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Frozen In Time: Why you Should Freeze your Films

Although a lot of us love using expired films, some of us still love the sharp clean and fresh look of well... fresh film. But what do you do to keep expired films looking fresh? FREEZE 'EM

2008 was a bad year for me when it comes to Lomography and film photography in general. I sold my Fisheye and LC-A in order to pay some “debts”, and to buy some other things. I usually keep my exposed films in the freezer even during that time. So from 2009 – mid 2012 I’ve totally forgotten about Lomography and all the film I kept frozen; damn that xbox. (Note that most of those were expired since 2001 – onwards).

So, fast forward to this year, we decided to buy a newer and bigger refrigerator and had to clean out the old one. What do I find? A frozen, plastic box with about 20 rolls inside! I take it out and see little tiny canisters frozen shut. I decided to have them developed at the local lab (when I say “local” I mean 4 miles away, ugh) and have them developed. I’ve used expired film before and they usually come out a bit yellowish or washed out depending on the brand. But, to my surprise, the negatives came back as good as new or well uhm… fresh.

(Sorry, I only scanned a few shots)

So if you want fresh film but love the affordability of expired then I’d recommend you freeze them

Here are some tips(ter?) on how to freeze the properly

For 35mm film

  • keep the film in their plastic canisters to avoid moisture forming in the film itself
  • seal them in a plastic container. A ziplock bag is recommended
  • If you want to keep them organized, but the bags in another container.

For 120 film

  • wrap them up in foil to prevent the film from getting wet. 120 has less protection that 35mm
  • It is up to you if you want to seal them in ziplock bags, but for me, 3 layers of aluminum foil is alright

Remember, it is advised to thaw the films at room temperature before developing them or sending them off to the lab to avoid condensation which will destroy your film (I use avoid a lot, and parentheses.)

written by folieadude


  1. andrus_n


    I dont keep my 35mm frozen - just in a normal refridgerator - they are not exposed yet.
    Is that enough for couple of years - or should I deep-freeze them rather?

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  2. megaman49


    I deep freeze mine....I have film that expired in the 1950s so I don't want it aging any more. Just remember to let it thaw a bit before shooting and before loading if your camera has a motorized film transport.

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  3. folieadude


    @andru_n I think it's fine to keep unexposed rolls in the ref. Refrigeration slows down the degrading process considerably while freezing stops it completely. Unexposed film is also less sensitive to changes so It can last 3 - 7 years depending on the kind of film :D
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  4. myloft


    thanks for this article, have been thinking of storing some expired film i have but afraid i might do.something wrong and ruin the film (or my cameras) instead. just wondering how long i should.leave it out after taking out of the refrigerator vs freezer before loading it into the camera? also, i read that i should be thawing it while keeping it in the plastic canisters?
    appreciate the help! @folieadude @andrus_n @megaman49

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  5. folieadude


    @myloft It's best to leave them out overnight to thaw just to be safe when it's stored in the freezer. For the ref, I let it sit in my pocket for about an hour or so. As for the thawing them inside the cannisters, I'm not really sure since I always thaw them inside the plastic cannisters.
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  6. myloft


    @folieadude hmm okay, thanks so much! will go try it out. just really afraid that I do it wrongly and the condensation ruins everything (both film and camera...)...

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  7. megaman49


    @myloft I don't have tons of patience so I usually put the film in my pocket for about an hour outside of the canister. Of course only about half the film I have uses canisters anyway. If you are more pressed for time and taking pictures under studio lights you can hold the film under studio lights and rotate it until all sides are warm (not burning hot) to touch. The biggest two concerns with using film when its cold is that it can become brittle and tear and that the film slows down. I've never had film tear and I've been out shooting when it is -20F and colder (I don't have a high speed motor drive on any of mine just the built in drive on my a2). I have had several shots end up underexposed because the emulsion was cold, but again i'm not very patient. Also 120, 220, and sheet films thaw faster than 35mm and the final note on freezing film is to NEVER freeze instant films like polaroid or instax films. the built in developers won't work once they've been frozen.

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  8. myloft


    thanks for the tip @megaman49, much appreciated!

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  9. herbert-4


    In my freezer is the last 7 rolls of Aerochrome III. I have to decide what to shoot with it next...

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  10. iamtheju


    I don't keep any film in the fridge or the freezer because there is literally no space where i live. Is it worth buying a mini fridge(or freezer if they exist)? I tend to use all of the film i buy within 6 months and I haven't noticed any quality issues.

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  11. lomoherz


    @folieadude Great, the pictures really do look „fresh“ :)
    What do you think is the minimum freezing time?

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish, Türkçe & Deutsch.