How To Put Film in a Camera? 5 Easy Steps to Follow

How To Put Film in a Camera featured photo

Nothing comes close to the classic, vintage images you get in film photography. So despite the convenience of digital cameras, some photographers still use analog cameras. These devices require you to load film to capture images. 

Fortunately, it is easy to put film in a camera. First, you need to open the camera. Then, prepare the film before loading it into the chamber. Finally, secure the film before closing the camera.

However, you must take certain precautions when you load film onto the camera to ensure a successful shoot. Below is a step-by-step guide to putting film in the camera. 

How To Load Film in an Analog Camera? 5 Easy Steps to Follow

It can be challenging to load film in an analog camera, especially if it is your first time. However, the process is relatively straightforward.

The following steps will teach you how to put film in a camera.

Open the Back of the Camera

Open the Back of the Camera

The first thing to do is to open the back of your camera where you’ll insert the film. The exact method varies from model to model.

Most analog cameras have a rewind knob. You twist this button to lift it. After that, you’ll hear a clicking sound that indicates the back is already open. 

On the other hand, some cameras feature a safety switch that locks the rewind lever in place. Slide the switch to release the lever. Then, pull it up to open the back of the camera.

It is best to check the user manual if you’re still unsure how to access the film canister inside the camera. Or look up specific instructions online if you’ve already lost the original product manual. Simply search for the model and make of your camera.

Use the Right Film

Unlike digital photography, you cannot view film photos right after a shoot. That means you wouldn’t know if they have the correct exposure until you develop them.

So if you want to capture stunning photos with an analog or film camera, you must check if you’re using the proper film. Consider the available light in the shooting location to determine the appropriate film ISO.

ISO refers to the film sensitivity of vintage film cameras. Higher ISO values mean the sensor is more sensitive to light, which gives you brighter images. In contrast, a lower ISO film speed is less reactive to light.

Use a higher or faster film speed, such as ISO 800, when shooting in dark conditions. Stick with a low ISO film speed (200 or 400) if you capture scenes outdoors or in daylight. Avoid using the wrong film because it can result in overexposed or underexposed photos. 

Put the Film Roll in the Camera

Put the Film Roll in the Camera

After ensuring you got the correct film roll, it is time to load it into the camera.

First, pull out the film from its container. You will notice an inch of film sticking out of the side, known as the film leader.

Place the film inside the chamber, which is located on either the left or right side of the camera. Ensure the film leader is coming out on the opposite side of the chamber.

Then, pull or push the rewind knob at the top of your camera. Doing so can help secure the roll of film in the chamber.

Advance the Film

Once you’ve correctly placed the film roll, you must secure it to the other side.

Hold the leader in place. Then, gently pull it away from the chamber to extend the film roll. Continue drawing it out until it reaches the opposite side of the camera, called the take-up spool.

Next, insert the narrow end of the leader into the take-up spool. You’ll notice a colored tip, usually in red or orange, that marks the spool opening.

After securing the film, find the film advance lever on the camera. This part is usually located at the top right side of the film camera.

Switch or pull this button to advance the film slightly. You will hear a clicking sound as you wind the film forward, ultimately locking it in place. If you don’t hear anything, try to hold the shutter release button near the lever.

Finally, advance the film one more time by pulling the lever. Doing so gives you a good length of the film to loop in the take-up spool. 

Close the Back of the Camera

After winding the film forward, carefully check if you aligned it correctly. If you notice the film roll catch on the spool, use the rewind knob to fix it. 

Double-check if everything is loaded properly before closing the back of the film camera. You’ll hear a click to indicate that it’s properly shut.

Press the shutter button to move the exposed film at the start of the roll. Continue clicking it several times until the frame counter or LCD panel displays the number 1. 

And that’s it—you’ve already loaded the film! You can now start shooting with your film camera. 

Can You Load a Film Roll in the Light?

You can put film in the camera during the day. The roll won’t be exposed to light because the leader is the only part out in the open. The canister can also prevent the film from recording light.

That said, avoid loading the film roll under the direct sun to minimize contact with light. Instead, go to a shaded place or shield the camera away from bright daylight when inserting the film. You can go to a dark room to prevent light from hitting the film. You must also immediately close the back of the camera after aligning the roll. 

How Do You Know When the Film Roll Is Done?

If you’ve taken many pictures with your film camera, you might wonder when the roll needs replacement.

Fortunately, it is easy to know when the film roll is done. If you’ve loaded it properly, you will feel resistance when further advancing the film. You can’t pull the advance lever anymore once you’ve used up all the roll.

Another sign that the roll is finished is if you see the number of pictures taken on the film camera display.  

You can even refer to the film packaging to know how many frames it captures. 

How To Rewind and Remove the Film from the Camera?

After using the whole roll of film, you must rewind it to its original container.

First, locate the film release button on the bottom of the camera. It’s easy to miss this part because it is so small. However, you’ll find it just below the film chamber.

Next, press the button to unlock the take-up reel. If you do not push it, you can feel a lot of tension when you try to rewind the film. And if you force it too hard, you can rip off the film roll, so always press the button.

Then, lift the rewind dial on the top of your camera, just above the film canister. Turn the lever to start winding back the film roll.

Continue turning the dial until you hear a subtle clicking sound.

Finally, open the back of your camera to remove the film. All that’s left to do is develop the pictures.

Is It Okay To Leave Film in a Film Camera?

You can keep a film roll inside a camera for up to two weeks or a month. The exact period depends on the temperature and humidity of the storage area.

Avoid leaving the film in the camera for long periods. It will eventually degrade, resulting in pictures with less contrast or duller colors.

If you don’t plan on capturing images, it is best to store the film in its original packaging. You can use it for two to three years after the manufacturing date.

Does Film Fade Over Time?

Modern films have a more stable performance. They can retain their original colors for up to 40 years at room temperature. Unlike old film rolls, they do not fade in just a few years when stored in room conditions.


Shooting with film cameras offers several benefits. For one, they give images a classic, vintage look that is hard to recreate digitally.

To take a photo with an analog camera, you must learn how to load film. Open the back of the camera and insert the roll. Make sure it is secure in the film chamber before closing the camera. 

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