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How to load large format film holders (video tutorial)

Posted 26 October, 2007 in Videos


Links mentioned in the video

Redscale film technique: what happens when you load film backwards

Film data index, includes notch codes



Thanks so much! I’ve been scared to load up my LF camera for the first time since I bought it a few months ago. This tutorial was perfect.

Bryan C

Very helpful! It’s surprisingly tough to find this sort of basic information, especially explained so clearly.


Very nice! Your teaching style is very controlled, down to earth and precise, very good quality.


Dude, what a great little tutorial! Have not seen anything like this on the web. Are you planning to do any more with the large format process?

Nicolai Morrisson

Thanks, y’all, I’m glad it’s useful!

Sebastian, yes, I’m planning to do more. Is there anything specific you think would be helpful to see covered?

Daniel Buck

on a note about knowing if there is film in the holder, give the holder a good shake, you can hear if it has film in there or not. When using the “white slide = ready to shoot” method, if you see a dark slide and don’t have a note written for that slide (meaning you don’t know what it is) if you give it a shake and hear film, chances are the film has already been exposed (if you remember to correctly flip the dark slide to the correct side when loading and shooting). This has been useful to me several times, when I accidentally set a holder down and forgot if it was exposed, or empty. Out of chance I just gave it a shake, and heard film in there! It’s worked great several other times in similar situations.


Thumbs up on this. It’s a lot like the technique I have evolved, though I do mine in a dark bag(!). I use the bargain films from Eastern Yurp so the notches are, as you say, just for orientation. Those films don’t come with the tripled box, just the nested box with an opaque bag inside. But it all works the same otherwise.

This is a great resource. Thanks for doing it.

On the other topics, you could probably do one on 35mm Holga-ing, as well as reeling on 35mm and 120 films.

dan loflin

omg 13 minutes! who gave you final cut?

Jose Amado

Thank you very much for this tutorial, it’s very useful. Until now I only did shooting with 120 film because I didn’t know to use 4×5, everything looks complicated. Now, after your explanation all doubts are gone. Congratulations, best regards,

Steve Cowley

Great tutorial! Thanks for posting. On starting out with LF, I was disappointed in the lack of video material – heck, with my first two 4×5’s, not even an instruction manual! It would be great to see you do something on camera movements!

Best wishes


Nicolai Morrisson

Daniel Buck, I’m definitely going to try that!

Paul, Squarefrog’s HolgasOnline has a video tutorial for loading 35mm in a Holga, check it out. He gets a bit more anal than I do about it, I just pack the cartridge in with completely random crap (Fuji 120 foil wrappers, bits of film or cigarette boxes, crumpled up receipts, whatever), and I don’t tape the back seams (but I do the counter window), but it shows you everything you need to know. The others are good ideas!

Loflin… I dunno, I’m just laughing at you laughing at me.

Jose Amado, glad to help!

Steve Cowley, a camera movement tutorial is in the works. It may be a couple of weeks while I figure out the clearest way to demonstrate it, but I’m working on it!


Yeah Steve beat me to it – Camera movements would be awesome!

Nicolai Morrisson

Useful comment from elsewhere:

David A. Goldfarb says:

The “flippy thing” at the end of the holder is generally called “the flap.” The tape is not actually a light seal, so as long as it holds the flap in place, it’s doing its job. The light seal is formed when the flap meshes with the holder.

The way I keep track of whether holders are loaded or unloaded is by marking the film type in pencil in the white space for that purpose on the holder, and when the holder is empty, I erase it.

Peter Carlsen

Very nice. Now to get some 4×5 holders and film and start shooting. Thank you for the effort.


I wish this had been around when I started shooting LF, it would really saved me some money and trouble. Great instructions, looking forward to see more coming up!

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[…] Detector has a 4×5 film loading video, and a photo of a 6×17 stretch […]


Superb videos/. I just have one question : how do you pack film, to bring them to the lab ?
I am just starting, i just have one box, with pristine film.

