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View Full Version : Tips on loading 4x5 film into the holders - Help needed



niceman75
11-Apr-2019, 01:31
Hi I am a newbie and would like to have some good tips on how to load 4x5 sheets of film into the holders properly.

I have a few questions:

1. Is there a suggested way on how to keep the film in your hand while you are inserting it into the slides of the holder? Do you have to hold it by the side (lengthwise) edges without grabbing the film between your fingertips in any way? Or can you hold the indexed side between your fingertips ? And is "grabbing" the film between your finger tips certainly going to produce finger prints, or does that depend on how clean you hands are? Could you use thin cotton gloves?

3. Is it recommended that the holder is placed onto some surface lying down, while you load it, or should you be holding it with your other hand?

4. I find it quite hard to load film into a "changing bag". Is it normal? Should I try the film loading "tent", or the pop-up (collapsible) film changing room?


Any help much appreciated !!! :)

rdeloe
11-Apr-2019, 05:11
You may find it easier to watch a demonstration. There are many videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=loading+sheet+film

I load my 4x5 holders in a standard size changing bag. It takes a bit of practice, but it gets easier.

David Schaller
11-Apr-2019, 05:45
In the video I just watched the guy had his fingers all over the film. Not good. Hold it on the side edges!

BrianShaw
11-Apr-2019, 05:46
Yes, watch videos...

But what might be best for you is to load a sheet of film in the light, watching what you are doing. Then with your eyes closed. When you are comfortable that you can load a sheet of film properly try it in a changing bag.

Also practice opening and closing the film box in the changing bag. You’ll want to ensure no errors there either.

jp
11-Apr-2019, 05:53
I have the film holder in left hand, and film in right hand. On the film I have thumb on right side of film, notch at the top right. 2nd finger goes on the notch, third finger goes under film. Once it starts to slide into place, I wiggle it a bit to make sure it's in the edge tracks for holding film. If it's tight, in it goes. I don't use a changing bag or tent... I have a darkroom at home and have acquired plenty of film holders. If traveling, I wait till night and use a bathroom with a towel at the base of the door.

Ken Lee
11-Apr-2019, 06:22
If you get an Infra Red viewing device you can see everything you do in the dark.

If you clean your hands and fingers with rubbing alcohol you can avoid fingerprints on the film.

pepeguitarra
11-Apr-2019, 06:53
Practice, practice, practice, first with your eyes open and a spare film sheet. Then practice, practice, practice with a hoodwink. Then, do it, do it, doit. I started doing the 4x5 in a bag, then moved to a little box/tent type. Finally when moving to 8x10, a Harrison Tent. You need concentration. From time to time, I find some resistance, but I calm down and try it again, and it is in the mind. Clean and dry your hands as they suggested first. I have touched the emulsion several times without pressure and I have had no problem. Just make sure stop the operation if you start to sweat.

Bruce Barlow
11-Apr-2019, 06:59
Yes, watch videos...

But what might be best for you is to load a sheet of film in the light, watching what you are doing. Then with your eyes closed. When you are comfortable that you can load a sheet of film properly try it in a changing bag.

Also practice opening and closing the film box in the changing bag. You’ll want to ensure no errors there either.

+1 Practice is good.

Bruce Barlow
11-Apr-2019, 07:02
And BTW, I have never solved the problem of dust in a changing bag, so I don't change film in mine. When I'm traveling, I change film in the motel bathroom, which usually doesn't have a window, and I can drape towels over light leaks from the door (after turning off the room lights). I lean over the bathtub and do it in there. Tough on the back, but I've never had a problem.

Peter Collins
11-Apr-2019, 07:31
+1 on practice. And, if I haven't done it for many weeks, I need to review before starting to load another batch of holders.

