expired film photo of a photographer taking photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

9 Tips for Great Expired Film Photos

We all know that feeling. You've dug an old box of film out of the closet or found a roll at the bottom of your camera bag, and you're excited to try it out. But then you remember- it's expired. Now what?

Expired film can be an excellent tool for creating unique and interesting photos. But it can also be a frustrating experience if you don't know what you're doing. Here are nine tips to help you get the most out of your expired film:

What is an Expired Film?

An expired film is simply a film that has passed its expiration date. The expiration date is when the manufacturer guarantees the film will be at its best. After that date, the film may start to deteriorate and may not produce quality results.

However, just because a film is expired doesn't mean it's unusable. In many cases, an expired film can still produce great results- you just have to know what to expect.

Why You Shoot with Expired Film?

Advantages of an Expired Film

  • It's usually much cheaper than fresh film. You can often find expired films at garage sales, thrift stores, or online for pennies on the dollar.
  • Expired films may have different, interesting color shifts. This means that your images may have an overall color tint that is different from what you would get with fresh film. This can be a fun way to add creative flair to your photos.

expired film photo of two girls

Photo by Andrea Riondino on Unsplash

  • Expired film may have a higher grain size than fresh film. This can give your images a more vintage look which can be appealing for certain types of photography.
  • Expired film may have decreased sensitivity than fresh film: This lower light sensitivity can be beneficial if you want to shoot in conditions where fresh film would produce too much graininess or contrast.

Disadvantages of an Expired Film

  • The film may be damaged or degraded, resulting in poor-quality photos.
  • Expired films may be more difficult to develop, and you may need to send them to a special lab. This can be expensive and time-consuming.

9 Tips to Get Better Results with Expired Film

1. Test the Film

Before you shoot an important roll of expired film, it's a good idea to shoot a test roll. This will help you understand how the film will react and what to expect. You can then adjust your settings and shooting technique accordingly.

By shooting a test roll, you can avoid surprises and ensure you get the best possible results from your expired film photos.

2. Store Film in Cold Temperatures

Storing film in the cold can help improve the quality of your photos. Cold temperatures help preserve the film and prevent damage.

expired film photo of a girl

Photo by Dima Kosh on Unsplash

After purchasing or collecting expired films, it's best to keep them in a cool, dark place. You can also store it in the refrigerator for added protection.

3. Follow the Overexposure Rule

The overexposure rule is a guideline for shooting expired films. It states that you should overexpose your film by one stop after a decade in order to get better results. This will help compensate for the fact that an expired film is often more sensitive to light.

For example, if your film expired ten years ago, and it's ISO 400, you should shoot it as ISO 200. This will help ensure that your photos come out correctly exposed.

4. Use Technical Bracketing

This involves taking multiple shots of the same scene at different exposure levels. One photo should be overexposed, one underexposed, and one properly exposed. This technique is often used when shooting in difficult lighting conditions, such as backlit scenes.

By bracketing the exposure, you increase the chances of getting at least one properly exposed photo. This technique takes some practice, but it's worth it for the amazing results you can achieve.

5. Let the film Cool

After taking your film out of your freezer, let it warm to room temperature for an hour before loading it into your camera. This will help prevent the film from becoming damaged. Once the film is at room temperature, load it into your camera and shoot it as soon as possible. The sooner you shoot the film, the better the results will be.

6. Develop ASAP

expired film photo of a girl

Photo by Andrea Riondino on Unsplash

It's important to develop expired film photos as soon as possible after shooting. This will help preserve the quality of the film. If you're not sure how to develop expired film photos, it's best to send it to a special lab. This will ensure that the film is developed properly and doesn't suffer any damage.

7. Use a Fresh Battery

It's important to use a fresh battery when shooting with expired film. Otherwise, you may get strange results like light leaks or mottling. A fresh battery will help ensure that your photos come out looking their best. Use a dark slide to keep your film protected from light when you're not using it.

8. Shoot in Good Light

It's important to shoot in good lighting conditions when using expired film. The film is often more sensitive to light, so avoid shooting in low light or direct sunlight. Instead, try to shoot in bright conditions with diffused light. This will help you get the best results in your expired film photos.

Bright light will also help capture colors more accurately. So if you're shooting a landscape, make sure the sun is not in the frame. If you're shooting portraits, try to find shade or shoot indoors with window light. And if you're taking photos at night, use artificial light sources like street lights or headlights.

9. Shooting Black and White Film

It is best to use those with lower ISOs for black and white expired films. This will help reduce the risk of damage or degradation to your photos. Start with three stops underexposed and then adjust from there. Be mindful of your film's ASA when changing the shutter speed.

expired film photo of a cafe booth

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared for Imperfections

Expired films often produce imperfect results and no two films are alike, so just because one expired film produces great results doesn't mean that all will. You may need to experiment with a few different types before you find one that you're happy with. It is important to be patient and have fun with the process.


Shooting with expired film can be a great way to save money and experiment with different looks. But it's important to be aware of the risks involved. Storage, development, and scanning are all important factors to consider.

With a little bit of care, you can get great results from expired films. Thanks for reading.

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