How to Use Expired Film: The Complete Guide

Expired film is a cool way to get experimental and exciting results from your roll of 35mm film. Here is your full beginners guide to using expired 35mm film.

Illustration of film canister

What is expired film?

All film has an expiration date. This is the date by which the coatings of the film may start to deteriorate, and is given by manufacturers when they manufacture the film. Film that has gone past this date is referred to as expired film.

Shop our range of expired film here:

Why does film have an expiration date?

All 35mm and 120 film has an expiration date. This is because the chemicals in the film start to degrade over time, and change the coatings that were originally put on the film. 

Most film has an expiration date of a few years when purchased from new. For example, a roll of film purchased now would expire in roughly 2026. 

Person loading 35mm film into a camera

How do you use expired film?

Keep in mind that the results may vary and there is a possibility that the film may not even be usable. It's always best to use fresh film if you want predictable results.

If the expired film is only a few years expired, you may get away with using the exact same settings as normal. You can expect to receive slightly desaturated colours, and a little bit more grain. 

The longer film has been expired for, the more unpredictable your results may be. With these really expired rolls of film, you will need to compensate with your settings. 

Compensating for the expired film will not work in a DX coded point and shoot camera. You will need a camera with manual ASA settings to be able to compensate for the expired film. 

X ambassadors on film

How do you compensate when using expired film?

There is a general rule with expired film that you overexpose by one stop per decade that the film has been expired.

If you don't know about stops, then read our blog post about stops here.

For example, if you are using a ISO 400 film that is expired for 10 years, then you would meter it as if it was a ISO 200 film. 

How to overexpose expired 35mm film

How do you store expired film?

In the fridge, always! That's about it really. 

Keeping the expired film at a constant temperature is really important, and your fridge is one of the only places where this will happen. It stops the film from degrading even more.

Heat is a killer of film coatings and quality, so you want to make sure that you don't store any film in a hot car, in the sun, or anywhere the film will overheat. This goes for any kind of 35mm film, not just the expired stuff. 

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Max, owner of Cameras By Max

Article written by: Max

Max is the owner of Cameras By Max. They work full-time repairing and refurbishing all the 35mm film cameras you see on the website. Their favourite camera (at the moment) is the Olympus XA, and their favourite city in the world is Edinburgh.


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