silliest question ever: how to load sheet film : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello folks,

Please be prepared to read the silliest question ever: How do I load a Fidelity Elite 4x5" double sheet film holder?

I know how to remove the dark slide(s), and I also found out, that, when the dark slide has been removed, the black part on the bottom of the holder can be folded out.

But so far I don't have any idea how to get the sheet film into it...

To my defence I have to say that I do at least know how to load 35mm film and roll film ;-)

Cheers -David

-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001


Hi David

The answers are already on thies homepage under: http://

Good darkness!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, June 02, 2001.

Well, my problem is the actual prodecure of putting a sheet into the holder. This isn't described there - probably because he assumed that everyone knows it...


-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001.

David, Holding the film by the edge with the notch at the appropriate corner (see the website link above), guide the film under the two narrow and thin guides on either side of the holder. Those hold it flat; if you only get under one, the film sheet will interfere with the dark slide and/or not lie flat resulting in poor focus and/or other unpleasantnesses. Don't ask me how I know all of the pitfalls. Enjoy Jim

-- Jim Worthington (, June 02, 2001.

Dear Jim,

Thanks alot. This is what I was searching for. At the moment, I only have 150 sheets of b/w film, a changing bag, a 6x9 roll film holder, and that sheet film holder. A Polaroid back will reach me next week, and my Super Speed Graphic too, I hope ;-)


-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001.

Here's the technique I use. I'll sprinkle in some basics as I go along so here goes: First, establish a clean, uncluttered work area at which you can sit in total darkness for awhile. Next, arrange all the items you'll need in a way that you'll remember and find convenient. You'll need your film holders, a box of film and a small pair of scissors. Before you turn out the lights, take a sharp knife and cut through the seals or tape that keep the film box from being opened, but don't open just yet. Put that knife elsewhere so it doesn't get in your way or roll off the table and stab you in the foot. Turn out the lights and open the box of film, which is really three box halves, if you will. This is constructed that way to prevent light from entering. So once you've removed the top of the box, turn it over and remove the second top, which will reveal the film. Film is usually packed in a sealed foil pouch or plastic bag. Carefully use the scissors to cut the end off the foil pouch if that's what you have and then push the scissors far out of the way to prevent any accidents. (I find it helpful to squeeze the packet to push the pile of film toward one end of the foil pouch and create more space for the scissors to cut through without cutting into the film). The stack of film is piled in between two pieces of card stock. Carefully pull up on one of these and gently remove one sheet of film. Replace the card, put the film back in the foil or bag, back in the innermost box, cover with the second lid and invert, then cover that with the outer lid. Turn on the lights. You have now sacrificed one sheet of film with which you will practice. I generally don't remove the dark slide, but rather pull it out as far as I can without it's falling out. This way, there's one less loose thing to deal with. When you look at the film, you'll notice a notch or series of notches cut into the short side on one end. This not only tells you (by touch) what film you're loading, in case you forgot? but it serves to tell you which is the emulsion side of the film. The emulsion needs to face the lens if you want to end up with an image that's usable (for traditional photography anyway). Holding the film vertically, with the notches on the top edge, the emulsion faces you when the notches are to the right. Obviously you can turn the film sideways and the notches will move acordingly so try to get a feel for where they need to be by touch so you'll always be able to find the emulsion side in the dark. Now pull out the dark slide most of the way and unfold the flap. If you're right handed like me, hold the holder in your left hand using your index finger (from the underside of the holder) to hold open the flap. Holding the film by the edges, un- notched side in first, slip the film under the two guides (they'll have a slight rounded or angled end to make starting this easy) and gently slide the film in as far as it will go. If you've pushed it in enough, it will lie down flat within a small depression located under the flap. There's a circular finger depression that will allow you to "pick" the film out when you need to unload. Check that feature out at this time so you'll better understand how this is done. Now close the flap. It should close without resistance. If it doesn't, you may not have pushed the film in all the way. Try again. When it's in all the way, slide the dark slide in and make certain you hold the flap closed so it will lock in place. Now practice all of this over and over, with your eyes closed until you feel comfortable doing this with fresh film in the dark. When you're confident, you'll need to arrange stuff so you'll be able to grab an unloaded holder, stow a loaded holder out of the way, reach for a sheet of film, etc. I generally create two stacks of holders (one at first until I start loading). I alternate the stack with open ends staggered so they pile up in a flat pile and don't go slipping off the top. When I unbox the film, I remove the first lid, and invert it, then slip the remainder of the box into it. I then pry out the bottom with the film in it and invert it and set it into the first two, so I end up with what feels like one open box half. I then remove the film from the bag and set the bag under the box. I then find the orientation of the notches, while they are in an easy to feel stack, and arrange the film 90 degrees to the box, laying the pile in the box leaning over the edge. This enables me to easily pick off a sheet without having to dig in the box half. I set the pile emulsion down, notches hanging over the edge of the box and remove the top card and set it under the box with the bag. I then reach for a holder, withdraw the slide most of the way, pick off a piece of film, inverting just before I load, slide it in, close it up and turn the holder over to do the other side. When done, I place it in the loaded pile on the other side or the back of the table. I continue until I'm finished and then reverse the process of unboxing film to get it all packed up and protected from dust and light. Every one of us has had to develop a system to do this and as anal as the whole thing must sound, after awhile you'll be able to do this without much thought. Good luck!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, June 02, 2001.

