How to Develop Expired Film


In some cases old film can be developed successfully, depending upon how much time has passed since the expiration date. Expiration dates on film are estimates of when the chemicals in the film will begin breaking down; so the newer it is, the safer it is to use. Unfortunately, there is no formula for knowing exactly what results you'll get from developing expired film.

Things You'll Need

  • Developing chemicals
  • Check the date on the film. If it's only a month or so out of date you shouldn't notice a difference in the result. The film is guaranteed to be good if you use it before the expiration date; it won't instantly turn useless the next day.

  • Note at what temperature the film has been stored. Heat breaks down film, so the colder it is stored, the longer it will last. If film was frozen before its expiration date, it might still be good; the breakdown process would have halted as soon as the film was frozen. Refrigeration also will slow the breakdown process, but not halt it completely. If you found the film in a hot attic, it's not likely useful unless you plan experimental photography and want to be surprised by the results.

  • Decide how important the pictures are to you. Some people have used color film 10 years old and noticed few or no bad effects. If you plan to shoot an important event that can't be re-shot, don't take chances; use new film.

    If your film contains pictures that were shot years ago, develop it normally. For decades-old film that was shot but not developed, Internet-based companies such as offer developing services to save potential family treasures.

  • Develop your film. If you are doing the process yourself, don't add or subtract any time with any of the chemicals for color. For black and white, you can add developing time to cut through the thicker layer of fog that might show up; the added time will depend upon the age and brand of the film.

  • Make color corrections as necessary. Color film is likely to have a green hue, because the green layer on the film is more stable than the blue or red layer, and therefore lasts longer. You can fix this during the printing process or on your computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • If proper color correction can't be achieved, convert the picture to black and white.
  • Faster film speeds have larger grain that is more responsive to light and thus will show damage more readily when it is expired.

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