Common film issues and mistakes

There are some film issues that crop up time and time again; half of a photo missing, the frame cut off, or dark marks across the final image. These little mistakes and problems are often easy to fix if you know what's causing them - we've collected a diagnostic post to help you solve these common issues and capture the best photos possible!


Photo from shootitwithfilm

Light leaks 

If you keep getting white or orangey bursts across your film, often in a streak pattern, then you most probably have a light leak. Some people like the look of light leaks, and you can even buy film stocks that emulate it if you're chasing that effect. But unplanned for and unwanted light leaks can ruin otherwise ideal photos.

The most common causes of light leaks are accidentally opening the back of the camera whilst the film is loaded and a bad or missing seal. If you haven't opened the back and you're still getting lots of your photos back with streaks of light across them, you should take your camera to get serviced. Any deteriorated seals can then be replaced and the body of your camera cleaned up.


Photo from shootitwithfilm

Overlapping frames

Frame overlap is when your photos cross over with each other - when you lose portions of images because of spacing issues. This is most frequently caused by the cameras gears failing to advance the correct distance when you wind the lever, so if you're getting this consistently, take your camera in to get repaired.

Some cameras unfortunately are more prone to frame overlap, so if your model keeps doing this, it might be more cost effective to look into getting a different camera.


Photo by @thatgirlfromhk

Half frames 

Half frames are probably the most common issue on this list, and something you will inevitably end up with. This is when a portion of your image is cut off, appearing all white with an orangey border. This can happen at both ends of the roll, where the film emulsion begins and ends. They typically happen when you don't advance the film far enough, or advance it too far or if it's slightly loose on the take-up spool. Make sure you're loading the film correctly. Mechanical advancing issues could also result in you losing images at the start or end of a roll and you might need to get your camera serviced if it's happening frequently.

They can sometimes result from squeezing out a bonus shot from the actual number of images your roll is supposed to have, and some people chase this effect - there's even an exclusive community on Instagram. 


Photo from shootitwithfilm

Shutter problems 

If your photos are coming back with one side underexposed or really dark, there's most probably a mechanical issue with your shutter. It might be sticking or slowing down, and this is especially common in older camera models. Take it in to a repair shop to be serviced.


Photo from Richard Photo Lab 

Obstruction in the camera

An obstruction in your camera will result in dark marks across your images. It could be anything from hair, to dust - I once had a tiny spider find a way into my camera! Regular maintenance will help you avoid this, including cleaning the inside of your camera back with an air blower. Bigger obstructions that you can't budge yourself will call for a trip to the camera repair shop.


Photo from Richard Photo Lab 

Obstruction in the scanner

As mentioned in our post on scanning negatives, it's so important that you keep scanning beds clean and dust free. If not, obstructions in the scanner will appear on your film scans as tiny white lines or spots. Dust and scratches can easily be cleaned out of photos using software like Photoshop, but if you're scanning film yourself you can save yourself a lot of time by keeping your scanner wiped down.


Photo from Richard Photo Lab 


Fogging is similar to a light leak and causes discolouration but across the film surface as a whole, rather than in concentrated areas. It might look like the film is faded. Fogging can be caused by heat damage or light exposure and is much more common with old film. Check with a new test roll that the problem isn't with your camera - most of the time the problem is down to damaged or aged film. 


Photo from shootitwithfilm

Heat damage

Excessive heat can cause flatness, loss of contrast, fogging and spots on film. It's always best to keep your rolls somewhere cool in order to minimise any damage. Try not to leave your camera or film out in the sun or even in a hot car. 


Cover image: @pointoflulu

Author: Becca Knight 

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