Process 025 ☼ How To Shoot Expired Slide Film
Giveaway: Polaroid 600 Camera + film courtesy of Brooklyn Film Camera
After a week off I am back in your inbox to celebrate a small milestone together. I have written about 50,000 words so far for Process and we’ve made it to issue 25!
In this week’s letter I’ll share notes about falling for the most notorious of fickle lovers: expired slide film. It can drive you to madness but when it hits, oh boy, it hits.
For this week’s giveaway we have a refurbished Polaroid 600 Close-Up Camera plus a pack of film courtesy of my friends over at Brooklyn Film Camera.
Shooting Expired Film
The rule of thumb for shooting expired color negative film is to add one stop of exposure per decade it has been expired. For example, if you shoot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 that is 10 years past expiration, set your camera to 200 ISO (one stop over-exposed) and develop the roll as normal.
Black and white film is a bit more stable and I recommend over-exposing it less than color negative film. You can shoot it at boxspeed even if it’s 10 years expired, and after that I suggest over-exposing it by one stop every 8-10 years past expiration.
All of this is pretty straight forward, but results will vary greatly nonetheless. Not every film stock handles aging equally and external factors play a big part in how your photos will come out. How was it stored? What climate are you in? Etc.
Sometimes you may get lucky and get super clean shots. Other times there will be dramatic color shifts which can either be cool or terrible. Worst case scenario, your roll will come back empty or ruined in a variety of ways.
This is all to say that I do not recommend shooting expired film for any shoot that is even remotely important. It’s just not reliable enough, but it sure can be fun.
Expired Slide Film FTW
The most fickle film to shoot is expired slide film. Even when it’s still fresh it has a much more narrow exposure latitude, and this only gets worse with age. It’s harder to begin with, and then it gets worse? Naturally it follows that I love it because I am a glutton for punishment and I like making things photographically difficult for myself.
One of the challenges with expired slide film is that, unlike color negative film, there is no solid rule of thumb on how to treat it. Some people recommend shooting it at the original box speed regardless of age and hope for the best. My rule is that if you’re going to live dangerously, you may as well have fun so I like to experiment instead.
As you may recall, I take detailed roll notes for every roll of film I shoot. This comes in especially handy when shooting expired film. If you have a batch of rolls from the same era that was stored in the exact same way and you keep notes, you’ll eventually know how light-hungry the batch is and how to get a satisfactory result.
Below are two rolls of expired Ektachrome, shot on my Pentax 67ii with Amanda.
I shot these during the brightest (and hottest!) part of the day in the middle of the summer, in a city that has a high altitude. That means we had tons of light, much more than what is considered ideal for photography, but in this case it was necessary to be able to shoot handheld at these crazy low ISO settings. (Low ISO = need more light.)
Below are my favorite shots from these two rolls, both edited from flat scans.
At the time I had already shot a number of rolls from this batch so I just about knew that over-exposing it by 3 stops, from 64 to 8 ISO, might get me the look I was going for. Note that the T in 64T means this film was made to be shot in Tungster light, not daylight, which adds another complication to this guessing games. I love puzzles!
For the shot on the right I decided to crop in and flip the image to black and white. I love the way the slide film showed the grittiness of the concrete and decided to push that even further by removing all color and leaning into deep blacks.
Below a third roll from the same day, including one of my favorites photos of 2019.
This was a slightly more fresh roll of Ektachrome 200 (2003), which I shot at 160 ISO. By shooting it close to its original box speed, rather than dropping it to a more reasonable 80 ISO, I effectively fake-pushed the film to generate extra vibrant colors.
The highlighted image above ended up being one of the leading images in my current portrait portfolio, and the one below is another favorite from my time in Mexico City.
Not bad for an experimental afternoon in the blazing sun.
It’s worth repeating that for me to get to these results I did spend a few months testing (and ruining) rolls, taking notes, and planning out a way to get the most out of this film. Financially smart? Not so much. Creatively satisfying? Most definitely!
Notice Book Update
In the past two weeks so much progress has been made. Dan and I have started working on a limited edition Making Of Notice Zine, which will offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the book was made. This zine will only be available to those who pre-order Notice, as a free bonus gift to thank you for helping bring this book to life.
This week we also received several options for the cloth binding of “Notice”. Not only do we want the book to look amazing, it’s also important that it feels great in your hands. Are we meticulously micro-managing every part of this book? Yes we are!
We should have a pre-order ready for you by the end of February! Crossing fingers emoji.
That’s it for this week.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS I used my friend Mitch’s templates to create the contact sheets. Download them here.
This week’s giveaway is extra special because it’s the 25th issue and all. My pal Kyle at Brooklyn Film Camera kindly made available this beautifully refurbished Polaroid 600 Close-Up Camera, a pack of film, and a 1-year warranty for the camera.
In case you’re not familiar with Brooklyn Film Camera, they’re Polaroid specialists and a wonderfully warm camera, film, and repair shop. BFC is a collection of thoughtful people who clearly love what they do and always help their community with a smile.
To enter email me at email@example.com (please don’t reply to this note but send a separate email) before 11pm EST on January 6th and answer the following question:
You are sent back to the year of your birth on a time-traveling photojournalism assignment. Which news event will you shoot, on which film stock?
(e.g. The election of Benazir Bhutto, first Islamic woman prime minister, chosen to lead Pakistain in December of 1988, on Kodachrome 64.)
One winner will be randomly drawn and notified. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only. Subscribe by clicking the button below:
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Process is a weekly letter from Wesley Verhoeve.
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