by Q.-Tuan Luong for the Large Format Page
There are more ways to ruin a photograph than you would think. All these potentially fatal mistakes are specific to large format, in the sense that most of them are impossible, or quite rare with 35mm and MF cameras. Here are some of them, and how to avoid making the mistake. Additional suggestions welcome.
Once you have shot your film backwards, it
will appear underexposed by 2 or 4 stops, and if you are shooting
color it will have a predominant red color cast because it has been
filtered by the base. Color film is ruined. B&W can be
Develop in a very active developer such as Xtol or Microphen -- use a
concentrated dilution, not a weak one, particularly with Xtol -- and
add 30-40% to the standard development time for your film. It'll be
okay. Thor Lancelot Simon"
To avoid dust
Some say that the only solution is to use preloaded film (in 4x5),
and recommend to shoot a backup when there are large tonal areas which
would be ruined by dusk. A picture can be also saved by
I try to avoid using the changing dome whenever possible, by using
bathrooms or closets at night, sealing the openings with the dark
My procedure is the following. I clean each holder with a paintbrush
and sometimes canned air. I insert all the darkslides with the white
sides facing out, leaving only about one inch open, and I stack them
on top of each other. This minimizes the chance of the dusk getting on
the holders or inside.
I open the film box, but keep the film between the two cardboard
sheets, and put it on my knees. I extract each sheet of film only to
load it, which minimizes the time it can collect dust.
loading is done, I put the holders directly into plastic ziplocks.
To avoid forgetting equipment
Put everything in the same place, and use a check list.
To avoid opening holders
Make sure to reposition the tabs which prevent accidental opening.
They tend to come loose very easily. Be careful whenever you grab
To avoid cross-processing
Write on a separate sheet of papers the nature of each sheet
exposed (and, if you are really serious, exposure information, etc...)
To avoid other dumb mistakes...
Triple check and good luck :-)
The mysterious double image
After long exposures, if you are not lucky, you might observe a double
image on all or part of the film. There seem to be four distinct
Test all the suspects elements (more details).
It can be holders, camera, or the
combination of both. Some sort of flare, due to the large image circle
light bouncing off belows, can also look like a leak. Readyload
particular precautions. Covering the camera with the dark cloth
while the film is in it might help.