How to develop expired film?

Most of the time you can develop expired film normally, the same as you would with any regular roll of film. However you may come across an old film for which the intended development process is no longer available. Kodachrome is one well known example of this as it used the now defunct K-12 or K-14 processes. There are several other films that similarly were designed to be processed in chemicals that no longer exist. It may still be possible to recover images from some of these by developing them as black-and white or consulting experts such as Film Rescue International.

Photos by @ethermoon and @marcus_loves_film

You could also push your film in development to rescue images that may be underexposed from degradation of the emulsion. However pushing film can also heighten the visibility of grain and fogging. Find out more about pushing and pulling film.

Finally you could cross-process your expired film. This just means processing the film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film. Color shifts will always occur with cross-processing but it can be a good way to add contrast, particularly to expired slide film.

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  • For how long is expired film still ok to use?

    For how long is expired film still ok to use?

    There’s no hard rule about how long a film will still be usable for past its expiry date. It all depends how the film has been stored before you shoot it. Film that has been kept in high temperatures, sunlight, or humidity will have degraded much faster than film that has been kept in cool, dark and dry conditions.

  • How should film be stored?

    How should film be stored?

    Photographic film should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place. Keeping film in these conditions is the best way to slow down its gradual degradation.

  • Is nearly expired film still ok to use?

    Yes! Photographic film should be absolutely fine to use up until the expiry date indicated on the box, and shooting with film that is close to its expiry date will not give your photos any unusual effects or color shifts.

  • Can I still develop expired film?

    Yes, in most cases expired film can still be developed normally. Though there may be some visible degradation noticeable in the final images, depending on how many years the film has expired by, as well as the conditions it has been stored in.

  • Do I need to overexpose expired film?

    Yes, when shooting expired film it’s a good idea to overexpose. This is because as film ages and the emulsion degrades, it loses sensitivity, meaning that it needs more light to expose the image correctly.

  • Will expired film damage my camera?

    No, using expired film in your camera will not cause any damage to the camera itself.

  • What do photos taken with expired film look like?

    What do photos taken with expired film look like?

    Photos taken with expired film are often characterised by prominent grain, low contrast and noticeable color shifts.

  • What are some tips for shooting expired film?

    Shooting with expired film will always be unpredictable, since there is no way to know exactly how much the film has degraded over time and therefore what the end results will look like. However there are a few steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting decent photos from expired film.

  • Why do some people like to shoot expired film?

    Why do some people like to shoot expired film?

    Some photographers use expired film because they like the unique look it gives their photos. As photographic film ages it tends to have decreased contrast, increased grain, and significant color shifts.