I am a total film shooting newbie and while winding my film back up in the canister I did not notice that i was accidentally turning in the opposite direction of the arrow.

I then opened my camera and the whole roll of film was rolled around the spool, completely detached from the canister.

Is there a chance that the outer layers of film might have protected the rest of it and that some pictures might not be ruined?

If so, how do I transport the film to a lab if I don't want to leave the camera with the film inside there?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant: photo.stackexchange.com/q/113950/9161 and photo.stackexchange.com/q/88174/9161 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you immediately close the camera back to minimize exposing the film to light? A short exposure to light may not have ruined the whole roll but anything more then a second or two will affect at least the edges, if not the center, of the inner part of the roll. Develop and see, report back. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ What specific film camera do you have? A lot would depend on the kind of takeup spool the camera has on the other end from the film cartridge.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


I'll contradict @TimCampbell on this -- it's very likely that the outer film layers protected the film toward the core of the spool to some extent. The film will likely show some light striking at the edges and through sprocket holes over its full length, but images from the early frames are likely to be salvageable, especially if you were in "subdued light" when you opened the camera.

If you have a local lab that you go to directly, you could take the camera there and explain the situation; they can open the camera in a dark box, remove the film and put it into a cassette, and then process it for you (assuming it's C-41, or that they handle whatever sort of film it is).

Otherwise, you can do this yourself -- but you'll need a changing bag or a room you can make completely dark (a bathroom with no windows, black masking tape over the door closure, and a towel stuffed into the crack at the bottom works well). Then, by feel, you'll need to unwind the film from the takeup spool, roll it up, and slip it into a black film can (if you have one) or wrap it in several layers of aluminum foil.

Once the film is safely protected from further light exposure, you're ready to send it off for processing. Be sure to clearly mark the foil packet as having unprotected film inside, and to open only in total darkness.

Of course, if you're already processing your own film, you can bypass some of this -- just unload the camera in your darkroom or changing bag and load it directly into a processing tank. Once that's securely closed, the hard part is done.


I'm thinking you were using 35mm film? (which was the most common type that would get wound back into it's original canister).

If you opened the back of the camera in the light (which is the normal thing to do) then light would be all of the film. At a minimum most of the edges of the frames will be ruined ... and that assumes the layers of film were pretty tight so as to be light-proof. But that's unlikely to have been the case if you rolled the film the wrong way (I'm a little surprised it didn't just jam and refuse to light you unroll it).

It doesn't take long for light to flood the film (remember that exposures are typically a fraction of a second -- and the back of the camera was probably open for many seconds.)

I'd chalk this one up to experience. If you are planning to develop your own film, use a spoiled roll to practice things like loading it onto the developer spools, etc. in the light ... and then re-practice loading it in the dark. So maybe you keep the spoiled roll for practice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ever seen a movie film roll? Typically the only protection for all the film on the roll is the outer layer or two -- which is just film, not leader. It's very likely that more than half of the film on the takeup spool is okay. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 15:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon I hear you, but movie rolls are snug and neatly wound onto a take-up reel. This film was being forced out of the canister and not onto any take-up spool. Once the back door of the camera is open, there's nothing to hold it in place. OP can try to develop it ... I would not have an expectation of success. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimCampbell It sounds to me like the film was still wound around the camera's takeup spool on the other side of the camera from the film cartridge. Pushing the end of the film out of the cannister should not appreciably loosen the film at the other end. It would all depend on the diameter of the camera's takeup spool and whether that takeup spool has circular ends on it. A Pentax K1000 with a skinny spool would protect the film better than an autowinder with a fat rubber roller for a takeup spool. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 6:17

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