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.

Photos by @kpcmendiola, @angelobrandesphoto

Overexpose the film – There is a general rule that expired film should be overexposed by 1 stop for every decade it is out of date. So for example if you have a 400 ISO film that expired 10 years ago, you should rate it at 200 ISO when shooting it now.

Bracket your shots – Because of the unpredictability of expired film bracketing your shots is always a good idea. This is simply taking the same shot multiple times with different exposures. First take a shot at what you suspect will be the correct speed for your particular roll of expired film, then take the exact same shot one stop overexposed, and another one stop underexposed. This will help to ensure you get the best results possible out of your film.

Photos by @ethermoon, @kongdechwn, @megalithicmatt

Shoot a test roll – If you’ve got your hands on a whole batch of expired film, don’t go out and shoot all the rolls you have before getting them developed. Instead shoot just one roll as a test to see what kind of condition the film is in. This way you’ll have a better idea about how to shoot the remaining rolls you have.

Experiment and have fun! – If you’re choosing to shoot expired film, chances are you’re open to some unpredictability in your photography practice, so embrace the randomness and enjoy the experience. Hopefully you’ll get some truly weird and wonderful results.

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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.

  • 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.

  • 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. No special adjustments need to be made.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Can expired film still be used?

    Can expired film still be used?

    Yes, photographic film is often okay to use beyond its expiration date. The extent to which you will notice effects of the film’s age depends on how many years the film has expired by, as well as the conditions it has been stored in.