alberta, Canada

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    I use individual plastic bags for each film holder as well.
    When I load my film I always try to use a bag marked with the same film as what is in the holder that way I only have to cross out the development.
    Once a holder is exposed I put it back in the bag it came out of and write N-, N+, or N for side A and do the same for side B.
    Even if the slides are put in wrong there is no chance of not knowing if the film has been exposed or not.
    Field notes would help but I do not always take field notes.

  8. #8
    Still Developing
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Leeds, UK

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    If you're short of money, you could clip the bottoms and develop, keeping careful notes of which is which.

    Otherwise develop the lot and consider it a learning exercise..

    The technique I use is to have two elastic bands around each double dark slide. They go width ways for unexposed so when they are in my bag I can two bands and know I've got film available. When I've taken a shot I take one of the bands and wrap it lengthways. This also ensures the darkslide doesn't drop out accidentally.

    I keep the film in plastic bags as well to stop dust.

    Because I use a few different types of film I also use different coloured elastic bands (red velvia, blue provia, yellow astia, orange neg, black black and white, etc) . It really helps to be able to see at a glance that film types and amounts left.

    Still Developing at and scanning at

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    I carry a field notebook and all my holders are numbered. I have always practiced this, so this has never been a problem for me. I'm very much into careful planning, thankfully. I urge everyone also to do the same. Carry a notebook and number your holders.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: The film holder nightmare we all dread – and what to do

    I'll bet you remember to reverse the dark slides next time
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

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