This past Tuesday, the Ides of March, is also Expired Film Day. So I figured I would do a post about shooting expired film along with tips/tricks that I’ve come across with shooting old/expired film stocks. While I do a majority of my shooting with fresh film stock there is a certain level of fun and intrigue when shooting with expired film stock.
1. You can Shoot Film that is no longer available fresh.
There are plenty of film stocks out there that is new that you can often make behave like well loved film stock in the past but it just never will be the same. These days you can’t go out and pick up a fresh roll of Plus-X or Panatomic-X not to mention tonnes of other film stocks that have been discontinued and are only available in expired stocks. But if you’re lucky you can pick up only slightly expired.
2. You know Instagram/Hipstamic…where do you think they got the idea from?
All that strange colour shifting, gritty, odd looks that you get with your favourite application those old rolls of colour films you have laying around that may have been stored in a dodgy area, you’re going to love some of the stranger shifts that you can get with older film stocks like Fuji Velvia, Kodak Ektachrome, and more!
3. It’s Cheap!
Many folks out there are looking to save several dollars these days well short dated film could be your answer! Seriously, if you frequent camera sales (the big ones with lots of vendors) you can usually find the film bins filled with the 1-2$ rolls of 120/35mm that you can pick through to find some deals. Nothing like walking out with twenty rolls for that bill in your wallet. And often it’s the best deal you can get at these shows. Not to mention FPP Retrochrome is cheap fun slide film and of course massive film lots from Ebay!
Of course there are some pitfalls and things to look out for when buying expired film and some ideas when shooting the stock once you get it.
1. Storage – Usually try to purchase film that have either been frozen or refrigerated, most Ebay auctions will give you some idea of how it was stored, and vendors at shows are usually up front. I’ve shot some dodgy Kodachrome and some frozen stock and the difference is night and day.
2. Processing – This is mostly important for Slide and Colour Negative films, before we got to our C-41 and E-6 processes today there were several older methods. Today most labs cannot process these older stocks so you’re on your own or sending them off to Film Rescue International, The Darkroom, or Blue Moon Camera and Machine to get done up in B&W chemistry, just be sure to reach out to them first (and the folks that run these companies know their shit) before just sending off random rolls. And while we’re on the topic, I would personally avoid Kodachrome, while you can process it in B&W chemistry it’s really mess and not worth the effort.
3. Pulling the Film – Pulling film is shooting it at a slower speed, the guideline is usually 1 stop per decade. This means that if you have a roll of Kodak High Definition Film that expired in 1994 and has a box speed (the film speed printed on the box) of ASA-400, you’ll want to shoot the film at ASA-100 so two stops. A stop is halving the speed of the film (ASA-400/2 = ASA-200/2 = ASA-100). Of course there are some films that can handle their full box speeds even expired. I’ve shot Plus-X, Panatomic-X, Verichrome Pan, FP4, Pan F all at box speeds with some rolls having expired in the 1960s and the results were fantastic! Of course if you change the film speeds you’ll need to adjust your developing times.
And that’s about it! Now go out there are scour ebay and your aunt’s house for some tasty film treats to run through your cameras. Of course you can also purchase some great stocks from the Film Photography Project Store!