How To Put Film In A Camera? Tips and Tricks You Need To Know!

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Are you looking to shoot film on your camera? There is something about taking pictures with film that makes it a unique and vintage experience. However, if you are new to using film cameras, loading them might seem confusing and overwhelming. But fear not! With the right tips and tricks, putting film in a camera can be an easy and enjoyable process.

Whether you have never touched a film camera before or simply need a refresher, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to load your camera properly. From choosing the right type of film to understanding the mechanics of loading it, we’ve got you covered!

“Loading film into a camera may seem challenging at first, but once you learn how to do it correctly, it’s just another step towards capturing beautiful moments in time.”

In this post, we will cover everything from preparing your camera to inserting the film and making sure it’s loaded correctly. We’ll also share some insider tips and tricks to ensure you get the best results possible when shooting with film.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and start using a film camera, keep reading for our comprehensive guide on how to load film into your camera.

Understanding Your Camera’s Film Format

If you’re new to film photography, one of the first things you’ll need to understand is your camera’s film format. Different cameras use different types or sizes of film, which determines the images’ size and resolution.

35mm Film Format

The most common film format for still photography is 35mm film. It measures 36mm x 24mm and can be loaded into a wide variety of cameras, from simple point-and-shoots to advanced SLRs. To load 35mm film in your camera:

  • Open the back of the camera by pulling on the release catch or button.
  • Locate the film chamber and make sure it’s clean and free of debris.
  • Insert the film cassette (usually black or silver) into the film chamber until you hear a click or feel resistance.
  • Pull the film leader across the empty take-up spool on the other side of the camera. Check that the perforations line up with the sprockets on either side of the film gate.
  • Close the back of the camera securely, making sure that no light can enter the chamber.
  • Tension the film advance lever (or motor drive if you have an automatic camera), and fire off a few shots to advance the film to frame 1. The counter should indicate that you have between 24-36 exposures available.

Middle Format Film

Middle-format film (also known as medium-format) is larger than 35mm film but smaller than large format. It usually comes in rolls of 120 or 220 film and produces images with a square aspect ratio. To load middle format film in your camera:

  • Open the back of the camera using the release catch or button in the same way you would for 35mm film.
  • Some medium-format cameras have interchangeable backs, so ensure that you’re inserting the correct back for the type of film you’re using.
  • Insert the roll of film into the chamber and feed the paper leader over to the take-up spool until it catches on a groove or slit.
  • Advance the film to frame 1 by turning the wind-on crank or winding knob (depending on the camera model). Check that the counter indicates you have the correct number of exposures depending on whether you are using 120 or 220 film.
  • Close the back of the camera securely and fire off a few shots to make sure everything is working correctly before beginning to shoot in earnest.
“Loading film into a camera seems like an intimidating task at first, but once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature,” says professional photographer David Peterson.

It’s essential to remember that loading film properly ensures sharp and clear photos. You should also check that the rewind lever or button pops up when you’ve reached the end of the roll so that you can unload the exposed film safely without exposing it to light. By following these steps, you’ll be ready to capture stunning images on film.

Gathering the Necessary Supplies

Film Rolls

Before you can start putting film in your camera, you need to purchase some film rolls. This type of film is usually sold in a plastic container that protects it from light. Make sure to choose the correct film roll for your camera as there are different types available depending on the format and size of your camera.

You should also consider the speed or ISO rating of the film. If you plan on taking photos in low-light conditions, go for a higher ISO rating to help capture more details. However, keep in mind that higher ISO films may result in grainier photos.

“The choice of brand and type still largely depends on personal preference.” -B&H Explora

To load the film into your camera, ensure that your hands are dry and clean to avoid leaving fingerprints on the film. Also, make sure to handle the film gently as it is sensitive to touch.


Sometimes, cameras require batteries to function even when they aren’t digital. Check your camera manual to determine whether it requires any specific type of battery or if it uses disposable or rechargeable ones. Make sure to have extra batteries ready before loading the film to avoid running out of power during shooting.

“Always carry spares: No matter how good your kit, things can break, fail or get lost along the way. One thing that always works though is carrying spare batteries” -National Geographic

If your camera has a built-in light meter, don’t forget to turn it off when not in use to conserve its battery life. As an additional tip, store your camera and batteries separately when packing them up to avoid accidentally turning on the camera and draining the battery.

Preparing Your Camera for Film Loading

Opening the Camera

Before starting, ensure that you are in a well-lit room to make sure that you can see all the openings of your camera. Make sure that all lens attachments have been removed before opening your camera.

To begin, look on the top or bottom panel of your camera for the release button and open the buckle which will allow your camera to open up.

If you’re unsure where the release button may be located, check your camera manual.

Cleaning the Camera

After releasing the buckle and opening the camera, take some time to inspect it for any dust, dirt, or debris. Use a blower brush to gently remove any visible particles from inside the camera.

You can also use wipes such as microfiber cloth to clean the body’s exterior before loading film into the camera. Be mindful not to damage any moving parts while cleaning.

Checking the Light Seals

Light seals help prevent external light from entering your camera and interfering with your shots. You should examine them often and replace them if they show signs of wear or deterioration.

If the foam doesn’t create an airtight seal after prolonged storage, it’ll cause light leaks onto your negative. The easiest way to check whether light is leaking through the seals is by holding the camera towards a light source and examining areas where a roll takes place.

If there’s any sort of discoloration, disintegration, or deformation – it’s important to change the seals. This process ensures your equipment stays sealed during operation; reducing instances where stray light makes an impression onto the negative frames.

