View Full Version : Forgot to reverse a darkslide after shooting

18-Apr-2009, 10:07
I went out this morning to take my first shots with my new Chamonix. I hiked, set up my first shot, was very careful, took the shot, and was pleased. I went to location 2 and set it up, took a shoot and then realized when replacing the holder in my bag that I had forgot to reverse the darkslide for shot 1.


I had three holders with two sheets of film each. Because of the way they were in my bag, I figure the probability that I double exposed shot 1 on top of shot 2 is about 25%. So what to do now?

I pay about $2.50 a shot to get them processed. What would you do? I've thought of a few options:

Shoot all 5 remaining sheets. Perhaps shoot doubles of two shots. I will surely lose shot 1, but the rest of the shots will be good.
Just eat the cost and develop all 6 sheets. 25% chance of total failure and $15 wasted.
Ask the lab to develop the 5 mystery sheets one by one, stopping if they get shot 1.
Something I'm not thinking of

Things to do in the future: when taking exposure notes, make sure I include which side of which film holder was used. This will be useful for a number of things and necessary if I want different sheets processed differently in the future. Also necessary if using different kinds of film. Check the damn darkslide before removing the film holder.

Deane Johnson
18-Apr-2009, 10:13
No solution for you, but I will mention that I numbered all of my film holders right at the beginning. The side containing the film holder number was considered side A and was used first. The other, of course, was side B.

Not a perfect system, but with 100 film holders, it helped to know where I was when I handled them.

18-Apr-2009, 10:32
Is there a chance you can identify which of the three holders you used? (Perhaps you placed it on top, or beneath the others in your bag?) That would narrow down your exposed sheet to two possible sheets.

Another hint which has saved me before: I noticed that on the holder I used, I didn't return the tiny L-shaped bracket into position (which secures the specific darkslide into place). This second oversight saved me my first one! ;)

Robert Oliver
18-Apr-2009, 10:49
I also make exposure notes on each film holder in pencil after every shot. When I unload the shot, i write empty on it. When I reload it, i write in the film type.

You just have to be consistent with whatever you do.

18-Apr-2009, 11:09
@Deane - I can say for sure that you started out smarter than I. I only have a dozen holders, but the principal is still the same.

@Heroique - I have no idea which one I used. Unfortunately relocking the darkslide is something I am remebering to do.

@Robert - Consistency will be vastly improved after this. :)

18-Apr-2009, 11:14
The reversing of the dark slide is just an invitation to a disaster. There are many self adhesive stickers that you can use over and over again (excellent are those for marking pages in a book). Stick them on all holders and then take them off after the exposure (put them so that you have to remove them if you want to remove the dark slide) - like that you eliminate the problem.

Dan Schmidt
18-Apr-2009, 11:22
If I am working in the studio and shooting many negatives I use bright tape marked with "EXPOSED" on it (from bhphoto).

The tape is wide enough for me to tape the slide to the holder so you can not pull it out again.

Dan Schmidt
18-Apr-2009, 11:24
exposed film tape:


18-Apr-2009, 11:42
I did exactly the same.. on my first shoot.

I did, however, know which slide I'd used. So I just shot the current shot twice ( knowing I'd doubled one ) grabbed another Slide and re-shot the first slide and chalked it down to a £2.50 lesson learnt.

Nathan Potter
18-Apr-2009, 12:26
thechrisproject, such confusion is a very good sign. It means you were so excited about the scene that your mind was preoccupied with the image rather than the mechanics of picture taking. If you can keep this approach up you are assured of an occasional great image amongst the double exposures. ;) ;)

Nate Potter, Austin TX.

Tim k
18-Apr-2009, 12:31
I have found the double exposures kinda fun to look at, but the un-exposed sheets lacking interest after developing.

Don't ask how I know.

18-Apr-2009, 12:38
One more idea to help minimize losses.

Perhaps use your 5 remaining shots to bracket a single scene with very difficult lighting. Say 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments, depending on your film.

Even if you lose one of these shots (to double exposure), you'll still have a few so you can learn a little more about your new Chamonix, the film you're using, or even your meter.

