A guide to expired film

A guide to expired film

What is expired film?

All rolls of film come with an expiry date, shooting within this ensures that the images are as the manufacturer intended. However this does not mean film that has expired is no longer usable.

Why shoot film that has expired in the first place?

Lots of films have been discontinued therefore the only way to shoot that film stock is to use expired film.

New film can be expensive so shooting expired film can be a cheap way of testing out your new camera.

As the film ages there is a colour shift, resulting in some unique effects that fresh film simply cannot produce.

Tips for shooting expired film

The older the roll of film is, the less sensitive it is to light. Therefore to compensate for this you need to overexpose it.

A general rule is to overexpose your film by 1 stop for every 10 years that it is out of date.

What does this mean?

  • If a 400 ISO film expired 10 years ago then it should be shot at 200 ISO
  • If it had expired 20 years ago then it should be shot at 100 ISO

How will the results come out?

Film is sensitive to high temperatures, if the roll has been stored in a cool place, such as dark cupboard or even in the freezer, then the colours will be better preserved. Higher quality and lower ISO film stocks are also more likely to last.

Here are some results from a roll of Ilford HP4 that expired in 1977:

Taken in Herefordshire using a Minolta XD7
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