What I’ve Learned from Shooting Expired 35mm Film

35mm film, in my opinion is one of the easiest options of films to shoot (and cheapest). Don’t get me wrong because it is still expensive even if it is the cheapest way to shoot analog.

Back in 2012, I wanted a film camera of my own because I had never shot with anything other than a polaroid or one of those old instant Kodak’s. I had been shooting digital for a  few years but hadn’t explored analog whatsoever. I mean, it is the way photographers use to shoot and it seems a bit ridiculous to call yourself a photographer if you’ve never shot analog.. at least it’s how I felt. I did some research and talked to a few photog buddies that had shot film and they recommended a Canon AE-1 SLR camera.


I scoured craigslist..

..because I figured id be able to find one fairly cheap. After a day or so of looking I came across one for sale. I called the number and an older man in his late 60’s was selling it because he no longer used it. We ended up chatting and I went to pick it up later that afternoon. I know I’m off subject but long story short, the older gentleman sold me his entire camera set with lenses, rewinds, filters, gels and you guessed .. FILM for a steal of $65. He wasn’t selling it for the money but for the opportunity for a photographer to enjoy the “roots” as he called it.

Back to the film.

I was at home with a new (to me) camera and a load of film to shoot with. Now did I use the film? No I didn’t. Not because I was a genius but because I just didn’t think about it.  I went and bought film to shoot..  and I did that for quite a while.

A few years went by and I REALLY forgot about it, up until this year. I went through my old bag that I keep stored and realized that I had about 30 rolls of Kodak Gold 100 from the late 90’s that needed to be shot. By now the film is greatly expired and has aged like fine wine (I’d expect). I loaded up a roll and shot it, and another.. and another. For the most part I went with what my light meter showed and exposed accordingly. Ive done my research and people try to give tips on how you should shoot expired film but honestly I don’t think there is a “right” technique. Some people say to overexpose or to underexpose but it isn’t that simple.

There are so many different variables that could effect your image when using expired film.

A few variables could be,

  1. How was the film stored (temperature)?
  2. How old is the film?
  3. Brand?
  4. Emulsion?

So to be frank.. shooting expired film is a crap shoot. You never know what you’re going to get once you process it but that is one of the most satisfying parts. When you look at the print and you see the weird colors or fogged spots it adds character that a normal image wouldn’t have had. Some people would prefer to get what they expect and that is fine as well. I wouldn’t shoot expired film for a job or important function but just to have fun and collect memories is a great reason.

Its funny because when I picked up my film from the lab the tech asked me how old the film was. She could look at the film and tell it was expired and I thought it was fascinating. She explained to me that it isn’t often that she she’s people developing expired film and asked me to share the images with her once I had a chance to look at them. There were a lot I like and some I didn’t but that’s normal with any kind of photography whether its analog or digital lol.

Here are a few of my latest images from a few rolls of expired Kodak Hold 100 and Kodak HD 400.


As you can tell, the Gold 100 roll had more muted green tones and the one image that is bright pinkish/orange was from the HD 400 roll. If you haven’t ever tried shooting expired film then I would definitely recommend it!

Until next time..




2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned from Shooting Expired 35mm Film

  1. Great post. Anyone brave enough to shoot film has the courage to play with expired stock.

    For me, the charm of film photography in general is its unpredictability. Coupled with cheap cameras (like my Holga and old Brownies), you never know what you’re going to get. Often magic happens. I’m eager to roll the dice for that; it’s how my best photos were made.


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