How To Retrieve The Film Leader From A 35mm Canister

There are a few reasons why you might want to get the film back out from the canister of a 35mm roll after you finished shooting it.

Maybe you need the leader out to re-load and shoot the roll again for multiple exposures, get the film started onto the developing reel, or maybe it was just rewound back into the canister accidentally.

Whatever the reason, it’s an easy fix! If you have an extra negative or another roll of film around you’ll be able to pull the leader back out without a problem.

Step by Step Directions

  1. Slowly twist the rewound roll near your ear listening for a click
  2. As soon as it clicks, stop rolling
  3. Take another (flat) negative a few inches long
  4. Lick or wet one end of the negative on the emulsion (dull) side
  5. Insert the wet side down into the canister about 1″-2″
  6. Slowly roll the canister spool CCW until it pulls the wet negative piece in
  7. Keep tension on the spool with your fingers and pinch the negative
  8. Release the spool tension as you slowly pull the negative back out
  9. Your leader inside the canister should come out with the negative!

Sometimes it takes a few tries to pull the leader out, but this method is my go-to and works for me almost 100% of the time.

Something worth mentioning is that if you need to do this for multiple rolls, I recommend using a different fresh section of negative for each new roll. (I just cut back the wet slobbered-on part to a dry area and re-wet).

Other Methods

There are other ways to do this as well using some tape or a leader retrieval tool. If you want to visually see the retrieval process check out the video below where I show examples of how to do all three ways.

Happy fishing!


YouTube player

Amazon Affiliate Links:

Kaiser Film Retriever

Kodak Portra 35mm Film (5 pack)
Tmax 400 (35mm, 5 Rolls)
Tmax 400 (120, 1 Roll)
Tmax 400 (120, 5 Rolls)

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