I am very new to photography. I bought a Zenit 12xp and color film for it. I loaded the film in the camera but I can't take any photos. When I take a picture and remove the film and hold it up to the light, I don't see anything. Is there something I missed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The user manual for your camera is available online. It's also available in French. Ensure you read it and understand how to use your camera properly. Have a look at this short introductory video on film photography too. If you are still having problems, I'd advise finding a local camera store if possible, and ask one of the assistants there for a few pointers to begin. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Twenty years ago, this kind of question would have been a joke. Today, it's a serious and reasonable question for folks who've grown up with digital... \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth adding that the thing you expected to happen does exist, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_film (or colloquially "polaroid"). But it needs that specific kind of film and camera. \$\endgroup\$
    – tevemadar
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon Times, they are a changin :) I was out taking pictures with my film camera the other day and my friend's son was baffled that he couldn't see the pictures right then and there. (He's 16) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Is there something I missed?" Yes. Yes, there is. \$\endgroup\$
    – Martha
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


It seems you've significantly misunderstood how film photography works. You missed the key step of film development (also known as film processing).

The entire strip of film is sensitive to light – and extremely sensitive to light, at that. The camera itself can be thought of as a simple light-tight box, protecting the film from light. Once the film is loaded, then every time the film is advanced, more unexposed film is drawn out of the film cassette. When you take a photo, the shutter opens for a set amount of time – usually a tiny fraction of a second – allowing in just enough light for an image to be formed on the film inside. But the film is still sensitive to further light exposure at this stage. If you open the back of the camera, or pull the film out of the cassette, you are flooding all visible film with light – so much so that the film will be entirely overexposed, will not produce any usable photos, and cannot be salvaged. Once film is exposed to light, this cannot be undone.

The text in bold above talks about an image being formed on the film, but it's not a "real" image at this point; it's an "invisible" latent image. To turn the latent image into a real image, we need to perform the key step in film photography, i.e. the film must be developed. That means putting the film through some chemicals, which will turn the latent images on the film into visible negatives/positives. Again, this has to happen in complete darkness. The film will also be fixed so that it can now be exposed to light without any further exposure of the film. It's at this point that the images on the roll of film can be examined and scanned/printed/projected.

So, the process should be: Load film in your camera, take all the photos to use up the full roll of film, rewind the film back into its cassette according to the instructions for your camera, remove the film cassette from the camera without any film being visible, and take it / send it to a photo lab for developing.

Take a look at this video which shows the method of developing traditional black & white film, and another video showing the process used for colour film in a commercial photo lab.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zibelas that is not required when loading film. Most film cassettes assume you won't be using the start of the roll anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarrelHoffman what was really annoying was when the last picture you squeezed out of the roll was half-film and half-leader. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not so much that it has to be developed, it's that it has to be fixed following being bathed in developer. Developed but unfixed film can still be exposed to additional light and developed repeatedly for some interesting effects. It's the fixer that makes it no longer light sensitive and thus observable without instantly fogging it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 8:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I felt really sad for the OP the moment I saw that question in a notification. Thanks for the answer. A sad lesson. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC True, but that may be more detail than necessary for a beginner. Most people (even before film cameras were mostly supplanted by digital) don't need to think about the various rounds of chemicals that go into developing film (particularly if it's color film), and just refer to the whole process as "developing". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:33

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