My Analogue Life: Best Before


The only film I can find in my home that’s not expired or short-dated is a handful of Lomography brand 35mm and a few packs of Fuji Instax instant film. The rest — all 500-plus rolls of it — is old, sometimes damaged and definitely expired. Some of it has been kept frozen all along or at least refrigerated, while there are boxes full that contain film 10, 15 or 20 years old and it’s those rolls that are often my favourites.

In particular, I love the packs of Fuji Sensia 35mm slide film that comes in a tacky “Vacation/Party Pack” complete with bad graphics and a decidedly ’90s look. That Sensia is a consumer film rather than a professional film, which means it wasn’t likely ever refrigerated, which in turn means its deterioration has been accelerated. Today, it’s brittle — almost crispy — and super-grainy. Cross-processed, the colours are poppy, producing turquoise blue skies and vivid oranges and reds reminiscent of a well-worn 1950s Technicolour movie that’s been run through a projector too many times.

I’m forever on the lookout for expired and/or damaged film. I’ve cleaned out film fridges in camera shops and always ask if there’s anything in the back room, maybe in a dusty box underneath a dozen others, filled with film many people think nobody wants. I check local buy-and-sell websites regularly and dig through the miscellaneous bins at thrift stores. Rummage and yard sales can also produce real scores.

In fact, I found the very best box of expired film at a random garage sale in a small town just outside the city just months after I started shooting with my first Holga. It was a shoebox crammed with Kodacolor and Kodachrome, rolls of super-rare Kodak Panatomic-X and at least a dozen rolls of black-and-white 620 that expired in the 1960s and ’70s.

Later, at home, I forced a roll of Kodak-X 620 that expired October 1967 into my Holga CFN and shot a series of vintage wallpapers. I then re-wound the roll and forced it in again, taking shots of my daughter. The age of the film combined with the fact that the 620 roll didn’t fit properly in my 120 camera, resulted in all kinds of wonderful scratches and grain that make the shots look as though they may have actually been shot back in 1967.

After that experience over three years ago, I was hooked. Not only is expired film usually heavily discounted compared to fresh film, the results are wonderfully unpredictable and always fun; pop a roll in your camera — you never know what you might get when it’s developed.

What experiences have you had with expired film? Share your shots and stories with me!

Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.

written by pamelaklaffke on 2010-10-27 in #lifestyle #the-world #column #kodak-x-620 #pamela-klaffke #holga-cfn #lifestyle


  1. nicolas_noir
    nicolas_noir ·

    I thrive off expired film! The most expired I have is a few rolls of Agfa Isopan Ultra - expired in Feb 69! The packaging is absolutelt fantastic and it has a handy 120 film cannister :-). I've one shot left but I'm scared to finish it! How will I ask for it to be processed? Will it even show up?!

  2. welland
    welland ·

    Ive just got into expired film and love the results. I used some 3 year out of date film in France and got amazing green affect all over it, not quite sure how or why but I love it! See my lomo home on the wall it produced a nice effect that i would not of got without it being out of date. I would love some mega old film but I have no idea where to find it!

  3. stouf
    stouf ·

    All ektachrome emulsions are wonderful after a few decades... But I am right now also enjoying Smena foto, this film has more than a grain, it's like a pattern ! Another great post Pamela !

  4. stouf
    stouf ·

    Hohoho I meant Svema...

  5. coldkennels
    coldkennels ·

    I'm a little bit unsure about expired film. Like everything, it varies. I use expired slide film all the time, and as long as it's been refrigerated, you can barely ever tell the difference. But I recently got some decade-old Kodacolor from my parents, and it's so hit-and-miss that I'm just glad I got it for free!

  6. fed
    fed ·

    I´m always on the look out for expired film! I have just recently purchased some Kodak Technical Pan 25asa expired in 1993 and some Kodak Ektachrome EPT 160Tungsten (my favorite!). Expired Slide film is my favorite because the loss of contrast complements cross-processing marvelously! Usually, with fresh film you get extreme contrast, with expired film you get more grain but more reasonable contrast in my opinion. The grain of said film sometimes reminds me of early century Autochromes. I have a small collection of Autochromes and always wondered how I could recreate that rich texture and subtle color palette.
    A definite plus is the fun in treasure hunting! A real feeling you have found something unique. A limited edition. One last chance to shoot with a film you may never come across again. A small pressure of sending it off in history with your best images possible.
    Definitely the best part of analogue photography since I have returned to it ,in my opinion.

