I’ve been shooting film for 7 years and I’ve had all sorts of mishaps along the way, luckily you can learn from my mistakes!
If you accidentally open your film camera while you’re partway through shooting a roll of film then some of the film will be exposed and you’ll lose some of the shots. Many people think that you’ll lose all of your shots but it’s much more likely that you’ll lose 3-5.
If you want to find out what exactly happens when you open your camera, whether you should bother getting it developed or if it’s a total dud then read on!
What Happens When You Open Up Your Camera?
When you open the back of the camera while you’re already partway through the camera you expose the film to a lot of light. This can ruin some or all of the shots in some cases!
The main things that you need to take into consideration are:
- How long has it been open?
- Was it very light or were you in the dark?
- How many shots had you taken?
How long has it been open for?
If your camera has been open for more than about 10 seconds then you’ll really want to assume that everything you’ve shot up to that point is gone. This can vary, but if you’ve only had the camera open for a couple of seconds then you may only lose 3-5 pictures no matter how many you’ve shot up to that point.
Not many people realise but if you’ve already shot about 15 photos, the film winds up on the spool and starts to protect itself in a way. Because it has been wound up tightly and there’s a protective layer on the back of the film, this can mean that quite a lot of your pictures will actually be saved!
I didn’t realise this until I opened a camera myself by accident in bright sunlight, I assumed all the pictures were gone, but I still had about 20 to shoot so I thought I might as well continue. Well, I was surprised when I got my pictures back, I realised I had far more than I thought.
Only around 3-5 shots were gone, the rest were intact and a couple had light leaks (as you’d expect).
See above, the left image was taken before I opened the back of the camera, the middle picture was taken just after I opened the back of the camera and the picture on the right was taken after that.
Was it very light or dark?
If you opened your camera in bright light then far more damage will be done than if you opened it in a dimly lit room.
If you only opened your camera in a dimly lit room then it’s much more likely that your pictures will be ‘foggy’ rather than fully ruined! Again, be sure to be aware of the amount of time the back was open.
How many shots were taken?
If you only took a couple of shots then only those couple of shots will be gone, if you’ve taken 10 or more then you may lose 3-5 (depending on how long you opened it for).
Hey! You! Do you wanna get better at film photography? Take a look at these tips I put together!
How To Know If There’s Film In A Camera?
It’s not always easy to know if there’s film in a camera or not but often it can be really simple to figure out!
On a point-and-shoot film camera
Usually, on a point-and-shoot film camera, there’s a small rectangular window at the back of the camera. If you can see a colourful film canister in there then there’s film in it!
There are some point-and-shoot film cameras that don’t have this window. If this is the case then you need to check the film counter on the top of the camera. All film cameras have a counter on the top that goes from 1 to 36. If this counter is on anything other than blank or 0, then there’s a very good chance there’s film in there!
If in doubt and you want to be sure, engage the manual rewind of the camera, that way you’ll know for sure when you open the camera that you haven’t ruined the film!
On an SLR camera
One great tip to check if an SLR has film in it is that if you take a picture and wind it onto the next frame, does the rewind handle spin while you’re winding on to the next frame? If it does then there’s film in it!
Alternatively, you can take a look at what your film counter says, if it says anything other than 0 then there may be film in there, but not definitely!
These tips have all come from all of my silly mistakes so I hope they help you!