And maybe any "lost" shot will be one with a less-than-ideal exposure choice, not a keeper anyway.

Scott Knowles
18-Apr-2009, 12:39
Of the whole process that's probably the hardest step for me, to consciously remember to show the "exposed" (black) tabe out. To solve that I always take shots in pairs, to bracket or the same exposure at a different aperture, with the same film holder, and then always insert the film holder in updside down in the lg (qt) sandwich bag and the bag upside down in the camera/film case. My notebook has the geographic and technical information, so that's not lost, but I don't mark the bag.

I often wonder how often the "greats" made these simple mistakes. Remember we only see the good ones. I'd love to see their closet of mistakes.

Roger Thoms
18-Apr-2009, 12:43
I have lots of experience and still do stuff like that. I do number my holders, place them in my bag in order. Once one sheet is exposed it goes back at the front of the bag. When both sheets are exposed the holder goes to the rear and I have a card board divider between the unexposed and exposed. Also generally make a few notes on the holder so that gives me a clue. I also reverse the dark slide, maybe that's why every once and a while I get a sheet of film that is fogged a little bit along the edge.


Jim Rhoades
19-Apr-2009, 08:52
Van Camper has it nailed. Blowing $2.50 is nothing in L/F. I work with up to 40 4x5 holders. As I shoot they are placed into an "exposed" bag. It helps, sometimes.

Come back after you tilted your camera down a bit, then watched in horror as the lens and board pop off, roll down an enbankment and into a river or pool of mud.

Poop happens.

19-Apr-2009, 09:07
take the film out of the holder and hold it up to the window till you see the image you are looking for!!!! LOL

just kidding. it happens to everyone. for some reason I ALWAYS loose on the odds. i always double expose one sheet and process a blank one or i try and process only one hoping that it is the correct one (it never is) or i get lucky and choose the correct one and then i F!@# it up by scratching it or making a mistake developing it.

i would say, shoot the known good holders and pick one from the question holder and send it in. either it will be the right one or not. if it is you win. if not do not play the lottery.

Brian Ellis
19-Apr-2009, 09:52
Seems to me that what you do depends on how important that first photograph is to you. If it was your very first LF photograph my guess is that it isn't likely to win any awards. So just go on photographing and recognize that two photographs will be ruined. But if you want it for the memories or because you think it's really an excellent photograph or something like that then bite the bullet and spend the money to have them all processed now. The unfortunate thing is that no matter what you think now, as soon as you see the ruined photographs you'll know they were the greatest photographs you've ever made or will ever make in the future. The ones that get away for whatever reason are always the best (in our minds).

We all have our own systems that we prefer but I have to disagree with the notion that reversing dark slides is an invitation to disaster. That's what I've done for about 12 years now and rarely have messed up. I don't offhand see why I'd be any more likely to always remember to remove a sticker after making an exposure than I always remember to reverse the dark slide.

19-Apr-2009, 10:35
We all have our own systems that we prefer but I have to disagree with the notion that reversing dark slides is an invitation to disaster. That's what I've done for about 12 years now and rarely have messed up. I don't offhand see why I'd be any more likely to always remember to remove a sticker after making an exposure than I always remember to reverse the dark slide.

You didn't get the point. Nobody removes any sticker after the exposure is taken either.
The point is that if you depend on reversing the dark slide, you have to remember to do so. If you have a sticker attached to both the dark slide and the edge of the film holder (on unexposed films) you don't need to remember anything - to remove the dark slide for picture taking is only possible if you first remove the sticker from it. It's like a seal that you have to take off before you can take the pic. Better than to remember to put a sticker after the picture is taken or to remember to flip the dark slide. But also much quicker if you take pictures in series and you keep the concentration on it. Works 100% without any remembering at all...

19-Apr-2009, 12:16
Well, come on now: if you remove the dark slide entirely from the film holder (I think we all do that) you have to make a conscious effort to put it back in after exposing the film. Forgetting to reverse the slide so the black band is showing happens as frequently as taking the film holder off the camera without replacing the dark slide--about one in 1000 I would guess--the same odds as making an exposure without removing the darkslide! There used to be quite a market for "dark slide developer." I haven't heard that phrase for years.