Wow, Robert. I am amazed! :-) Thank you very, very much. I will today start my first "fully dark" action to get a practicing sheet out of my boxes!


-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001.

Dear Robert,

Here I am again. I just darkened our closet by putting a towel under the door, and extracted one sheet of film. The film was in three half- boxes, a plasified paper envelop, and then there were two cardboard sheets and one thin paper sheet on each side of the 25 sheets of film to protect it. It was rather easy to feel which was film, and which not. Now I will be able to practice loading and unloading the film holders, and loading the film into my Doran daylight development tank. Again, thank you a lot, I found your text very helpful. I'm now rather encouraged to take my first large format shots!

Best regards,

-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001.

One thing I would suggest that you do prior to loading film in your holders is to blow them out well with blasts of canned air...blow out the inside film area and both sides of the darkslides. There is nothing worse than finding the "shadow" of a stray hair or large dust particle on your otherwise well exposed negative or chrome. A clean workspace to load your film is also a necessity.

Happy shooting!

-- Tony Novak-Clifford (, June 02, 2001.

First of all, kudos to Robert for an excellent explanation! I too went through this process not too long ago and did it all from books. It would have been great to have that level of detail.

Now that I have been comfortable with 4x5 for a while, I have acquired an 8x10 and I am about to try loading for the first time. While the technique should essentially be the same, I think one major difference is that you can't hold the film with one hand while feeling around for the guides with the other. I will of course practice in the light first but any pointers for the 8x10 uninitiated would be most welcome.

-- Peter Shier (, June 02, 2001.

Roberts answer was brilliant, but if you are this new to 4x5 I would suggest that you try using a roll film holder first. It could save you a lot of cash. It worked for me! Pete

-- Pete Watkins (, June 02, 2001.

Dear Pete,

The b/w film I bought costs about 30 cents per sheet, so this is not a problem for me. I plan to do development on my own (with the daylight tank I already bought), so this is also ok. I just want to thoroughly experience large format, and am ready to work on my skills for it. I also went into medium format within a few days. But nevertheless I do have a 6x9 roll film holder too ;-)


-- David Haardt (, June 02, 2001.

Hi David, I just wanted to add that you should try to eliminate any possibility of having particles falling onto the film as you load. Where I live is very dry and static builds up quite easily. When I load film, I use a long sleeve shirt to prevent hair from my arm to fall onto the film and I also keep my head from bowing over the film. Again, these are just precautions. Once you have a handle on loading film, keeping it clean will be your next challenge.

-- Dave Anton (, June 02, 2001.

One thing I find helpful for getting the film out of the holder is to be sure to have at least one fingernail long enough to get under the film at the holder depression. Chuck

-- Chuck Pere (, June 03, 2001.


Just look at there:

-- Geoffrey Chen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), June 07, 2001.

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