Loading sheet film

By Jean-David Beyer for the Large Format Page

First of all, there are 3 half-boxes nested together. Sort-of like this:

        |                        |
        | ______________________ |
        |||                    |||
        |||                    |||
        |||                    |||
        |||                    |||
         |                      |

This is to provide a mystery maze to make it hard for the dark to
leak out of the box when it is exposed to normal room light.

If you hold a sheet of film with the notches along the top edge
and in the upper right corner, the emulsion is facing you. The
notches will be along the 4" side. Thus, it will look a little
like this (but since it is dark, you will not see it) when the
emulsion is facing you:

        _________________ _ _ ____
        |                V V V   |
        |                        |

Most people load the film so that the non-notched edge of the
film goes in the holder first. I do this. There is no reason
for it, it is just my policy.

Inside the box are 4 aluminized mylar (or something) envelopes that
may be light-tight, but Kodak warn that this may not be so. I always
assume they are not light tight. They are there to protect the film from
humidity and harmful gasses. If you buy a 25-sheet box (costs more
per sheet that way), there will be but one envelope. For Kodak
color film, the boxes have 50 sheets or 10 sheets.

There used to be an instruction sheet in each box in several
languages.  I did not find one in my latest box of TMY 5053. Maybe
this is no longer provided for my language education, but do not be
surprised if you find one.

These envelopes are too tough for me to tear open with my fingers
without the risk of bending the film or exposing it to excess
pressure, so I cut one end or one edge off with scissors.

Inside each envelope are 25 sheets of film, all aligned the same way.
They are sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard for protection
(i.e., there are 27 things in each envelope). I pull the entire
ensemble from the envelope; I do not try to remove individual sheets
as I fear fingermarks and scratches.

I load my filmholders on the baseboard of my enlarger. I put the empty
holders at the back left of the baseboard, the box of film on the
front left. After the lights are off, I open the box and place the two
tops to the left of the baseboard. I then open the top envelope and
take out the two cardboards with the film between them and place the
now empty envelope in one of the box tops (so I can find it later) and
place the films crosswise (so they will not fall in) in the film
box. As I do this, I check the notches so they are at the top-right
(i.e., face up). There is an argument for doing it face down (dust is
supposedly less likely to fall on the film).  I then put the top
cardboard in the other box top.  When done, since I have never loaded
all 100 sheets, or seldom even 25 sheets at once, I put the cardboard
back on top of the pile of film, put the film back in the envelope,
and close up the boxen again.

The white side of the holder means unexposed. The dark side means empty or
exposed.  The white side has bumps or lumps so you can identify it
in the dark.

I suggest vacuum cleaning the holders (in a separate room if possible)
before loading them. I suggest vacuum cleaning the loading area the
day before loading (you can do it immediately before if you have a
central vacuum system).

If you can get some junk sheet film cheap (expired from a dealer, or
from a friend), I suggest trying some loading with the lights on
first, for practice. The procedure is not that difficult once you have
done it once or twice.

View or add comments