Be thankful that you learned this lesson early in your LF career; now you can go on to make lots of other mistakes!

BTW, I had this same problem about two months ago. I simply repeated the exposure on the side I "though" was unexposed. I played the odds and had one blank film and one double exposed. Next time (1000 exposures later) maybe I'll guess the other way and win.

19-Apr-2009, 13:44
This is an entertaining thread for a couple of reasons. First, itís a mystery thatís fun to try to solve. Second, many have shared helpful hints about avoiding this problem in the future.

More fun with the problem at handÖ :p

If I understand it correctly, one might summarize it this way:

The original poster started with 3 holders Ė and 6 sheets of unexposed film.

Letís call the film sheets A, B, C, D, E, F.

Photo #1:
We DONíT know where this shot is. Could be A, B, C, D, E, or F.

Photo #2
We DO know where this shot is (since the darkslide was reversed). For simplicity, letís call it sheet A.

This means there is one best first step to take: develop sheet A by itself. You already know itís exposed. If you discover itís a double exposure, youíve solved the mystery. (And you can shoot the remaining 5 sheets with peace of mind.)

If this sheet A is NOT a double exposure, well Ö the mystery remains Ė but with slightly better odds of solving it. And possibly solving it with no losses at all.

At this point, your options are endless. Hereís one option that might well.

Brian Ellis said, ďSeems to me that what you do depends on how important that first photograph is to you.Ē Thatís my thinking, too. If itís an important photo, go ahead and develop your 5 remaining sheets now. Youíll have a 100% chance of protecting Photo #1 from double exposure (since you now know photo #2 isnít lying on top of it).

Better, develop the 5 remaining sheets one-by-one until you discover photo #1 (as you suggested in your original post). If youíre lucky Ė and discover Photo #1 with the very first development Ė youíve just saved the 4 remaining sheets of film.

Whatís more, your final result would be just like having made no mistakes in the first place! ;)

19-Apr-2009, 14:11
Chris, just shoot them all as normal, better to have 1 possibly interesting double than a sheet or more of unexposed film...

Regarding cost, don't fret too much I just got 5 sheets of 8x10 C41 back from the lab with no image on (all significantly underexposed due to a mistiming shutter), that's around $75 after development (UK prices)!

Kevin Crisp
19-Apr-2009, 16:53
There are some mistakes you need to get out of your system, you have a lot of company. I agree with Deanne, number them. I always expose the lowest number first. That way if I get to the next set up and made this mistake I know which one is next. Seriously, you will quickly find that reversing the slide is something you automatically and you won't make this mistake again. I do take quick notes too on little cards and I wish I'd started doing that about ten years before I did. Adds about 30 seconds per shot, worth it in the long run. If you've got company and they will fill out the card to your dictation, it doesn't add any time at all.

You can move on to forgetting to stop down, pulling the slide with the shutter still open for composition, hitting the tripod when you're almost ready to go, forgetting to really lock down the head so that the camera slumps forward, thinking you have the holder in all the way when it is about 1/2" short on the left side, etc. etc. etc.

Keep at it.

Andrew O'Neill
19-Apr-2009, 18:07
We've all been there before. We all learn from our mistakes. Just next time, don't make the same mistake.

tim o'brien
19-Apr-2009, 18:46
Some people might call me a Maoist, but the reality is, I have a red notebook, very thick, that I record the number and side (I use A and B, you can use F and S) of the holder with the film type inserted. When I go shooting, the book comes with me. When I expose the negative, I write down where, when, lens, aperture and shutter speed. If I am being really anal, I'll write down the incident light reading from my meter and sometime readings from shadows and highlights. Most of my film holders are also filed with notches that I can cross reference back to when I develop them.

It helps I was interested in Journalism when I was in high school and the 5 'W's were impressed in my head. it also helps that as a robotics engineer involved in system development and test, I carry a notebook around all the time, everyday.

