Expired film was once bad. After all “expired” means it’s no longer good, right? Except at some point photographer’s figured out that expired film can give some amazingly dreamy and surreal results – making something undesirable into something people want A LOT. Crazy colors, vintage atmospheres, hazy streaks and unique textures are just some of the interesting results you can get from shooting film that’s past its date.
However expired film has some drawbacks - with the biggest one being you have absolutely no idea what will happen until you shoot it. It could be gorgeous, it could be hideous, you really won’t know until you put in your camera.
1. Get to get as many rolls as you can
Once you find a type of expired film you like, it totally sucks to have only one roll! To be able to fully take advantage of the effects once you know what they are, it’s important to snag as many rolls of the same expired film as you can at the same time. The same lot of film will offer some consistency even when it’s past its prime. Photographer Neil Krug stocked up on mass quantities of expired Polaroid film for his hugely successful “Pulp” series and book, allowing him to develop a unique style that is all his own - and which many other photographers try to imitate.
2. Avoid Portraits for the first roll
One frequent result of film being past it’s expiration date is that the grain appears enlarged. Not always, but frequently enough. Also there are the previously aforementioned color shifts, which can leave people looking ill or unrecognizable when applied to skin tones. When trying out a new roll of expired film, stick to landscapes and still life since there’s a good chance your portraits won’t turn out the way you want them.
*An exception to this rule is for those who are shooting expired instant film, which generally speaking turns out quite lovely for portraits.