Shooting with Expired Film


Shooting with expired film is always a gamble. If you remember to expect the unexpected you'll always be pleased. In the end, isn't that what it's all about?

Cross processing can cause grain and changes in exposure. I think the culprit here may be the Sensia 100 being expired!

The final rule of Lomography is perhaps the most important one, the one that free’s us from constraint and allows us to unleash our creativity. It’s emblazoned on the website and printed in bold in every book the LSI publishes. “10 › Don’t worry about any rules.”

However, there is one rule we cannot avoid. One truth we’ve all felt at one point in time and it’s this… New film is expensive. So much so that if you trawl the net or charity shops a new second hand camera can be cheaper. The LSI produce a range of good, cheaper films than what I have available to me in the shops, but to only use that limits the range of what’s possible.

I deal with this by shooting almost exclusively with expired film, and this is how I deal with it.

1. Acquiring expired film.
Here in New Zealand, we don’t have access to charity shops in the same way the rest of you might. Pretty much all our dealing in second hand anything has to be done through our own version of a certain online auction site. We’re limited. So I watch this like a hawk and when I can, get a big batch from a photographer who needs the reliability of new film or has switched to digital.

When it goes right – it can be wonderful. My biggest score of cheap expired film included about 15 rolls of Provia 100F, absolutely beautiful when cross processed!

2. Film age.
I try to limit myself to film from the last decade or two, if it expired earlier than the mid 90’s it really is a gamble. So I don’t buy massive batches of that. If I come across something interesting I’ll give it a go. I’ve a Kodak T64 in the fridge for a special occasion that expired in 1980-something.

Once again, nothing wrong with this batch of Sensia 200 when cross-processed!

3) Looking after it.
Once purchased, I put mine straight into the fridge. I have a big enough collection for it to live in it’s own fridge. Chilling film helps keep it fresh, like food. All my film lives here, new and old. So it’s important with the expired stuff to keep it as fresh as possible. Don’t freeze it, I’ve heard you can cause reticulation this way though not experienced it.

4) Shooting with it.
The effects of expired film are many. The two we’re most concerned with are colour shift and sensitivity. As lomographers, we like weird effects, it’s why we cross-process expensive slide film! Colour shift in film is when one or more colours doesn’t resolve properly so it’s ‘subtracted’ from the perfect balance. This makes other colours stronger and causes the shift. Not a bad thing!

These were shot with Kodak Portra VC, very expired. VC means ‘Vivid Colour’ but that’s certainly not true, there seems to be quite a shift to the yellow end of the spectrum here, giving these images a nice creamy, almost painted look.

Expired film may be less sensitive to the light. This is the worst situation because we can’t tell how much and we don’t want underexposed negs, they mostly always just look rubbish. If you have a big batch of the same film, from the same pack and the first one is underexposed, it’s likely that all of it will be, and in that case, pretend it is a different ISO. I have some 400 speed Fuji Superia that underexposed twice. From now on I’ll shoot it at 200 to give it more light.

I bought a big batch of Fuji Superia 400, I wanted it to be my normal, backup film when I needed something for bad light. These shots all taken with an LCA+ RL should have been brighter, the day was very flary but they are all underexposed…
Same film, same place, a few weeks later. Lesson learnt! Next time shoot it at 200 ISO.

So that’s me signing off, before I go, please comment below on your expired film experience, let me know how you get on.

written by adam_g2000 on 2012-03-06 in #gear #tipster #color #sensia #shift #tipster #fuji-kodak #expired-film #iso #film #superia-colour #asa #provia


  1. renenob
    renenob ·

    good read

  2. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    Very good article and with detailed experience. I have tried 2 rolls of expired Konica Centuria, They are wonderful results, except some under exposed ones, because I shot with a Holga, and wasn't able to control the shutter speed.....<:)

  3. sommer
    sommer ·

    usefull!! :) gonna read carefully next time I use an expired film!

  4. asharnanae
    asharnanae ·

    I've only shot one expired film, the interesting thing I found is this. My film was partial exposed about 15 years ago, forgotten, then found and I finished it of recently. The old pictures were perfectly fine, and showed no colour changes at all. The new pictures however were all shifted towards purple. The most interesting bit however is where the film doubled up and overlapped, the colour shift only happened in some areas. I wonder what would happen if someone shot a whole roll, kept it for 5 years, then shot some more, waited again etc... so that you got multiple times overlapping, what would this do to the shots? who knows!

  5. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    @asharnanae bizzare, what a great experiment and discovery. I'd never expect the exposed film to retain it's qualities.

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