quick and dirty processing for expired or ” no idea what kind of film it is ” film

as you might have read, if you have found this blog / journal i don’t typically use fresh film, chemistry or paper.  i am fond ofthe expired variety.  for the past maybe 15 years my “personal” photography adventure has all been done with out of date, bought cheap, given to me for the price of shipping film.  yes, i have bought new, for work done for others, but for myself it has all been the materials some people suggest is  ready for the trash heap.

there really is no cure all for the problems that might be considered “the downfall” of expired film.  sometimes the people ahead of you in the long line of owners stored it in their 150ºF car for weeks and just remembered before giving it to you or selling it on eBay suggesting it was found in their neighbor’s house and they were asked to sell it … or it could have been lying around a warm house with drastic seasonal temperature changes, or it could have just been sitting on a shelf in a cool not too humid basement.  so you have to be prepared for loss of speed, maybe fog, or the worst case scenario, the film not working at all … most of the film i use that is expired i know where it has been, so its provenance is not so mysterious.  when i get it, it gets put in a place that doesn’t have too much temperature variation, and not too much humidity.  when i expose it, i typically over expose a few stops ( i do this with “fresh film” too so it isn’t that much of a stretch for me

but for some who love to shoot box speed or “push” process, this can be an issue ). the trick in processing isn’t really a trick at all.  it is to use a print developer like dektol, or ansco 130, or whatever else you might have on hand.  sometimes they are called “universal developers” …  whatever you want to call them, they work well.  some restrain the fog that might have appeared on the film from poor storage too. the “old trick” for using print developers for film again isn’t really a trick at all.  for dektol it is the dilution becomes the time. so 1:5 is for 5 mins, 1:7 for 7 mins 1:3 is 3 mins.  ansco130 i used to regularly use 1:6 for 8.5 mins.  i liked dense and contrasty film and i am sure it would have worked fine at 6 mins like its cousin “gaf universal” used to suggest on its can.  i have read stories, and talked to old pros from days gone by and they regularly put their sheets of film or rolls of film in strong dektol ( 1:2 or 1:2 ) and just let it sit there, no agitation for 1 or 2 mins.  i have never done that so i can’t really recommend it, but i have done 1:6 both with dektol and ansco and it works great.   if you are a coffee developer user another couple of things i have done uses coffee (as you might have guessed).   you mix a strong batch of caffenolC ( i use the teaspoon recipe ) and add a splash of your favorite print developer into it.  i used ansco130 for years, now i do this with dektol.  and you stand develop your film for about 27-30 mins.  before you sink your film in the developer, you water bath it so you get the emulsion swollen and ready to absorb the developer.  and you bank the tank &c to get rid of the air bubbles.  then you just pour the developer in the tank.  i agitate for a few seconds and bang the tank again to get rid of the bubbles and then just walk away for about 1/2 hour.  if you want yo can agitate a little bit in between halfway through or the end, don’t do it much …  your film is pretty much going to look OK.  i also do the split develop routine now too.  1:8 for about 8 mins it would have been …  i process the film for 4 mins with a normal agitate scheme (water bath first, then 1 min continuous, then 10sec / min) then i pour out the print developer and continually agitate the film tank, now full of strong caffenolC with a splash of print developer in there.  you don’t need much print developer 20cc 15cc whatever you want.

again, your film will come out looking nice.  maybe a little dense maybe not too dense … either way you will be able to print with an enlarger, or contact print or scan if you like to do that.

if you like examples …

poke around this blog, or my image kind area and most of the black and white images there, made within the last 15 years

were done using the methods i have described.


have fun!

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