So go mark your film holders, get a notebook (just like Weston), and never make this mistake again. There are many many more mistakes for you to make to waste them on this one.

tim in san jose

19-Apr-2009, 20:51
I got a little olympus message recorder as a gift with a computer order a while ago and I love it now for making notes on shoots. You see news reporters using them on tv, they're slightly larger than a bic lighter.
There's just one button to hit and it keeps things in order. The advantage is that I can make detailed comments about such things as what I need to remember for the next shoot or whatever. I've gotten quite dependent on it when things start to get busy in the field now.
I also number my holders and then use a notch system on the flaps that identify the exposed film later. So when I've record that #110 was exposed with an orange filter, I can find the negative with no fuss. Jeweller's files with a round for "0" and a triangle for "1", so it would be triangle, triangle, round, right near the film notch area, for that one.

19-Apr-2009, 20:56
ExpodDev on a PalmPilot.

Brian Ellis
19-Apr-2009, 22:47
You didn't get the point. Nobody removes any sticker after the exposure is taken either. . . . .

Sorry if I misunderstood. When you said "take them off after the exposure" I thought you meant take them off after the exposure.

20-Apr-2009, 00:46
Sorry if I misunderstood. When you said "take them off after the exposure" I thought you meant take them off after the exposure.

Sorry for my misleading expression. I meant not to put them back after the exposure.

20-Apr-2009, 05:00
I've got a system that avoids this problem that's a lot simpler than it sounds in describing:

I keep my holders in ziplock bags, 4 or 5 to a bag. I always pull fresh holders from the back of the bag and replace them in the front of the bag ( the side of the bag that has the film type written with a sharpie) The basic rule is that any holders that are upside down in the bag have had both sides exposed. If I take a fresh holder from the back and expose only one side, I put it back in the bag right side up, but in front of the growing number of upside down holders, which tells me I still have one shot left on it. Eventually, all the holders are upside down and I start a new bag.

The only tricky shot is the very first one from each bag -- one side is exposed but the holder goes back in the same orientation as all the others. But I figure the day I can't remember that I've exposed my first sheet, is the day to hang the whole thing up.

Kevin Crisp
20-Apr-2009, 07:57
One of Picker's newsletter suggestions was to take the camera out of the bag at home, set it up, get it ready to take a picture, pretend to take one (i.e., empty holder) break it down and put it back in the bag. Repeat 100 times. You will not longer have to think about reversing the darkslide (and doing many other things you don't want to make mistakes on) if you actually do this.

sanchi heuser
20-Apr-2009, 08:09
I put a small self adhesive on every side of the holder and mark it with a green pencil
just until I loaded it.
I write on it which kind of film it is.
So I know, the green ones are loaded.

On location I always have a red pencil in the pocket.
Just after the exposure, I mark the side towards the lens red.
I do that before I remove the holder.
So I know, the green and red ones are with exposed film.

After I get my developed sheets from the lab together with the holder
I put the self adhesives away.
So I know, these holders are empty.

It works: from 99 mistakes to only 98:)

evan clarke
20-Apr-2009, 09:55
I always make 2 sheets and then write exposure note on gaffer's tape on the holder. Never any slip ups and I am frequently very,very happy to have the extra sheet...Evan Clarke

21-Apr-2009, 07:12
@Heroique - Your thinking is pretty much in line with mine. I would do what you outlined but the lab didn't seem to think that developing and inspecting sheets one by one was the best plan. If (when?) I were developing on my own, I would do that.

So here's what I did: I took 'em all in and had them developed. I'll find out today or tomorrow. I'm definitely wasting 4-5 sheets of film. Oh well. It was bought cheap from a student who didn't need it anyway. And who gets into large format to save money?

I numbered all my holders. I've got a journal I started with shot info and now I'll be recording film loading info (where/when I loaded it, which holders, what kind of film, any anomalies during the loading process). When I take shots, I'll record which holder/side it was on. Basically I'll have notes about each sheet of film about its life from the film box to the lab and all significant points in between.