Friday, 6 January 2012

Film storage.

Out of date colour film.
Upto four years on some
The recent receipt of ten rolls of out of date colour negative film from a friend has prompted me to share my experience with issues around the storage and freshness of film.

How do you define fresh? A film that has a long expiry date, one that has been kept refrigerated most of its life or even in the deep freeze. It is true to say that film used before the manufactures expiry date, which by the way is a conservative indication of when it should be used by, will yield the best results provided that it has been kept properly. The manufacturers suggest that  normal conditions are temperatures of no greater than 24 degrees C (75 F) and a relative humidity of 40% to as much as 60% in some cases. At temperatures and humidities greater than this will cause the emulsions to age far quicker. Normal conditions also refer to the fact that the film should only be removed from, in the case of 35mm from its plastic container and roll film from its foil wrapper just prier to use. Once the film has been exposed the rate of deterioration increases so you should not leave it to long after the roll is finished, to develop the latent image. It is reasonable to say that  monochrome film is more robust relatively speaking to colour film which has a greater number of   delicate layers for the atmosphere to attack and if stored badly will increase the likely hood of a colour shift.
Fg 1
Film 35mm, FP4, developed in ID11.
Printed on Ilford MGr paper 

Freezing is an extreme method of slowing the ageing process and can cause  problems with condensation and ice particles. Refrigeration is the most popular with film photographers but should be treated with care and common sense. At one time I used this method but not any more as it is not suitable with the way I work. Instead I use a floor standing Cabernet that is out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat. I have used this method for years with no ill affects. I also pay little attention to expiry dates as experience has shown me that it has had little affect on my results thus far.

FG 2
Same as above.
A couple of years ago I was sorting out some boxes of darkroom kit when I came across some containers of FP4 that was about twenty years out of date. I say twenty but on thinking back it's probably closer to thirty years or longer. The pictures (fg1 & fg2) are the results from one of those rolls of FP4 which was mistakenly exposed at ISO 400. Half the film was developed in ID11 and timed for HP5 and the other was developed in Rolie R3 developer and timed  for 400 iso. With results like this it makes me wonder whether refrigeration is necessary for monochrome emulsion if stored with care.

 It would seem that all film users over estimate how quickly film deteriorates. Each person needs to look at the way they use film and what sort of climate they live in, then take the appropriate action to comply with normal conditions. 

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Colour film out of date