need help re dust on negs problem : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have just purchased an ebony 5x4S and started to develop some black and white negs - obviously my loading technique is rubbish as I am getting dust on the negs - what do others do to avoid this??? Only operating in the bathroom, no darkroom available at home. Any suggestions/tips needed urgently - thanks, Lyn.

-- Linda Chapman (, November 25, 2001


Use compressed air and blow your film holders clean in another room of the house. If you are using a bathroom, I remember reading another post on this forum whereby in hotel rooms to keep the dust down another photographer found success against the dust animal by running some hot water to put a bit of steam in the air. That will settle the dust, but you do not want to get to excessive with it so that condensation starts to occur.

Good Luck

-- Michael Kadillak (, November 25, 2001.

If you're using old, used holders, give them a *thorough* cleaning. For a while I had a terrible time with dust in my 8x10 holders. I spent an hour in the shop with an air compressor and shop vac cleaning them out as thoroughly as I could. Blowing air at very high pressure through the light trap sent a veritable cloud of dust flying out the other side- quite literally a visible cloud of dust. After this treatment, things have improved considerably, and I went back and did the same for some of my old wooden 4x5 holders. Give it a try- it should help.

-- David Munson (, November 25, 2001.

Linda, I second the blast of air route, and also use a antistatic brush to wipe the darkslide surface. This seems to work, but a better investment would be to use a readyload-type set up, although you are restricted to the type of film you then use.

-- paul owen (, November 25, 2001.

Linda... Don't forget to make certain that the inside of your camera's bellows is also dust free... and remove the darkslides slowly to prevent creating static. You have to fight the dust-demons every step of the way... -Dave

-- Dave Richhart (, November 25, 2001.

Linda, Once you have your film holders clean using the above posted suggestions, I would advise keeping them in plastic containers or plastic bags inside your camera case or bag. I do this, and it keeps my holders from gathering dust. I still brush them out prior to re- loading them, but then they immediately go back into the containers until they are ready to be used. In my experience, this keeps them 99 percent dust free.

-- Ben Calwell (, November 25, 2001.

Linda I have never had any dust on my film or holder so I can tell you with confidence my technique works. First I blast it with air, if you can buy an air compressor on the long run you will save more money than buying the little cans of air, second I wipe all surfaces with an antistatic cloth (Ilford) and last I brush all surfaces with an antistatic brush from Zone VI, they dont make this anymore, I think. But you can find them on E bay every so often. Good luck and I hope this helps.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 25, 2001.


I also do my film loading in my bathroom. In addition to cleaning out the holders well, I also dust the bathroom. To keep it "dust free" I have in use one of the Heepa air filters and use the product called the "Swifter" on floors, countertops, etc. Haven't had a problem since. I would also remove all items which produces dust from the bathroom if possible: towels and rugs.

-- Cal Eng (, November 25, 2001.

Linda, There are probably as many ways to load as there are loaders, but I have discovered a couple of things that work well for me and so I'll share them:

1. First, I dust off all my holders (outside, then inside) with a 1" camel hair flat brush that I keep in a zip lock bag when not being used. I avoid canned or compressed air because this tends to stir up too much dust (which is everywhere).

2. I get all my loading supplies organized on one surface and either roll up my sleeves or shed any long sleeved shirt I might be wearing. When I'm loading in a motel bathroom, I remove the towels and leave them outside the bath and do run the hot shower for a couple of minutes to "rinse down the dust".

3. I usually straddle the commode and use the tank top as my work surface if the bathroom lacks a vanity and room for a chair. It's important to be sitting when doing this as you need to be relaxed and close to the work surface.

4. I usually cut the foil pack (if it's Kodak film) with a scissor that I intentionally place on the floor behind the throne so I don't accidently drop it on my feet or stab myself in the hand!

5. When I open the film box, I nest the box thirds and lay the pile of film emulsion down and lean it crosswise over the edge of the innermost box. This way, the film will stay in a neat pile and no dust will settle on the emulsion side. I put the foil wrapper under the box so I can repackage the film when I'm done. I take a holder, slide open the dark slide three fourths of the way and pick a sheet of film off the pile, invert it and slide it in. After pushing the dark slide closed I turn the holder and repeat. It's important to lay out the work area the same way all the time. This is one of those instances where compulsiveness and routine really helps get the job done. If you can't remember which pile of holders is empty or where you put the foil wrapper, you'll drive yourself nuts. However you do it, do it the same way all the time. After awhile, all of this will become easy enough to do after driving nine hours and you're half asleep (like I am typically when I'm on a field trip).

6. When I'm done loading I put each holder into a zip lock and affix a label on which I print all the pertinent info I wish to record for each of the 2 sides of the holders. I number my holders, by the way, so I can reference any of that info to a specific holder. This simplifies things in the field and avoids writing on holders themselves. An additional bonus is that if ever a holder develops a leak, I can nail down the culprit by the number!

7. One last tip....pack some black plastic (the bags 16x20 paper comes in works well) in your backpack or camera bag. Also some black phototgraphic tape (3-M 235). This is in case the bathroom has a window! You can carefully cut the bag into a light tight 16x40 or 20x32 window cover which you can tape to block out any light. This has saved me from disaster more than once!

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, November 25, 2001.

Thanks so much everyone for replying - I feel more confident now and will give it another try today - much appreciated, regards LINDA

-- Linda Chapman (, November 26, 2001.

A couple of minor points added to all of these excellent suggestions. The hot air in the bath room helped me a lot but make sure you remove all the towels. There probably are many different brands of plastic bags that can be used but the kind I use are Zip Lock one quart bags. You have to be careful though because the quart bags come in different shapes, vertical and horizontal. The horizontal ones don't work for a 3x4 film holder. You want the vertical ones. If your holders stay in these sealed bags at all times except when loading film and using the holder I think your dust problems will be greatly minimized.

-- Brian Ellis (, November 26, 2001.

Linda: There's an awful lot of good stuff here. I got in to print it out, though, so I guess I'll add my two cents worth.... Here in New Mexico static electricity is probably the worst underlying cause, so running water is good, as mentioned above. I put aluminum foil over the area I'm going to work on. Wipe it once with the Paterson anti-static cloth. I wipe my hands with the cloth just before I start and again any time my hands start feeling dry. I think a really important point no one's mentioned is to remove the dark slide SLOWLY and replace it just as slowly, whether loading film or making exposures. Working the slide quickly kicks up static.... -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

-- Jeff Buckels (, November 26, 2001.

Linda: I can't add anything to the excellent posts on cleaning film holders, but there is one other point to address. Dust can get on film from inside the camera. Even if your camera is brand new, it needs to be dusted out. The easiest way is to extend the bellows as far as it will go, put the hose from the vaccuum cleaner inside and tap the bellows to dislodge the dust. For older cameras, it may be neccessary to get inside the bellows with a small brush to dislodge the dirt. I use a small (1 1/2") paint brush with the handle cut off to brush the bellows. Just be reasonably gentle with the brush, and don't place the vaccuum hose directly against the bellows.


-- Doug Paramore (, November 27, 2001.


You have here a diploma level thesis on dust but may I add to Doug's post above? Another source of dust in the camera is the rear section of the lens barrel. We tend to take the lens out of a carry bag, check the glass for makrs and then mount. Check the reae barrel as well; the dividers in many commercially available bags are velvet type fabric or canvas and with constant abrasion in transit these fabric tend to powder.

Cheers ... WG

-- Walter Glover (, November 27, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