Bulk loading of film is a great way to get name-brand film and quality for the best possible price, and it's a simple process that any photographer can handle. Today, getting into bulk rolling your own film and processing at home is less expensive than ever, as used film gear has flooded the market at low prices after the rise of digital photography. You can bulk load any kind of 35mm, including black and white, colour negative and slide film, if you're willing to develop at home. Bulk rolling is a great way for photography students to shoot a ton of photos for pennies.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 100-foot roll of bulk film
- Dark bag or darkroom
- Bulk film loader
- 20 reloadable film cassettes
- Transparent adhesive cellophane tape
Place the bulk film loader and unopened bulk film canister in the dark bag. Insert both hands into the dark bag. Remove the roll housing from the bulk film loader and set it aside inside the bag.
Remove the seal on the outside of the bulk film canister and lift off the top of the canister. Pick up the bulk film roll by its sides so that the end of the film hangs overhand.
Insert the film roll into the bulk film loader by pushing the film loader's centre pin through the film roll receiver. Thread the end of the bulk film roll through the opening in the bulk film loader and into the rolling chamber.
Replace the bulk film housing and screw the bulk film loader together. Lock the film roller inside. On most film loaders this is accomplished by twisting the bulk film roll housing toward the rolling chamber. Remove the bulk film loader from the dark bag and double-check that the rolling chamber is locked before proceeding.
Place tape on the centre column of the film cassette spindle. Tape the end of the bulk roll of film to the spindle so that the sides sit flush in the spindle. Wrap the film once around the spindle and insert the spindle into the film cassette. Cap the film cassette and insert it into the bulk loader receiver and close the rolling chamber door.
Crank the bulk film loader's handle. You will hear a click. Each click represents one frame of film. Count the clicks until your reach 40 and then stop. Open the rolling chamber and cut the film at a slant so that a small triangle sticks out of the cassette. Put the cassette into a plastic film container. Repeat the rolling instructions for subsequent rolls. Each 100 feet roll of bulk film will produce approximately 18 rolls of 36 exposures. Shoot film as you would shoot factory-loaded film.
Develop the film using normal home development methods. Develop colour film, including both negative and slide film, in a tightly temperature controlled environment and follow the instructions that come with your developing kit. Develop black and white film according to developing instructions, included with the developer, for that type of film.
Store unused bulk film inside the bulk film loader. If you must remove a bulk roll of film, do so in a dark bag or darkroom. Return the roll of film to its packaging tin and seal the tin with tape.
Note the expiration date on your bulk film and try to shoot and develop all of the film before the film expires. The expiration date is usually printed on the label of the tin. Expired film can show colour shifts when developed and might lose some of its light sensitivity, causing a 400 ISO film to react more like 100 ISO.
Watch the frame count on your camera and be careful not to shoot more than 36-38 frames. When nearing the end of a roll always advance the film gently. If you feel resistance, stop advancing the film and rewind the film. If you advance against resistance at 36 or more exposures you risk tearing the tape that holds the film to the spindle inside the film cassette and will have to remove the film from your camera in a dark bag or darkroom.
After the first two or three uses, check your film cassettes to see whether they are still tight and that the velvet light trap on the lip is still intact. If the integrity of the cassette is compromised, then it should be replaced.
Tips and warnings
- Many photo labs will decline to process bulk loaded film. Most photographers who shoot black and white develop it at home. However, developing C41 colour print film and E6 slide film takes considerably more experience and more stringent temperature control.
- Do not unlock the bulk film loader in daylight, and do not remove the bulk film roll housing, as this could expose the entire bulk roll of film.
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