“The more experienced I become as a photographer, the more I realize that light is the most powerful element of any photograph.” -National Geographic Photographer Annie Griffiths

Before you add film to your camera, make sure it’s loaded correctly using the manufacturer guidelines. Improper loading may cause damage or light leaks onto your negative.

The preparation process will save work and time in post-processing while ensuring good exposures on negatives for producing quality prints. If you follow these simple steps of cleaning, inspecting and preparing the equipment before film loading, you are ready to take stunning shots!

Inserting the Film Into Your Camera

Removing the Film Cover

Before you can insert your film into your camera, you need to remove the cover that protects it. In most cameras, this cover is located right next to the film advance lever and will pop open when you press a small button or switch.

Make sure your hands are clean and dry before handling the film. Any dirt, oil or moisture on your fingers could damage the film surface, causing spots, streaks or other defects.

“Always handle your film by the edges, as touching the emulsion side can leave fingerprints or other marks that may show up in your photos.” -Kodak

Aligning the Film

Once the film cover is removed, you’ll see two spool hubs inside the camera that hold the film securely in place. Identify the end of your film strip, which should be loaded in such a way that the “leader” tab extends out from the roll.

Place the leader tip of the film strip onto the spool hub on the left-hand side of the camera and feed it around the idler sprocket at the bottom of the camera body. Pull the film across to the spool hub on the right-hand side of the camera, making sure it lies flat against both spools with no twists or warps.

“Improper loading or handling of your film can result in light leaks, fogging or ruined shots altogether.” -Ilford Photo

The film strip should slide easily into the gap between the two spools, but make sure it clicks firmly into position before closing the back cover of your camera. Check for any signs of buckling or unevenness along the film track – if everything looks good, your camera is now ready to use!

Advancing the Film and Testing Your Camera

Advancing the Film

The first step in putting film in a camera is to advance it properly. Open the back of your camera and find the take-up spool, which pulls the film through the camera as you snap photos. Slide the tip of the film onto the spool, then rotate it until it engages with the teeth.

To secure the film and keep it tight, wind the film using the camera’s built-in winder or lever. Check whether the rewind knob moves to ensure that the film is taut enough for the camera. If so, close the film door carefully without disturbing anything inside.

Checking the Shutter Speed

After loading film, make sure that the shutter speed is correct. The shutter controls how long light passes through the lens onto the film, resulting in an exposed image. Some cameras measure exposure by automatically choosing aperture and shutter speed mode, but manual settings are preferred.

If your camera has automatic features, test them by placing the camera on Aperture Priority mode when you start photographing. Begin shooting at different Aperture sizes while adjusting the shutter speeds accordingly. Use varying degrees of movement from the lowest of 1/50th – 1/250th of a second up to or beyond one full-second exposures. Examine the images and adjust the settings that require adjustments.

Taking a Test Shot

Once you have set the proper shutter speed, take a test shot before diving into any project immediately. Several things could go wrong after loading film; therefore, testing can prevent frustrations and mistakes along the way.

Select a subject in good lighting, use manual focus if necessary, and take the photo. Following each shot, examine the quality and determine whether it meets your expectations before proceeding space on the film. Contrarily, if there are smudges or distortions in images taken; then adjust your settings as quickly as possible.

It’s also critical to learn how many exposures your camera provides with each roll of film that you put in it. Many older cameras offer either 24 or 36 frames per roll. Therefore count your clicks accordingly and mark them on a roll after taking each picture. In this way, you will know how much of the roll remains undeveloped and save yourself some shots for future use.

“Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -Elliott Erwitt

Putting film in a camera may seem challenging at first glance, but through simple steps like winding, testing the shutter speed, and taking test photos can be successful. With a good eye and observational skill, create stunning images by learning more about exposure, composition, and lighting conditions as you move along.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of film should I use for my camera?

The type of film you should use depends on your camera’s specifications. Check the manufacturer’s instructions or manual to see which film is recommended. You can also consult with a photography store or online resources for guidance. Common types of film include black and white, color, and various ISO speeds.

How do I open the camera to insert the film?

The process for opening your camera to insert film will vary depending on the model. Generally, there will be a latch or button to release the back of the camera, allowing you to access the film compartment. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or manual for specific guidance. Be sure to handle the film carefully and avoid touching the exposed portion.

What is the correct way to load the film into the camera?

After opening the camera, carefully insert the film spool into the take-up spool. Make sure the film is positioned correctly and securely. Next, thread the film leader across the camera and into the film sprockets. Advance the film until it is taut and close the camera back. Refer to your camera’s instructions or manual for any additional steps or precautions.

How do I advance the film after taking a photo?

After taking a photo, turn the film advance lever or knob to advance the film to the next frame. This will typically include a clicking sound or other indication that the film has advanced. Be sure to follow your camera’s instructions or manual for proper film advancement, as improper technique can lead to damage or film jams.

What do I do if the film gets stuck or doesn’t advance properly?

If the film becomes stuck or does not advance properly, stop using the camera immediately. Try gently advancing the film or rewinding it back into the cassette. If this does not work, take the camera to a professional for repair or assistance. Continued use can result in damage to the film or camera.

How do I know when the roll of film is finished and needs to be removed?

Most cameras have a film counter that indicates how many exposures have been taken. Once the counter reaches the end of the roll, the film will need to be removed and developed. Some cameras also have a film rewind function that will automatically rewind the film back into the cassette when it is finished. Consult your camera’s instructions or manual for specific guidance on how to know when your film is finished.

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