View Full Version : UN-loading film holders

Ed Eubanks
24-Dec-2003, 09:51
I use standard "Fidelity/Riteway"-style film holders for my 4x5 photography; I have never used readyloads, and I don't intend to begin, as the cost for film is prohibitively high for the work I do (that is, almost exclusively personal with no professional financial stake). I have not had trouble loading my film holders with any type of film.
However, when I unload the film holders, I almost always experience difficulty. I don't keep enough fingernail on my digits to slide a nail under the film, and I rarely find that the film is cooperative enough to be slid out the same way it went in. Usually, I find that I apply enough pressure from the top to get the sheet to "buckle" and then I can get a finger under it, basically bending the film until it is out of the slots.
My constant fear is that I will scratch, kink, or otherwise damage the film in this brute removal process, and I will lose an otherwise acceptable image. To date, this has not been a (noticable) problem, but I remain anxious about it. Does anyone have suggestions for unloading more gracefully-- that is, without manhandling the film in the process?

Garry Teeple
24-Dec-2003, 09:58
Try making a small kitchen knife like piece from a soft plastic container, like a butter tub lid, and shape the end to slip under the film. There should be no worry about scratching the film with the soft plastic.

Larry Gebhardt
24-Dec-2003, 10:00
I have the same issue with short fingernails. I tried using a post-it tio pick up the film and it worked OK. Then I found that the non sticky side worked better - just slip it under the film and then you can grab the sheet with your fingers. The chance of scratches is reduced as well from usng your finger nails.

I now use Grafmatics, which are easier to unload, so ou may also try that route.

John Cook
24-Dec-2003, 15:48
How about a guitar or banjo pick which slides over your finger?

Jay DeFehr
24-Dec-2003, 18:21
I too use the brutal but effective buckle and pull technique, and have never had a problem with it. How do others do it?

24-Dec-2003, 18:38
I recently found a better way to unload 8x10 film. I turn the holder upside-down. The gravity pulls the middle part of the film down a little and I gently grip the film, turn back the holder face-up, and it's business as usual. Haven't tried it with smaller format though.

Ole Tjugen
24-Dec-2003, 23:09
Aarons technique works with smaller sizes too. I use it succesfully for 5x7", 4x5" and even 9x12cm. Unloading the bottom side of the holder is a lot easier - even WITH fingernails.

Christian Olivet
25-Dec-2003, 02:49
Just use the corner or the darkslide as a finger nail. It is easy. Never had scratches

Christopher Condit
25-Dec-2003, 17:00
My lab unloads them for me! One of the advantages of being uninterested in the whole darkroom process.

My Xmas,

Scott Walton
26-Dec-2003, 06:40
Ed, When I was younger, I worked for a studio shooter doing Hasbro toys ect. and he told me a trick. When you open the holder, have your index finger ready at the edge of the film and with your mouth, give the holder a small blast of breath. This will lift the film enough to get your finger on it and then lift it out without having edges go under your finger nail and giving you those dreaded cuts under your nail (which really hurt after unloading many sheets). That tip was a God send and I have been doing it ever since! Just make sure you haven't eaten anything recently so no food gets on the film!

Charlie Skelton
29-Dec-2003, 10:57
I also have no nails ( well, only heavily bitten ones) I use Aaron's technique with a small modification, I find that a tap on the top of the darkslide gets the film started. Unloading with the film downwards also has the advantage that you can drop the sheet straight into the box, which in a changing bag can be useful.