Loading Sheet Film

Before doing anything else, make sure the file holders are thoroughly clean. Each speck of dust in the film holder turns into a black squiggle on your final print that is a pain in the nether regions to spot out. That speck will inevitably land on the most evenly toned section of sky. Clean is good. Use a sable brush to whisk out the edges of the holder and a vacuum cleaner (preferably an anti-static model) to suck out all the dust. In your darkroom, lay out the film holders in a pattern you can easily find in the dark. Have the darkslides in place, pulled about three-quarters of the way out, with the white edge of the slide facing outward. Have the film box positioned in an equally easy-to-reach place with the film notches set up so you can load film as illustrated in the next frame.

Typically, sheet film has a set of notches on one of the narrow edges. These identify the film. Usually the box in which the film shipped tells you the notch code for the film enclosed. This is particularly useful when you're in the dark-room loading developing hangers trying to remember what kind of film was in the holder. You can just turn on the light and look at the box, right?

The easiest way to load a sheet film holder for shooting is to position the sheet of film as illustrated, with the notches in the upper right hand corner. This will position the film with the emulsion side out.

In the sheet film holder, the hinged edge goes to the top. Gently guide the sheet film into the holder, making sure the sheet goes UNDER the two guides along either side of the older. The biggest mistake beginners make is letting the film slip over the top of these guides. When this happens, the edges of the image go out of focus, with the center sharp, progressively blurring toward the edge. Also, the film can be damaged when you insert and remove the slide.