  7. fash_on
    fash_on ·

    @fed: that's interesting because sometimes I do find new films way too contrasty for xpro, I thought I would have to just shoot on low contrast days in future, that does seem to give a nicer effect.

  8. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    nicolas_noir: great film find! (i have some rolls of agfachrome ct18 in my freezer that expired in 1974 that i have no idea what to do with either, so i don't know what you should do about the processing. i took in a roll of e-3 film from the '70s a few years ago and it wasn't marked e-3, so i just got them to process it as c-41 as i would for any e-6 slide film and the chemistry totally screwed up the lab's machines. the photos looked really cool, but i guess they took out the few rolls that were up behind it. yikes! maybe see if you can find out the chemistry online and talk to a private lab. i know there are a few people where i live that will develop odd rolls (for a steep fee), so maybe you could find someone in your part of the world.
    welland: super colours — the green really works with the pool shots! they remind me of an old movie!
    stouf: ektachrome is always fun, you're right, though the lower speeds tend to go really blue, i've found, so i just use them well, when i want things to look really blue! i have some a whole bunch of old svema b&w i haven't shot yet, but your comment reminds me i should dig it out and do something with it!
    coldkennels: indeed, the results are unpredictable and often hit-and-miss with expired film. it's great for experimentation, but i suppose if you're trying to achieve a particular look or taking photos that are really important to you, something fresh might be a good idea. personally, i love the surprise of expired film even though it doesn't turn out great every time.
    fed: great point about the contrast with expired slide film! i love the 160EPT as well and have at least 60 rolls, i think. tungsten makes it extra-fun and experimental when you shoot it in daylight. and i love your comment about expired film images being like limited editions, that's so true. and congratulations on scoring some tech pan 25: that stuff is so hard to find. i think i have 1-2 more rolls left, but i'm not ready to shoot it yet!

  9. kontrast
    kontrast ·

    real cool post!!!

  10. pamelaklaffke
    pamelaklaffke ·

    thanks, kontrast!

  11. nicolas_noir
    nicolas_noir ·

    Oooh I've got some Kodak Technical 25 as well I think. Mega long exposures I'm thinking! The Agfa is thankfully standard b&w, so I was thinking of just asking them to rate at iso 50 or lower. People say that film loses a stop per decade and it is 400 iso and 4 decades old, so will have lost at least 4 stops!

    Bad luck on the E3 - I've seen discussions about it ruining chemicals/machines before, possibly on your flickr stream or the cross processing flickr pool at least. I guess it's stuff like that that puts some processors of xpro :-(

  12. shoujoai
    shoujoai ·

    The eldest film I used expired in 1978... 4 years before I was born :)…

More Interesting Articles

  • 5 Mood Boards for Your Home

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-09-23 in #world #lifestyle
    5 Mood Boards for Your Home

    Rooms contain what the owner values or has come to hate (tucked in boxes, of course). Colors reveal mood swings. Gardens follow the season’s orders. A house keeps up with ever-changing whims and styles—one of the things that make it a home. Here’s something to inspire your next spruce-up.

  • How (Not) to Make It in New York

    written by carlybrunatti on 2015-09-05 in #world #lifestyle
    How (Not) to Make It in New York

    Everything I had fit into eight boxes and two suitcases. That’s all I had collected in my 22 years on earth, eight boxes and two suitcases. My friends and I moved to Brooklyn in the dead of winter, just after a huge snowstorm. I came from California and had no real experience living in snow. All of it was magical to me.

  • Testing a Roll of Found Film

    written by billseye on 2015-07-20 in #gear #lifestyle
    Testing a Roll of Found Film

    In one of my vintage hunts, I bought a camera for $2. It came with an unexposed roll of film. After using up the last frames, I discovered that this old camera has Lomographic qualities.

  • Shop News

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    You want your subject be the center of attention? Petzval lens photos are recognizable for sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field that will make your subjects stand out!

  • The Rescued Film Project

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-02-10 in #world #lifestyle
    The Rescued Film Project

    The Rescued Film Project collects, develops and archives undeveloped or unwanted film from all over the world. Recently, the group acquired 31 rolls at an auction in Ohio, which, as it turns out, were from World War 1 and featured some amazing photographic footage of that time. Founder and film technician Levi Bettwieser talks about this exciting project.

