How to Use Expired Film

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Why does a film expire? What's the difference between expired film and fresh film? You'll find the answers to these questions and more in this Tipster!

Here in the Lomo world you hear about expired film A LOT, and it is something we all want to or have tried. The ones who haven’t tried it can be afraid of buying something that supposedly doesn’t work anymore, but is it true that expired film doesn’t work anymore? I don’t think so.

First, I’ll tell you why the film manufacturers put an expiration date on the film and for that I have to explain you the nature of the emulsion.

When a film stock is produced (which can contain many film rolls) it is made to achieve certain sensibility (or speed), a.k.a. ISO (or ASA); it can be 400 ISO or 100 ISO or 800 ISO. Then it gets out of the factory and sent to the store for people to buy it. There’s no way for you as a consumer to know how the film was transported or stored before it arrives to your hands, and depending on those conditions (temperature, lighting, humidity) the film can lose a certain amount of sensibility. That’s why you can sometimes buy a film rated 800 ISO but in reality its sensibility is 400 ISO. This can be a lost of one step, and sometimes you don’t even notice it.

Now, the date the manufacturers use as expiration date is the one they can assure the film to not have lost a lot of its sensibility and in a way to still be the one printed in the package. After the day the film expires, the manufacturer is not responsible of the problems you may encounter when using it, but the emulsion still works properly. The thing is, it is less sensible.

The main difference between fresh and expired film is that when using fresh film you can trust in its native ISO value and when using expired you can’t.

Credits: hervinsyah

So, there’s no problem when using expired film and the only thing you have to take into consideration is that you’ll need more light than stated. If you buy a roll of film that expired two years ago and it is supposed to be 400 ISO, maybe you should shoot it as 100 ISO. Knowing that in advance, you won’t have problems using the insanely fun expired film and the results will be great. And what are the effects on the image when using expired film?

Well, you get more contrast and intense colors. Also, the colors can change a little bit. For example, If you had a light blue it can get a bit of purple; but this isn’t always true, they can change in different ways or they can stay the same. This is what makes expired film so exciting, the results may vary from one to another and the results can really surprise you!

Credits: kylewis, elvismartinezsmith, hervinsyah & ceduxi0n

Don’t be afraid to experiment with expired film! You’ll love it!

written by antoniodezner on 2012-03-07 in #gear #tipster #tipster #film #emulsion #experimenting #sensibility #iso #contrast #how-to #expired

37 Comments

  1. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    @mikeydavies : Thank you very much =D

  2. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    @antoniodezner : Thank you very much for using my photo. It's the first time my photo used by other at this site & I'm very honoured of it =D

  3. mikeydavies
    mikeydavies ·

    nice pic @hervinsyah and nice article @antoniodezner :)

  4. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @hervinsyah the photo is great! I saw when I was looking for expired film photography and thought it was really cool! :D

    @mikeydavis thank you! :)

  5. jochan
    jochan ·

    great photos..

  6. radiactive
    radiactive ·

    Thanks for this article! Right now i am shooting with expired film and i am excited and a little afraid because it expired in 2009 and i didn't know anything about the ISO thing... :S

  7. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @radiactive you're welcome! yeah, you should shoot it as it was a lower ISO... Good luck! I bet you'll have amazing results! :)

  8. fizzynothing
    fizzynothing ·

    Thanks for the article, I'm a complete newbie at this and this was very useful and helpful.

  9. kblair82
    kblair82 ·

    Thank you! I recently bought several rolls of expired film. This helps me a lot :)

  10. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @fizzynothing thanks to you for reading it! :) if you have any doubts don't hesitate on asking me!

  11. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @kblair82 Wow! That's so cool! When you develop them and upload them let me know so I can see the results! :) I bet they'll be awesome!

  12. parky
    parky ·

    great article! How about this for pushing the boundaries of expired film... www.lomography.nl/homes/parky/albums/1764455-the-spirit-of-…

  13. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @parky It is amazing how the grain grew a lot! It looks like if it was texturized or something! Amazing results!

  14. mgferrer
    mgferrer ·

    any tips on very expired film? - i found some old 35 mm film while cleaning house, and i reckon it's at least 7-8 years old...

