Shooting expired film?

Since we received a couple of boxes of expired film, production of which stopped in 2012,  we have been asked by a lot of people if it is still ok to shoot with and why using expired film is still viable. So we want to explore some of the top reasons why we would say shooting expired film is a great idea and where to get your hands on some.

Firstly, we should probably look at why Film has an expiration date. When film is produced it has a certain light sensitivity rating called the ISO. This allows you the shooter to know how to expose the film correctly. When the manufacturer places the Expiry Date on the film they are essentially saying – up to this date we guarantee that this film will perform at that ISO, anything afterwards we cannot guarantee. So the main difference in using expired film and fresh film is that the expired film will have lost some of its sensitivity and you can just compensate for that with your exposure.

So what are the results then that get us so excited? Expired film often has more contrast and more intense colours. The colours also tend to change a little bit, but all of this is speculation as each film reacts differently and therefore tends to surprise you.

Another major factor is price. Since Film production slowed down in the 90’s and people have moved over to the digital era, film prices have sky rocketed. This makes being part of a smaller group of analogue lovers, a little pricey. Expired film does not have the same commercial value as film that is within its sell by date so you are able to pick it up for really cheap. In addition, since major brands have stopped film production on some of their lines, buying expired film allows you to pick up some film stocks that are no longer in production.

Before buying or shooting with expired film here are a few things to consider:

  • Can the film stock you purchased still be processed
  • Do you recognise the films brand? If not, Google it.
  • Can the seller confirm that the stock was kept in a fridge?
  • Can the film work in the cameras you have access to?

Now to look at the most common places to pick up film:

  • E-bay/bid or buy etc. With the global community becoming more reachable due to the internet we are now able to find most things online. The prize that you are looking for is a pro-photographer who has switched to digital and wants to get rid of his film. This photographer has probably kept it in the fridge and even though it is old, will be perfect to shoot with!
  • If it is a camera shop or pharmacy selling expired film, make sure that you check the expiry date and that they have stored it in the fridge. If it has been at room temperature and it predates 2007, forget about it rendering perfect results.
  • Another person you may find online (gumtree) is someone who has come across a batch of stock but has no idea what it is or how it was stored. The big risk factor here is that the film could have been stored at room temperature and not yielded the results you were expecting. This is not necessarily a bad thing however and the results may actually pleasantly surprise you. Just do not shoot an important job on this as you may disappoint a client.
  • The lomo store has an amazing selection of expired film that they have been collecting this is also a good place to visit as you know they have been stored correctly.

Either way no matter who you are getting the film from it is important to ask questions. The more you know the more you will be able to weigh up.

Remember:

  • Expired film is cheaper
  • It yields unpredictable results
  • You could land up working with something that is going extinct.

All of the above are reasons we get excited when we see expired film. Let us know if you have any more reasons by leaving a post at the bottom of this page.

Shot on a Yashica TLR using tungsten balanced expired film. We love the colours.

Shot on expired Ekta E100 vs

Shot by Lomographer – Novakmisi

 

* Warning*
In this Image Lomography had cooked the fresh film in the oven to speed up the expiration.