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Posted in : Featured / Shooting Film on October 12th, 2012.

I’ve had quite a few people asking me about bulk film recently as I’ve mentioned it on Facebook and a few other photography forums around the web (and on here), so I decided to put a quick video together.

Basically, the short answer to “why?” is the cost.  You could ask “well, why bother shooting film at all? digital’s free, right?”.  Well, yes and no.  Digital’s not free, your camera still has a shutter life expectancy, and the cost of the camera needs to be divided by that to get a “cost per click” (which has nothing to do with online banner advertising).  While pretty minimal (in the order of pennies), there is still a cost.  But, I happen to quite like the look of film for black & white, and I want to be able to shoot it.

Using 100ft bulk rolls of film gets my cost per roll down from £4-6 down to £1-3, and sometimes even less than a pound per roll if I can pick up some good bargains on expired rolls on eBay.

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The “how?” is just as simple.  You buy a bulk roll of film, you buy a bulk loader, put the film in the bulk loader inside your changing bag or in a darkroom, and then load your film onto spools (which can be done in the daylight if you get a daylight bulk loader like the one in the video above).

Developing the film is exactly the same as with regular commercially packaged 35mm film, except the cans are easier to open inside a changing bag as you just twist off the top (no fiddling around with can openers!).  You also don’t need to mess around with scissors in the dark as it’s just taped on.  I haven’t managed to do it myself yet, but I’ve heard of a few people accidentally cutting holes in their changing back when cutting the film from the spool.

One thing to note, if you have a lab develop your film for you, give them a call first, make sure they’re not using an automated machine that rips open the cannister to get to the film (quite common with colour film, not so much with black & white), or it’ll destroy the cannister.  Also check they’ll send it back to you along with your developed prints.  As I mentioned in the video, if you’re buying from eBay, these things can be quite expensive (£3-5 each), which defeats the purpose of going the bulk route if it costs you a canister & spool every time you use one.

I buy mine for 50p each from a local camera shop that still has a lot of film gear.  Well, I say “I buy”, I mean “I bought”.  I picked up about 70 of them last time I went in, so I’m good for the moment.   If the lab say they will send it back with your film & prints and it doesn’t arrive, just give them a call and mention it wasn’t there and ask them, again, to send it along.  If they don’t, or won’t, start looking for another lab or have a go at developing the film yourself.

I would suggestm as well, that you store your empty cans in a clear resealable sandwich bag (you know the brand) to help keep dust and debris from clogging up the light trap.  The last thing you want to do is develop your film and see big scratches through all your images!

That’s pretty much it.  Any questions, post a comment below, send me mail, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter!


  1. Milly says:

    Great write up and video on bulk film. I have found the plastic canisters to be good as they have a twist top and they always get returned with my colour negs.