I’ve been shooting film for 7+ years and have learned the customs of film photography over that time.
People store camera film in a refrigerator in order to make the film last longer. The cold can slow down the degradation process in camera film so if you’re keeping film for a long time, it should be stored in a fridge.
If you want to find out more about proper storage practices and how film degrades over time then read on!
Over the years I’ve shot all kinds of 35mm film without really worrying about whether it was expired or not. Whether I was shooting Kodak, Fujifilm or some random film that I found in a charity shop, I would just shoot it at box speed and hope for the best.
Sometimes I definitely got shots that just weren’t good enough. I just didn’t realise how much of an impact that the degradation of camera film could have!
Luckily for you, I’ve got your back.
How Camera Film Degrades
Over time, heat, moisture, gamma radiation and general loss of sensitivity will cause your film to degrade.
This means that avoiding heat and moisture is one of the best ways to keep your camera film from degrading (since we can’t avoid naturally occurring gamma radiation).
If you live in a place that is very hot or humid then you definitely need to store your film in a refrigerator.
Different Kinds Of Film
Different types of film degrade more quickly than others. Colour film degrades more quickly than black and white film and camera film with a high ISO degrades much more quickly than camera film with a low ISO because it’s more sensitive.
Where To Store Your Film
Most producers of film say that you should try to store your camera film below 8°C /46°F if possible.
If you’re storing film in your fridge then you should be okay to just place it wherever you like as long as it’s cool enough!
You could also store your film in a freezer but it’s always advisable to make sure to ‘double bag’ your film. You should put your camera film into zip-lock plastic bags to ensure that no moisture gets inside.
If you store camera film in a freezer then there’s always a danger that the freezer could turn off and start to defrost which could completely soak your film! Avoid this happening by double bagging!
Alternative Places To Store Film
Of course, you don’t have to store your film in a fridge/freezer. If you have a cool, dry place then that will be better than nothing. Somewhere like a cool cupboard or set of draws will help to keep it from degrading better than if you were to leave it on a warm windowsill or something like that.
How Long Can Camera Film Last In A Refrigerator?
Typically, the best-before date of 35mm camera film is around 4 years from the date of manufacturing. This date is more of a guideline than a rule because camera film slowly starts to degrade from the moment it’s produced.
After around 4-5 years, very little can be seen in terms of degradation (if it’s a low-ish ISO film and it’s stored in normal conditions). After 10 years, usually, you’ll need to overexpose your film very slightly, but not by a massive amount. Up to 20 years later, you may need to overexpose by 1 stop, depending on the type of film and how it was stored.
Refrigerating your film can slow the degradation process by half. This means you can comfortably keep great quality film without being concerned about how it might come out or how it might look.
What Happens To Degraded Film?
When film degrades it can affect it in a number of different ways. Film can start to look more green or magenta, it can start to get fogging or spots or it might become more grainy and lose contrast.
Heat and moisture affect your camera film in different ways, over time film will just naturally start to lose sensitivity.
As you can see from the pictures above, expired film can make the pictures look very different.
How To Shoot Expired Film
In the video above, I show you have to shoot expired film with a lot of inspiration from this article by emulsive.
For those that don’t fancy watching. I cover a lot of points that I cover in this article.
If you’re shooting colour film that’s a low ISO, I wouldn’t change anything if it’s 5 years old. If it’s 10-year-old film then I’d shoot about a 1/4 stop overexposed. 15 years I’d shoot 1/2 and 20 years I’d shoot 1 stop overexposed.
The way you approach shooting expired film changes if it’s black and white, higher ISO film or it’s been stored improperly. I strongly suggest you read the Emulsive article to find that out!