Peter Collins
11-Apr-2019, 07:35
I forgot: How I learned. Right here on the Forum. Look at this link--takes you to the process I use.
https://www.largeformatphotography.info/loading.html

roscoetuff-Skip Mersereau
11-Apr-2019, 07:46
Follow-on question from someone so new I haven't even ordered my 1st batch of 4X5 film: What sort of protection does the film have from the light while in the box? In other words, does the box of film have to be kept in the dark itself? Are the sheets of film individually wrapped like a roll of 120, or is there a risk of light leaks with every sheet? Does anyone ever use the same cotton gloves we use to handle negatives when loading film holders? Finally, while I see boxes of 100 and am drawn to the savings, I'm also thinking that maybe boxes of 25 to start out would minimize the potential cost of blowing it.... while still learning the handling issues? Okay if you screw up a box of 25... yeah that's not cheap. But screw up your handling of a box of 100 sheets, now we're talking some real live regret. One thing I can say for my experience in photography is that if it can go wrong... there's a good chance it will.

Duolab123
11-Apr-2019, 08:08
Start small. I've always had a darkroom, I start by sitting down at a clean table. Get your film holders open and organized. Dry clean hands. If you plant a finger on the emulsion with any humidity at all you will leave a print. Once you get used to handling the film it's easy. Film boxes have 3 parts. When you take the outer lid off, there's a second inner box.
I'm old 62, I use IR toy goggles. I have lost some feeling in my fingers. But it is very straightforward to do by feel.

One caution, if you use a changing bag make sure you are comfortable, sweating and damp makes it a challenge.

rdeloe
11-Apr-2019, 08:28
Click on the link in Peter Collins' post #11. A lot of what you want to know is explained there.


Follow-on question from someone so new I haven't even ordered my 1st batch of 4X5 film: What sort of protection does the film have from the light while in the box? In other words, does the box of film have to be kept in the dark itself? Are the sheets of film individually wrapped like a roll of 120, or is there a risk of light leaks with every sheet? Does anyone ever use the same cotton gloves we use to handle negatives when loading film holders? Finally, while I see boxes of 100 and am drawn to the savings, I'm also thinking that maybe boxes of 25 to start out would minimize the potential cost of blowing it.... while still learning the handling issues? Okay if you screw up a box of 25... yeah that's not cheap. But screw up your handling of a box of 100 sheets, now we're talking some real live regret. One thing I can say for my experience in photography is that if it can go wrong... there's a good chance it will.

Leigh
11-Apr-2019, 10:24
Simplest method:

Hold the film between your right thumb and first finger, with the long dimension toward you.
The emulsion is then facing you.

With the holder laying flat on a table...
Place the first and middle fingers of your left hand on the ends of the film rails.

Hold the loading gate open with your right little finger and feed the film under your left fingers.

Push it all the way in until it seats.

Close the loading gate and insert the dark slide.

- Leigh

Andrew O'Neill
11-Apr-2019, 12:00
Practice with a piece of paper in the light. Eventually you'll learn a way that works for you. Have fun!

cowanw
11-Apr-2019, 12:59
Simplest method:

Hold the film between your right thumb and first finger, with the long dimension toward you.
The emulsion is then facing you.

With the holder laying flat on a table...
Place the first and middle fingers of your left hand on the ends of the film rails.

Hold the loading gate open with your right little finger and feed the film under your left fingers.

Push it all the way in until it seats.

Close the loading gate and insert the dark slide.

- Leigh

This is exactly what I do. While you can be assured that there is a small area of non image space around the edges of the film and it does not matter if you pinch hold it there, the most important thing is to do what you can do and not drop it on the floor trying to do it somebodies other way.

William Whitaker
11-Apr-2019, 13:40
If you're having trouble loading 4x5 film holders, load some larger holders first. 8x10 or 11x14. After that 4x5 will be very easy.

