Darkroom Processing Tips – All Hail the Mighty Leader


The Arab spring and other pro-democracy movements may have seen leaders around the world toppling and disappearing in to hiding, but when it comes to processing 35mm film at home, you definitely want to keep hold of your leader.

Credits: simonh82

If you are developing your own film at home, this normally means quite a lot of fumbling around in the dark with film and reels. I’ve already suggested a few tips to make loading your reels easier, but one extra thing you can do to speed things up is keep hold of your leader.

When you rewind your 35mm film, make sure you keep the last couple of inches of the film leader from rewinding into the film cassette. To do this, stop rewinding as soon as you feel the tension go slack in the film, this should happen when the film has come off the take up spool but before it is rewound into the cassette.

The benefit of this is that you can simply pull the film from the canister rather than having to fumble around with bottle openers in the dark. Maybe I’ve just got a rubbish bottle opener, but I’ve never found this bit easy, so being able to just pull the film out really helps.

So that I know the difference between used and unused films, I always fold over the very tip of the film to indicate that it has been exposed. You can also use the same technique if you want to do film swaps for doubles with friends.

Here are a few 35mm shots I’ve developed at home.

Credits: simonh82

written by simonh82 on 2011-10-21 #gear #tutorials #developing #tipster #development #darkroom #home-developing #processing #film-processing #film-leader


  1. stratski
    stratski ·

    I agree. Another advantage of keeping hold of your leader is that your can pull smaller amounts of film out of the canister while spooling. When you don't have a darkroom or changing bag but fumble about under blankets (like me), not trailing the entire film in your lap helps to reduce the amount of dust and dirt on your negatives.

  2. stouf
    stouf ·

    The quest for a good bottle opener is long and hard. But once you have it, films pop easily : )

  3. cfib
    cfib ·

    I've got a Beck's Beer bottle opener which I once won at a raffle and it works like a charm ;)

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