Shooting with expired film could be a hit or miss. There's always the risk of underexposure, thick grain, wonky contrast, or even blank frames. It's often tempting to snatch up expired film especially when it's discontinued, but several factors such as its age and how it's stored will affect the resulting photos greatly. The older the film, the more it loses light sensitivity, and while others swear by pulling the film +1 stop per decade, others insist that it's not applicable to all expired film.
If you're a beginner and still want to try shooting expired, black & white is usually more forgiving, as well as Color Negative which uses C-41 chemicals for processing. However, in today's photo feature, lomographer @solinvictus used a Kodak Ektachrome 160, a discontinued slide film. He has shot plenty of expired films, so we asked him for some advice and insights about the emulsion for this particular photo set.
How old was the film that you used?
According to the seller, the expiration date was between 2000-2005, but he kept them in a cold and dry place all of these past years, which was fortunate for me. I always ask about storage conditions before I buy any kind of expired film (even if the seller does not know), then I investigate and try to estimate possible conditions. It is crucial knowledge when shooting expired films.
What adjustments did you have to make to shoot with it?
I have set the box speed (160 ASA) for the shots between 0-18, then between 19-38, it was 100 ASA. The difference was especially clear in darker places, the tones tended to stay similar.
Shooting with expired film is tricky. What advice would you give those who would like to try it?
If they are buying expired films, I suggest to buy at least two identical expired films from the same seller.
- Sacrifice the first one and do bracketing (e.g. shooting Ektachrome 160 at 160-100-50 speed on the same film)
- Take notes about the optimal adjustments when you see the results.
- Don't lose these notes that you take!
- Confidently shoot the second one without expecting any tricks.
If they have only one sample of an expired film and no chance to experiment, then they should consider the expiration date and storage conditions even more. Compensate the expiration by overexposing the film if that is necessary. Lastly, the real risk of expired slide films like Ektachrome 160 is the development process. Choosing C-41 development over E-6 also helps with your results.
Have you ever taken photos using expired film? What do you like or dislike about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!