I've said this before. But I still claim it's true. And as other folks suggested, practice, practice, practice!

roscoetuff-Skip Mersereau
11-Apr-2019, 13:41
Duolab123: Just for the record, I am old, too. If 62 is old, then come June I'm joining you right there. And yet here I am a beginner. All my life, I've always been a beginner - even at things I know very well. It's what keeps me moving.
Thanks for your input. I admire your night vision head gear.

Jac@stafford.net
11-Apr-2019, 14:19
One thing we overlook is how we shed skin which commonly appears as dust in our homes. It is important when loading film holders even if you take care to clean them (a separate subject). Worst case is changing bags/tents. It helps to use disposable cotton gloves.

Randy Moe
11-Apr-2019, 14:21
You are going to waste film regardless.

Don't worry about that, but keep all wasted or ruined film for future uses.

Get one sheet out and load that ONE only. Shoot anything with it.

Process it the whole way to dry.

Then study it for mistakes.

Save it for more loading practice.

I keep most film failures and I fail all the time.

I use ruined 'real' film as a pattern to cut 'fake' film, aka X-Ray film which is just like old film was.

Look up X-Ray film here, it's cheap and useful.

I started LF when I signed on here 2011, now 68, I am already going down the other side of the curve. Forgetting...

It's a fun hobby, have fun first.

Duolab123
11-Apr-2019, 18:35
The Xray and cheap litho film is a good idea, you can work with safelights. Ortho film is fun, like Randy says it's about having fun. Last fall I was out with some 4x5 Ektachrome, pulled the dark slide took the shot, the dark slide felt a little weird going back in. After, I'm putting the camera away and find a sheet of film in the camera bellows. Whoops! That's what makes it fun.
Dropping wet film on the floor etc etc etc

Heroique
11-Apr-2019, 19:36
It's a process that's a lot easier to do than describe! When I was learning, I sacrificed a sheet of film to practice in the light with eyes open. Then with eyes closed. For some time afterward, I'd warm-up this way right before any loading session. Builds confidence. Gets you in the rhythm.

Another part of my warm-up process is to visualize how I will open the three-part film box, where I will put each part, where the film stack will be, how I will pull individual sheets for loading, and how I'll close the film box when loading is done. After the pre-visualizing, I can almost see what I'm doing with the mind's eye.

My last step is getting the unloaded film back into the film box. Some people do this before loading. I do this after loading, my final step. Yes, I've flicked-on the light before this step. Let's just say my neighbors heard mournful screams of loss.

Be careful with instructions about where the film code notches should be. How you orient the holder in your hands will determine the placement of the notches, such as "upper right" or "lower left."

As others have noted, it's all fun, whether you're a beginner or veteran, perfect or mistake-prone!

nicemate1
11-Apr-2019, 23:39
In the video I just watched the guy had his fingers all over the film. Not good. Hold it on the side edges!

:D Thanks David ! So you have to hold onto the film via the side edges !!!

pepeguitarra
12-Apr-2019, 21:56
Duolab123: Just for the record, I am old, too. If 62 is old, then come June I'm joining you right there. And yet here I am a beginner. All my life, I've always been a beginner - even at things I know very well. It's what keeps me moving.
Thanks for your input. I admire your night vision head gear.

Sixty two in this forum is like a teenager, so behave kid. One mistake I made when beginning to load my 4x5 holders was to insert the film in the same place the dark slide goes. When closing the holder by pushing the dark slide, it was hard, but I did not know better. So, I got a large portion of my first negatives with a light leak along the edge, plus the negative was scratched. I always use the two metal tips under which the film has to go as guides.

Molli
12-Apr-2019, 22:38
Just a note regarding the way film is packaged by the manufacturers; yes, the majority of them use three part boxes, but Arista EDU Ultra (re-branded Foma sold by Freestyle) comes in your standard two parter with the film in a black plastic bag. Given its price, a lot of people, myself included, started with the Arista to get all of the mistake making out of the way in a less costly way.

Although, ruining one $8 sheet of film after another would drive the lessons home in a hurry, I would think! [emoji16]