How To Take Film Out of a Camera

Piper O'Shanassy17 Mar 2022

Suppose you found a 35mm camera that you discovered among your old belongings in the attic or that you haven't really used in years. Whether you want to find out if you can take out and develop the film inside, or you want to load a new film and use the camera, knowing how to unload a film from a camera can be a handy skill.

How To Get the Film Out of a Disposable Camera

There was a time when disposable cameras were the ordinary person's go-to camera. They were a regular addition to any vacationer's baggage and were frequently seen on top of wedding reception tables. Despite the prevalence of the camera phone and digital photography, there is a dedicated user group that prefers disposable cameras. However, one of the drawbacks of disposable cameras is taking out the film.

If you want to know how to take out a film from a disposable camera, here are the steps:

Strip Off the Label

The disposable camera is simply a standard plastic camera. Manufacturers usually place their brand's logo on the cameras using a sticky label or a loosely fitted card wrapper. Typically, you have to remove the label to disassemble the camera. It's usually simple, and it doesn't matter whether it gets ripped or destroyed. On certain cameras, the label doesn't wrap around the lens, so you can simply leave it be.

Take Apart the Camera

Find and pry open the tabs that hold the camera together. These tabs are often found on the camera's sides.  To pull the film out of the camera, simply pry open the side with the film advance. Just about all cameras have tabs that are meant to be easily ripped apart, sort of a built-in film door. Keep in mind though that removing the tabs could destroy the camera so you can't reuse it after. Most disposable cameras, however, feature tabs on both sides that allow you to pry open and detach the entire back. Additional smaller tabs of various kinds are typically found at the top and bottom which holds the camera's backplate in place. You might need to put a little pressure to loosen these additional tabs.

Remove the Film

The film, like any other 35mm film, is self-contained in the small film cartridge. The film practically slips out once the tabs are removed and the camera is torn apart.

How To Get the Film Out of a Polaroid Camera

Taking photographs is an excellent way to capture precious moments and beautiful scenery. Yet, in this digital age, hard copies of a photograph are hard to come by, and even if they are available, they're not instant. This is where the polaroid camera comes into play. A polaroid camera is a type of instant camera that utilizes self-developing film to produce a chemically-developed print immediately after the picture is taken. Polaroid is the brand that made consumer-friendly cameras that people could use. However, regardless of the brand, many refer to an instant camera as a polaroid.

When using a polaroid camera, one of the first things you'll need to learn is how to unload the film. Removing the film from a polaroid camera is a simple process:

  • Open the film compartment. Carefully press down on the lock to access the chamber, and the door should pop open.
  • Remove the film. Grasp the corners of the film and slowly pull it out.
  • Close the film compartment. Lastly, shut the film door, making sure it pops to securely lock the film compartment.

How To Take the Film Out of a Camera Without Exposing It

When removing the film from your manual or 35MM camera, you must do it carefully so that you don’t end up exposing the pictures. Here’s how to do so:

  • Find a little button on the camera's bottom. This button lets you rewind the 35mm film by releasing the film take-up reel.  If you don't press this button and start rewinding the film, you'll feel a lot of stress, and if you put too much pressure, you'll shatter the camera or shred the film. Make sure that you push this button and do it firmly but gently.
  • On the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, raise the small lever on the film rewind dial.
  • Turn the lever counterclockwise. As the film rewinds, you will feel some pressure.
  • Continue rotating the lever until you feel a significant decrease in tension or hear a slight clicking noise.
  • Lift the film rewind dial to open the rear of the 35mm film camera. Gently remove the film so as not to expose it.

Should You Rewind Before Opening Your Camera?

Rewinding the film is now required by nearly all 35mm cameras. To prevent the take-up spool from being exposed to light, the only place you can open the camera is in the back, which is light-sealed. This means that even for a little moment, you run the danger of damaging the film on the take-up spool by exposing it to excessive light before rewinding. At least five or six shots will be lost, regardless of how quickly you close the camera's back cover after opening it. When processed negatives appear murky or foggy, they are referred to as “fogging”. Before loading a new film, you must rewind the last roll of film into the film cartridge and take out the old one containing the exposed film.

How To Tell Whether a Camera Film Is Used

There are normally two ways to confirm if the camera film has been used, and this needs a visual assessment. The first approach entails searching for the film leader protruding from the film canister. If there is no film jutting out, it's most certainly been used. If there is film sticking out, the second approach entails inspecting the film leader for markings, bends, or folds that would be indicative of film which is used and has been run through a camera. If dealing with an APS 35mm film, look for the four numbers on the top or bottom of the canister. If the number 3 has a white "x" beside it, this means the film has been exposed and is available for development. Check to see if the word "exposed" is apparent on 120 or 220 film or medium format. If this is the case, the film has most certainly been used.

While digital photography is simply easier, with less time and money spent on materials, there is beauty in film photography. If you're interested in shooting film, you'd want to avoid mistakes so you don't destroy or lose your photos. The best starting point is by learning how to properly unload a film.

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper grew up with a love of animals, which quickly turned into a love of photographing them. She shares her tips and tricks on photography, and hopes she can help you shortcut your expansion of a passion.

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