Newbie question: Which side of film is emulsion side? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I feel like a complete idiot for asking this question. However, I will feel more like a complete idiot if I shoot 10 exposures and realize I have screwed them all up!

I am new to large format, and have recently finished my first 20 shots with Fuji's Quickload system. Ok, feeling more comfortable. Now, I want to start loading my own film. I just purchased a box of FP4+ and 4 Lisco holders.

Before I start loading the holders in my closet, which side is the emulsion on? In the dark, I stole a sheet from the box to look at in in the light. Wasted exposure aside, I noticed the notches in one corner of the film. One side looks brown, and the other grey. Someone said to lick my finger and see which side turns sticky. Well, both sides turn sticky.

Please save me from myself......

-- Andy Biggs (, May 10, 2001


When you hold the sheet with the notch code in the upper-right corner, the emulsion is facing you.

-- Michael Briggs (, May 10, 2001.

With the sheet held vertically, the notch(s) at the top edge and to the right, you are looking at the emulsion side. With the film held horizontally, the notch(s) will be on the right side toward the bottom when the emulsion faces you.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, May 10, 2001.

Thanks for your comments. I figured public ridicule was far better than going on location and shooting null film.


-- Andy Biggs (, May 10, 2001. I did. On expensive chrome film too.

-- Jim Galli (, May 10, 2001.

With the sheet held horizontally, the notch(s) will be on the left side toward the top when the emulsion faces you. Not the bottom right as mentioned above.

-- Jim (, May 10, 2001.

"With the sheet held horizontally, the notch(s) will be on the left side toward the top when the emulsion faces you. Not the bottom right as mentioned above..." Jim, you are both right of course. Depends on how you hold the film!

-- Erik Gould (, May 10, 2001.

I assumed that Jim was kidding.

-- John H. Henderson (, May 10, 2001.

Hi Andy, although most people on this site perfer loading their film with emulsion coat towards the lens, I found out when I began loading that it is possible to get an image even if you face the emulsion face down in the holder. On one occasion I even formed an image through a yellow post-it; although, that is another story. Don't let them bias you on how to load the index notch, experiment. Have fun & good luck, David

-- david clark (, May 10, 2001.

Yes, just kidding,but maybe a little in right brain mode too :), I agree with David... Just make sure the emulsion is facing the subject and have fun!

-- Jim (, May 10, 2001.

I don't know if this will add to, or reduce the confusion, but here's the way I think of it:

When you're looking at the emulsion side, the corner nearest to the notches will be in a clock wise direction from the notches.

The orientation of the film (vertical, horizontal etc) then becomes irrelevant. (In practice, my routine is to hold the film horizontally with the notches lower on the right hand edge.)

-- Graeme Hird (, May 11, 2001.

Andy: Quit worrying about "public ridicule" and enjoy this forum. Everyone on the forum had to learn the ins and outs of LF, and as you found out, some of the little things are not so obvious. Although we do get a bit silly once in a while, everyone on the forum is willing to help you get into LF. Unlike smaller format photography, you often cannot go to the local film shop for answers. We LF shooters are rather thin on the ground in many places. I have been shooting LF since the 1960s, and I still learn stuff from this forum.


-- Doug Paramore (, May 12, 2001.

I had the hardest time figuring out why my negs were so underexposed when I began LF. I was loading with the notch in the upper right corner, just like the book said. But I assumed since most pictures are taken horizontally, that's how you were supposed to orient the film when you selected the right corner. I figured it was my development technique and took a bunch of holders to my father for a lesson. Boy did he get a good laugh at me when he started removing the film in the darkroom. It turns out you can get an image with the emulsion side loaded toward the holder, but you need to overexpose by four or five stops or so.

-- Erik Ryberg (, May 12, 2001.

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