Buying & Storing Film

This has been a constant question with so many people, I thought I should just write a basic explanation for everyone on buying and storing film.

So you got film, now where to store that?

So lets first talk about buying film. So you’ve managed to get your hands on some camera which you fancy and want to marry. But what about film? With the gloomy days of Kodak having issues and so many films shutting down production, its best that you try different films now itself, instead of limiting yourself to what is available on your friendly neighborhood photo studio’s shelf. But before we move on to bigger / more heavily stocked sources of film, what to keep in mind when taking film from that photo studio :

  • Don’t buy film on display : This point is more important when buying film in a place like India but would be quite useful in other places too where the film is kept outside on display, specially where there is sunlight directly falling on it. If its keep in shade with the AC on then it shouldn’t be such a big issue. The reason for this is that film kept outside, exposed to heat, will develop grain and become faded. So might as well avoid them.
  • Check for expiry date :  All films come with a expiration date. Before you buy them, check for the expiration date. Low ISO films, if stored well (100 to 400 ISO) won’t have a issue even 1-2 years after expiration date. I’ve shot films 7 years expired with quite decent results. But high ISO films and slides show more damage. This is because high ISO films are prone to damage from gamma radiation and slides having a low latitude, change tones. So unless you’re ok with very different colors in slides and very high grain in high ISO films, don’t buy them.
  • Check Storage : Most photo stores don’t keep a cooler / small fridge but its preferable that you buy them from someone who has stored them in a cool dark place.
Impossible Project stores films using inert gasses (like argon) to protect and store films inside coolers

So maybe you’re the top dog film shooter in your city and now you want to access more film, more variety and get your hands on the big stock as you shoot a lot. Now photo studio shopping might not be just enough. Then try B&H or Ebay. Here you’ll find almost anything and in bulk. Buy whatever you like. Because almost all shipping will be done from US or Japan / Singapore / HK, you should check how much the shipping is coming to and then buy enough to not end up paying more for shipping than the cost of the film itself. Also know that all film is subjected to 33% duty by Indian Customs.

How to store films :

If you were to really store your film and not worry one little tiny bit, zero degrees Celsius in a salt mine, which is what Kodak does. Why? Because the salt mine protects the film from background cosmic radiation (Since sodium and chlorine have no radioactive isotopes, there is no terrestrial radiation in a salt mine) the salt absorbs moisture (but doesn’t kill the moisture 100, so as to not make the film brittle) and at such low temperatures, film will last nearly indefinitely. Impossible project chooses another way of taking huge sealed freezers and filling them with film and inert gas. But are you going to do all this? Maybe not.

Everything nice and cool
  • Throw it in the fridge : Take your film, put it in a airtight sealed packet and put it inside the fridge. Now why a airtight packet? Because your fridge has moisture. So unless you want all film boxes to be moist, put them in zip lock bags. Also for long term storage, put them all in the freezer. But before using them, give them time to come down to room temperature or the film will show condensation when shooting (which you don’t really want).
  • Poloroids should never NEVER ever be stored in the freezer. The chemicals on the film will freeze and get destroyed. So don’t do that, only store in fridge.

And if you’re now planning to buy some film but don’t know what you want to try, then have a look at the Film Pharmacist where I review films.

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3 thoughts on “Buying & Storing Film

  1. Thank you! These are very important tips. I have two questions photography novice that I am: (1) I usually wrap the rolls in aluminium foil before storing it in the zip lock bag inside the freezer. I read somewhere that this also helps protect the film. Since you haven’t covered it as one of the must-do steps, is this step optional? (2) Can you do a post on storing negatives?

    1. I shall write about storing negatives soon but first about the foil wrapping. I suppose you wrap them in Aluminum to protect them from radiation. I have a document here from Kodak which I found online looking for information regarding your comment which states that gamma radiation can not be stopped with aluminum or even lead lined bags. So it doesn’t really help in any way when you wrap the film in aluminum.

      Ref : http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/techInfo/e30/e30.pdf

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