Nicolai Morrisson

Henry, I should have said something about that. You can either get a hold of an empty box and unload your exposed film into that, or most labs will just take the still-loaded holders and unload them for you when they process.

Zach Young

Thanks so much again. I just tried it for the first time. It was A LOT easier after seeing the video. The difference between reading about it and seeing ASCII drawings and seeing a very nice and very detailed video made a world of difference!


Nicolai Morrisson

Way to go, Zach, can’t wait to see the results!


Dude! This is really good. Thanks for sharing.

Halvor Pedersen

Nicolai! Great stuff!

Thanx to you, I’ve now loaded my first four film holders ever! I just got my 4×5 yesterday (Christmas present from me to myself!), and when I ordered it, I started looking around for a good tutorial on loading 4×5 holders. This one was so good, I linked to it on the scandinavian APUG forum, and everyone thought it was a great tutorial! Hey! Why don’t you make an instructable of it?

Anyway, I aggree with the others! Your teaching skills are excellent, and you should do a tutorial on LF camera movement! If you want to, that is…

Thanx for your help!

Nicolai Morrisson

Fedt! Jeg er glad for at høre det, og tillykke med julegaven!

Gregg Waterman

I’m another newcomer to LF, haven’t exposed a piece of film yet! But this video gives me a great deal of confidence that I can get the film loaded correctly. A huge thank you!

By the way, I’m an educator by profession, and know how difficult it can be to say what is needed and nothing more, and in the correct order. You did great in that regard!

Nicolai Morrisson

Thanks, Gregg!

Here’s useful tip from markbb on APUG:

I use rubber bands: length-wise the holder has film in (and keeps the darkslide in place), width-ways it’s empty. Different coloured bands indicate different film.

Frank McGrath

Excellent video presentation that will come to mind in the dark! I also got a good look at the film holder as I am making a non standard sized holder for my non standard camera. Thank you, Frank.


This is a model on how to instruct a physical process….should be circulated widely outside the realm of photography, as a how-to-teach paradigm. Only thing missing (besides, as noted above, how to handle getting film to processor) was: what’s a good way to arrange multiple holders for loading (after all, we don’t load one holder, turn on the lights, position another holder for loading, etc.). A wonderful job; will now search web to see if you’ve done any other instructional videos.


Thanks for the video, I am building a simple 4×5 camera and can not wait to finish and load and shoot. You provided an informative and direct video.


Thanks so much. I was reading an assignment for school on how to this but found it very confusing. This video cleared a lot up for me. Thanks again!

Keith Loh

Awesome tutorial. I can’t wait to put this knowledge to the test.


Excellent, a most useful video tutorial: I now know where I got it wrong!

Benjamin Bailey (Banor)

Very nice :) But what type of camera would you use this film for? And can you give us a tutorial on how to use that type of camera? Thanks!

Nicolai Morrisson

Benjamin, there are loads of large format cameras out there that take this kind of film. Manufacturers include Toyo, Arca Swiss, Toho, Tachihara, Sinar, and a ton of others.

I’m planning a video tutorial for the cameras, too. I just need to find some time!

Diane Peterson

this is exactly what I needed!..Have a wonderful large format camera but have been unsure how to go about actually loading film..very informative..!


I know I’m posting on something over a year old…but I was looking for information on loading larger film, and found almost NOTHING. So I just wanted to say thanks for posting this, because it’s very thorough. :)


Excellent video. The only thing I would mention is that reversing the slide in the opposite way that Ansel recommended and which is pretty much the traditional and accepted way, will not eliminate the problem of ruining and exposed sheet if film…. at least not if my thinking is correct. The problem would be the same and the chances of messing up an exposed sheet of film are the same. You’re simply reversing the meaning of the black and white side of the slide but once you get used to that, I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t make the same mistake that you are trying to prevent.

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