Identifying contents in film holder : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'll be going out on my first expedition with my 4x5. I've got 14 Riteway film holders. I'm going to load 10 with FP4+ and 4 with Techpan. What's the best way to identify what film is in the holder? What do you use to write on the holders (e.g., dry-erase markers)? I noticed on the holders, they don't give you much room to write anything so I suspect the description must be very brief. I read "How to manage your film during long trips" and I'll be keeping a log as suggested. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


-- Thomas W. Earle (, October 12, 2001


1) I have numbered all of my holders with a pencil on the small white square on the face of the the holder (if you have newer holders) to code the film type. A second alternative is to use a flourescent marker to permanently number them on the side or the end. Dry erase markers can easily be rubbed off. Also, I do not use the stickums as they can unintentionally get caught in the holders light seal or the bellows (flare) and screw up a whole shoot. Had a friend that lost 20 exposures to this unfortunate event.

2) Use zip lock bags with multiple index cards inside and only shoot and replace similar holders for one film at a time.

3) With a small file, make a small but visable notch on a part of the film holder that will not compromise its seating characterists. You can then segregate film based upon this system.

I use the zip lock bags because they serve a dual purpose of keeping the holders clean and dust free. Have a good trip.

-- Michael Kadillak (, October 12, 2001.

Easy way: Keep the 4 in a separate baggie, stick a little yellow post-it on the dark slide to make sure you don't get mixed up. Always stick them back in the bag of 4 when you're done. Harder way: Put a clear felt-tip number on the dark slide, check your log of numbers to make sure you know what you're shooting and don't make any mistakes in loading, shooting or processing. Really easy way: Find one film and one developer that have stood the test of time and learn how they perform and don't experiment or spend lots of time trying this and that. Focus on the really tough part of this which is composition.

-- Kevin Crisp (, October 12, 2001.

All my holders are numbered. I shoot Tri-X and BPF back-to-back: Tri- X in the odd numbers, BPF in the evens. I also shoot T-Max and other films occaisionally, but by keeping track of which film goes with which number there is no problem. I also notch the flap of each holder with a Roman-numeral type code that shows up on the exposed film. I use a set of different-shaped small files and use a small half-round for the "ones", a V-shape for the "fives", a square notch for the "tens" and an inverted L-shape for the "50s". That way, (since I keep a record of each shot) I can identify which shot is which when I have several of each, which filters, exposure, etc. was used, which holders have problems and so forth. Hope this helps, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, October 13, 2001.

All the above are sound ideas, FWIW, I am in the process of "engraving" numbers on the holders (using a Dremmel-type multi tool) This way I plan to keep an easy record system of which film is in which holder) Also useful when trying to remember which holders need N+. N- developing too !! Good luck paul

-- paul owen (, October 13, 2001.


To add to the earlier posts, I number my holders in various series: 101/102, 103/104, etc. pllus 401/402, 403/404, etc.

Initially the 100 series was for 100 ISO and the 400 series for 400 ISO but you can use the differences to denote various differences.

I use ThinkDB on the Palm Pilot to maintain a database of exposure info on each sheet. On a trip to the UK last year this system kept track of 450 sheets which I brought home to Oz to process by sending the boxes of exposed film home as hand-checked cargo no confusion, no mistakes.


-- Walter Glover (, October 13, 2001.

I write on the little white space what the film is, tx, hp, tp, 100, 400, IR, ect. I have 36 film holders which I always take with me loaded with many different types of film. I've never made a mistake though I have often wished I had more of one kind of film like more iso 400 or more IR. I also write down what the shot is like barn, person, water, ghost mill, ect and what the developing scheme will be like N or N-2 or N+1. Plenty of room for that much info. And I use pencil. James

-- james (, October 13, 2001.


I went to Office Max and bought some Avery removable labels (there is a size that fits perfectly in the ridged area of the film holder). DO NOT GET THE PERMANENT! I'm often on truck trips with 50-75 holders and this works perfectly for me. You can write with pencil or pen. I think the last pack I bought was about $7.50 for 500 labels.

-- Kevin (, October 13, 2001.

I standardized on one main B&W film. I put a blank piece of gray tape on the holder in case I want notes on this one to stay with the sheet of film in it. If I put in different film I write the effective ISO I use on the tape. This tells me which film is in the holder. With color I use green tape for Velvia, red for 100 speed... maker doesn't matter as I don't use many. I can see at a glance which film I am using. I put the green & red tape both on the viewing section of the holder as well as a small piece on the sides so I can see which holder has what film immediately in my case. In my 5x7 & 8x10 cases the holders lie on their sides. 4x5 they lie flat, so I can tell which film it is quickly without fumbling around. Every time I try the notebook or tape recorder to keep track I quickly stop using it for whatever reason. Others more ordered probably keep better track. I find the colored tape easiest as it is visual. It also helps when I screw up as I can write a big NO or put an X on it so I don't process it later... rather than taking the film out of the holder on the spot.

-- Dan Smith (, October 13, 2001.

I numbered mine as 1A, 1B, 2A, etc. I put my standard B&W film into 4x5 holders, and I put all my color print film into grafmatic holders. Very intuitive, and no slips. In those cases where I take two B&W exposures, my numbering system makes it easier to track which film is which.

-- neil poulsen (, October 14, 2001.

I would like to thank everyone for their contribution. You all have been very helpful. It will be time to load the film holders tonight. It will be my first, but with all the great information on this site there shouldn't be any problems.


-- Thomas W. Earle (, October 14, 2001.

It's always been my understanding that the little ivorine labels were meant to be used with a good old-fashioned graphite pencil. Those 'dry wipe' markers don't dry wipe after they've been on a surface for more than a few days.
Why not carry a roll of masking tape, and tape down the darkslide after it's been exposed? This prevents accidental re-use, and you can write copious details on the strip of tape, in any handy medium you like.

-- Pete Andrews (, October 15, 2001.

I agree with the masking tape. I have been a commercial photographer for ten years, along with shooting landscapes for the same amount. I wrap a three inch (app.) piece around the corner so that it shows on both sides, and write the film type on that. After shooting each side, I put processing instructions on it, and then place it on the bottom of the holder, which prevents the dark slide from being pulled accidentally. This is the way it has been done in all of the studios that I have worked in.

-- alan lemire (, October 15, 2001.

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