  • Make the Most of Your LC-Wide!

    written by Alexandra Pillet on 2015-06-18 in #world #tipster
    Make the Most of Your LC-Wide!

    The LC-Wide: it's compact, but wide. It’s an amazing little beast that will adapt itself to all weathers, all kinds of film rolls. How to find more (crazy) ways to shoot with it? Here are a few ways!

  • Trusty Bags for Trusty Cameras

    written by lomography on 2015-10-17 in #gear #news
    Trusty Bags for Trusty Cameras

    We spend copious amounts of time stalking camera forums and researching specifications that "hunter" seems a more fitting term than "collector." And yet, when the time comes to pack all this game—the new or thrillingly ancient cameras—we DIY padding on the spot. (Guilty of trying to avoid the unappealing gear bag from the department store.) Last year though we stocked up on camera bags that are as cool as they are protective. Here are some of them.

  • Shop News

    The Lomography Experimental Lens Kit opens up a new, creative photographic domain!

    The Lomography Experimental Lens Kit opens up a new, creative photographic domain!

    Satisfy your hunger for creative snap-shooting with this lens package made especially for Micro 4/3 digital cameras! Don't miss the 20% discount!

  • The Lomo LC-A Goes to Vienna

    written by Andreas Bischoff on 2015-02-06 in #world #locations
    The Lomo LC-A Goes to Vienna

    Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria. It has been mentioned in a myriad of pop culture references in books, music, and film, and is also the home of the Lomography headquarters. The history of Vienna stretches back to a far 500 BC, which is why it’s no surprise that the city is steeped in rich, unique, and fascinating culture and history that has inspired artists of all generations.

  • Reviving An Old Polaroid 1000 Camera

    written by Wessel de Haas on 2015-02-13 in #gear #reviews
    Reviving An Old Polaroid 1000 Camera

    Some time ago, my parents-in-law gave me an old Polaroid camera that they used during my wife's childhood. After some investigation, I found out that Polaroid had stopped making instant film. But the factory in Enschedé, the Netherlands had been taken over by The Impossible Project, so I bought a package of fresh film and gave it a try!

  • Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-04-22 in #gear #news
    Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    Capture the world and all its contours in vibrant, wide-angled photographs any time, any where! The LC-A 120 is an adventure of its own with lots of exciting functions to experiment with, like seamless long exposures or full ISO control. It's also super-fast and ultra-compact - perfect for your everyday. If you're worried about the Medium Format film, don't be! You are free to use any 120 Film you want and there are plenty to choose from. In fact, that's what makes this camera so versatile! Scroll through this gallery for a little taste of the glorious shots this nifty invention is capable of.

  • Shop News

    the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

     the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

    Let your loved one pick the gift of their dreams. Lomography Online Shop Gift Certificates are the perfect present for every analogue devotee on your gift list

  • Lantern Slides From the 'Psychic Photography From a New Angle' Series

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-07-01 in #world #lifestyle
    Lantern Slides From the 'Psychic Photography From a New Angle' Series

    Mysterious apparitions and other inexplicable phenomena on film, or generally speaking, for that matter, are as highly debated topics today as they were many decades ago. In 1934, a certain Mr. C.P. MacCarthy of 15 Wilkinson Street, Sheffield held a lecture at 76 Clarkehouse Road located in the same city to "demonstrate under test conditions Fake Psychic Photography" before an invited committee. MacCarthy's demonstration was accompanied by a series of photographs titled "Psychic Photography From a New Angle."

  • 'Aniki-Bòbò': A Tribute to Manoel De Oliveira

    written by sirio174 on 2015-04-08 in #world #lifestyle
    'Aniki-Bòbò': A Tribute to Manoel De Oliveira

    This article is a tribute to the great Portuguese film director Manoel de Oliveira, who died last April 2. With an old Praktica loaded with a roll of black and white film, I captured so enthusiastically his city Oporto (Porto) with its famous Ribeira district, the most characteristic of the Lusitanian town. It was here that more than 70 years ago, Manoel De Oliveira created a timeless masterpiece: "Aniki-Bòbò"!

  • A Photo Board of 1960s Fashion

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-06-06 in #world #lifestyle
    A Photo Board of 1960s Fashion

    If theater has the stage then fashion has photography. It is through pictures that trends and new looks are wheeled from coast to coast. Even 50-year-old prints can sway next generations of fashion plates. Take Jacqueline Kennedy's shipshape style and the mod crowd of New York and London, all veritable influencers until today.