Keep Film Fresh For Years to Come


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It’s a heartbreaking tale: film may one day be hard to find.

With companies cutting down on the kinds of film they make, filmophiles are working to amass a stash of their favorites.

The good news is film keeps better than a fruitcake from 2005!

With a few simple steps, the film you bought in 2012 will be usable for years to come.

How to Store Your Film

p.s. Photojojo’s hiring! We’re seeking a top-notch writer and a full-time buyer in San Francisco.

Why it’s important to store your film properly:

Film might not be around someday, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop using film for your photography and photo projects any time soon.

Expired film can be fun, but when you want your photographs to be true-to-life, you’ll want to make sure your film still looks vibrant.

While freezing film doesn’t completely stop your film from aging (gamma rays fog the film over time), it slows it down, giving you extra time to play with your film cameras.

HEADS UP: Polaroid, Impossible Project, and Fuji instant films shouldn’t be put in the freezer since it messes with the chemicals in the film.

Things You’ll Need:

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  • A label maker (or a printer and clear scotch tape)
  • Your film stash
  • Index cards
  • Plastic storage bins
  • Optional: matching empty canisters*

*If you don’t have enough at home, you can ask your local photo lab for some.

Step 1 – Break Your Film Out of the Box

paper-sm Keeping your film inside or outside of its box doesn’t affect the expiration date.

When you’re organizing a huge stock of film, it will make it easier to store.

Space can be limited in freezers (after all, you need to store popsicles in there), and boxes only add to the amount of space taken up by your stash.

TIP: If the film comes in foil wrap, keep it in there. That helps with keeping the film fresh.

Step 2 – Become One with the Label Maker

paint-sm To help you find the type of film you’re looking for faster, we recommend making labels with the type of film and the ISO.

If you don’t have a label maker, you can print on a sheet of paper and use a piece of clear tape for homemade label goodness.

Step 3 – Divide it Up

paint-smPut your film canisters in a storage bin (or more) and organize them with dividers. You can find all kinds of storage bins with lids at Ikea, The Container Store, or online.

You can make easy dividers using index cards. Fold down the top edge and pop a label on it.

You’ll know exactly where your color negative film ends and your slide film begins! Revel in the nerd moment.

Step 4 – Let Your Film Chill Out

paint-smNow choose where you’d like your film to live in your freezer, put the lid on the plastic bin, and let it freeze. A normal freezer temperature of 0 to -10F/-18 to 0C will do the job.

The freezer is like a spa for your film. It extends the life of the light sensitive chemicals embedded in the emulsion.

We’ve heard some folks have had film stay vibrant for almost a decade and a half! Check out this thread about photographer’s oldest rolls of frozen film.

For more technical information about film storage temperatures and the like, check out this guide from Kodak.

FUN FACT: The slower the speed, the slower the film ages. High speed films (like 3200) won’t last as long in the freezer.

Step 5 – Thaw When Ready

paint-smWhen you’re ready to put your stored film to use, you’re going to want to thaw it. We recommend at least an hour.

The film will be brittle and may snap if it isn’t at room temperature. Plus waiting til its room temperature before you open it prevents condensation from forming on the film.

Take your chosen rolls or packs out, and leave it on the counter for a few hours before loading it into your camera.

Tips For Amassing Your Own Stockpile:

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  • Film rarely goes on sale, but it doesn’t hurt to ask labs for bulk discounts.
  • Same goes for photographers switching to digital — eBay and Craigslist are good sources for finding large stashes for sale.
  • When buying don’t forget to ask how the film has been stored. If it wasn’t at least kept in a fridge and has passed its expiration, it’s most likely expired.
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