  15. mj_crn
    mj_crn ·

    EXPIRED FILM IS THE BEST:)

  16. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @mj_crn agree! :)

  17. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @mgferrer it will need a lot more light than it is supposed to, but i can bet it'll work properly... try to shoot it in a very sunny day or in a situation with a lot of light... you'll probably need 2 or 3 iso steps lower... what's its iso value?

    but i'm sure it'll work, look... @parky shot a 35 mm film that expired over 40 years ago! www.lomography.nl/homes/parky/albums/1764455-the-spirit-of-… and that's a lot! that's why it looks so grainy... but your film will look ok! :D

  18. mgferrer
    mgferrer ·

    @antoniodezner thanks! It's 400ISO. I'll try it out soon & will post photos

  19. kynland
    kynland ·

    love the article. It gave me the lil' push i sometimes need before experimenting with something=) namaste

  20. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @mgferrer great! let me know when you post them :)

  21. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @kynland that's awesome! :) i'm glad it helped you! go for it and experiment as much as you can!

  22. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    AMAZING. I saw this article announce at the most popular article of the week at Competition's page today. CONGRATS =D

  23. iamzackary
    iamzackary ·

    Wicked article! Nice to finally know what it's all about :)

  24. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @hervinsyah Thank you! :)

  25. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @iamzackary It is great to know it helped you!

  26. geiza_dobashi
    geiza_dobashi ·

    Just about to start using some b&w and colour film that expired in 1959 & 1960. 400iso & 100iso speed. And how on earth do it drop it a few stops. I read you sould drop an f stop for each decade that the film expired??? So five f-stops.
    Should i just hold out on using the film until the sun is shinning better and maybe just use it at its original iso setting, or half it????

  27. geiza_dobashi
    geiza_dobashi ·

    All of which i am thinking of selling... But do not know if i should?!

  28. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @geiza_dobashi Well, yeah you should use it in a very sunny day... About the one stop for every decade, it is an estimate and sometimes it may not be very accurate because it also depends on the conditions the film was storaged... You could use it with its original iso setting but you'll need to remember to drop a few stops in every shot and never use the time and f number that your exposimeter says as it would give a dark picture.... That's why it is easier to just set a different iso setting directly to your camera in order to shot as your exposimeter says... If you camera can't do with low iso settings you'll have to remember to drop stops in every shot... 5 stops seems to be ok, but you can experiment with 3 or 4 or even 6 in different shots and see what happens

  29. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @geiza_dobashi don't sell them, it is a nice opportunity to experiment.... Also, @parky shot a film that expired in 69... He could help you and tell you what he did and how he exposed it, i'm sure he could give you some tips! Check his album for his 69 expired film! Good luck with your expired films! I'm looking forward to see the results!

  30. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    @geiza_dobashi : How about exchange with my 2 Kodak Ektacolor 120mm? =D

  31. iamtheju
    iamtheju ·

    I have no idea how old my expired films are as they don't seem to tell me. so i'm just going to use them the same way i use all of my films: completely blindly.

  32. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @iamtheju hahahaha that could be very interesting! Try to overexpose it a little bit... just in case!

  33. mgferrer
    mgferrer ·

    @antoniodezner ok - I developed the old kodak film and got some pretty good results just with the Diana F+, I tried exposing it bit - <a href="www.lomography.nl/homes/mgferrer/photos/15756953?utm_source…" title="on the swing"><img src="assets5.lomography.com/576/384/78/4c39eaccf8ee33c75c08f87a1…" width="576" height="384" alt="on the swing" /></a> I will go through & post more, I just got some of my negatives mixed up while I was scanning, so I need to sort through which ones came from which rolls of film...

  34. antoniodezner
    antoniodezner ·

    @mgferrer The photo looks really good! Nice colors! I'm really happy you tried expired films and got cool results!

  35. af-capture
    af-capture ·

    nice article....nice pic my friend @hervinsyah

  36. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    @af-capture : Thanks =)

  37. manuel8121
    manuel8121 ·

    I have a question: do you think that would work an expired film in 1953?

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