Accidentally Opened Your Film Camera? Here’s What To Do

In my time in film photography, I’ve had my fair share of mishaps. Over the years I’ve discovered how to best avoid them and not lose all of my precious shots.

When you accidentally open your film door, all of the visible film will be exposed entirely or partially depending on how light your environment is at the time. If it is daylight then about 5 frames will be lost. If you are in a very dark room or it is nighttime, the film will still be exposed to some light but it may result in some hazing instead of being fully ruined.

If you want to understand how to avoid this, how to save as much of your film as possible and more, then read on!

So What Happens When You Accidentally Open Your Film Door?

So, we’ve all done it, we’re out shooting film all day, enjoying our little lives and feeling excited about what we’ve captured and then suddenly we press the wrong button and our film door flings open. That’s it, that’s the moment of utter fear as you realise all of those shots are probably gone. Well, the truth is, they probably are all gone.

Camera film works because it’s sensitive to light, when you take a picture, you expose the film to light for 1/1000th – 1 second depending on how much light there is and this creates the image on your negative. If you then accidentally open the back of your camera, this exposes your camera film to even more light and it’ll most likely result in quite a few images being lost. Sometimes, some of the shots that are rolled on will not be fully lost because the back layer of film is quite thick.

If you open the back of your camera by accident for 1/2 a second and it hardly opens, then you close it really quickly once you realise what you’ve done, then there’s a chance you may only expose it slightly, this will probably result in more of a hazing effect, as opposed to fully ruining your pictures.

If you open the back of your camera but it’s in a very dark or dimly lit place then there’s a higher chance that your film won’t be too exposed.

How Much Film Is Effected?

You may be wondering how much film is affected when you do this, it totally depends on how much you’ve shot, but once you’ve opened your back up, usually the camera goes back to one, so you won’t know unless you remember.

It can be hard to remember how many frames you’ve taken, the picture above shows about 12-15 pictures taken, as you can see, on the right-hand side, the film isn’t too thick which means you haven’t used a full roll yet. In the case of the image above, most of the film that is out of the canister (on the left), is now exposed and would be ruined, it’s possible that some of the first shots may only have minor damage. However, because only half of the film has been used, it would still be worth closing the door and shooting the rest of the remaining film.

In the photo above, you can see that there is much more film wound on, this is showing a full roll, or nearly full roll shot, so there’s a chance that some of these images wouldn’t be fully damaged (depending on how long they were exposed for) due to them being wound up and slightly shielded from light by.

The photo above shows a very small amount of film coming out of the canister, this would be absolutely fine. It’s usually what happens when you’ve wound your film back after shooting a roll, sometimes a small amount remains out, this is fine and you won’t lose any pictures due to this. If you wish to then you can poke it back inside.

How Do I Know If There’s Already Film In A Camera?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if there’s any film in a camera already, it differs for point and shoot cameras and SLR cameras.

If you aren’t sure if there’s a roll of film in a point and shoot camera, take a look at the film window, located on the back of the film door, you’ll be able to see if there’s a roll of film inside because you’ll see part of a film canister through the film window. If you are unsure then the best thing to do is to rewind the camera anyway before opening it up, just to ensure you don’t lose any precious pics!

If you aren’t sure if there’s a roll of film in your SLR camera, you can tell if you take a shot and wind it on, when you wind on, if the winder on the left hand side rotates then there is film in your camera (and it has attached properly).

Video showing how to tell if you have film in your camera.

Making Sure Your Film Has Wound On

One of the biggest worries when you first start shooting film is about being sure that your film has wound on properly, over the years I’ve discovered that it’s always best to check, I’d rather lose one shot at the beginning rather than lose the whole roll!

When loading a point and shoot, it’s fine to wind it on, then open the back up to check it’s definitely on, infact I would do this each time you load, there’s just nothing worse than realising you made a mistake and you lost all your shots. When you close the back up the second time, you’ll hear the camera make a loading sound again, because it doesn’t realise that it’s already wound on, this is fine and you’ll feel much more confident that your film is on.

With an SLR camera, it’s usually easier to see that you have film loaded. Once you have it attached, click the shutter and wind it on, then you’ll be able to see that the film is properly attached and you’ll be happy that everything is as it should be!

Not Sure What Film To Buy?

Lastly, I’ve made the ultimate guide of the best film stocks for you, you can read all about it here. This will seriously help you to decide what’s best for you and the type of photography that you shoot!

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