When You Shoot on Film Older Than You Are…

You get some odd results.

For Christmas this year, I was gifted not one, but two(!) 35mm film cameras. Shortly after, I had two other people try and give me three (3!) more of these relics. People just can’t bear to throw them out, I guess.

Anyways, one of the cameras I did keep came with several rolls of film. Four rolls, Kodak brand, with expiration dates of 2000, 1999, 1989 and 2004. I was born in 1992. The current year is 2020.

But film is expensive in 2020. I shot the rolls.

A friend on Instagram advised me to open the f-stop by one setting for every 10 years the film is expired, to compensate for the general lack of light.

She advised me the photos would be under-exposed and grainy. She knew what she was talking about.

I shot two rolls:

  • Kodak 1000 Speed, Expired 1989 (Snowy pictures)
  • Kodak 400 Speed, Expired 2000 (Desert pictures)

Observations: The 1000 speed photos are obviously much more noticeably grainy, and many exposures turned out way underexposed, even shooting in bright, sunny conditions and using the suggested adjustments. Thirty years may simply be too old (although an older acquaintance did respond to these photos on Facebook, saying: ‘they would look about the same even if you’d shot and printed them in 1989').

I’m obviously no master photographer, but I thought the images were an interesting illustration of some of the troubles and unique effects you can expect while shooting on expired film.

Why would I want to shoot on expired film?

Because it’s widely available, and for cheap.

And I think all film aficionados will tell you — despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of crisp quality, there is something endearing in film photography that is hard to emulate with digital.

But, if you absolutely can’t afford to lose your photos — maybe spring for some film from this decade.

Many of the photos on these rolls were simply too dark to see anything — not a result I often get while shooting on newer film. There is simply less margin for error when shooting on expired film.

Still, if you can get some rolls for free and don’t mind if your pictures don’t come out, it’s a fun exercise.

Photos in this article were taken at Mills Lake in Rock Mountain National Park, and Castle Valley near Moab, Utah.

They were shot using a few different lenses: a 30mm wide-angle, a 50mm, and a macro/zoom. I did no post-processing on the images you see here. You could de-noise these photos somewhat using modern editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Hope you enjoyed the images and the words. If you have any tips for shooting on expired film, I’d love it if you shared your knowledge in the comments! Thanks.

Read more about the trip where these images were shot:

Always adventurous. Occasionally political. I write creative stories about life, love, climbing and travel. thisisyouth.org

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