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Film storage

Protect film from heat & moisture and use it soon


Fresh film is the best film. Expose and process film before the expiration date shown on the film package, and have it processed as soon as possible after it has been exposed.

THE ENEMIES OF FILM ARE TIME, HEAT AND MOISTURE.

Film, particularly color film, will deteriorate with the passage of time, exposure to high temperature and to high humidity - changing color balance, and altering film speed and minimum density - however deterioration can be delayed by storing film properly.

It is best to leave film unopened in the manufacturer’s packaging - usually foil-wrap or a plastic canister - that keeps humidity from reaching the film, until you are ready to use it.

Refrigerated (even frozen) film retains its freshness longer.
Refrigerated (even frozen) film retains its freshness longer.

FILM CAN BE REFRIGERATED AND EVEN FROZEN TO PRESERVE IT

If you plan to use fresh film within a month or two, it can be stored safely at normal room temperature - 70F (22 C) but no more than 77F (25C) - and humidity levels in the 30 to 60% range. However, if you know the film won’t be used for several weeks or more, it can be placed in a refrigerator at 50F (10C) or less (providing its packaging is airtight, since refrigerators can be fairly humid), where it should remain in good condition for as much as a year. Place unopened film packages in an airtight plastic bag before refrigerating. Film can even be frozen for longer storage. Just remember to remove the film from the refrigerator at least ninety minutes, preferably longer, before you open its sealed package to let it warm up to room temperature, otherwise moisture from the air will condense on the film’s cooler surface in the same manner as water droplets form on a frozen glass brought into a warm room. This condensation will create spots on your pictures.

Your loaded camera should be kept in a cool, dry place that is well-ventilated and free from harmful gases to preserve the film it contains.

NEWLY-PURCHASED FILM MAY NOT ALWAYS BE FRESH FILM

Keep in mind when deciding whether to store film at room temperature or refrigerated that it may have sat on the retailer’s shelf for several weeks or longer, and may well be into its second month of relatively-warm storage.

TRAVEL PROTECTION

When traveling in hot countries, film should be kept as cool as possible. Leaving rolls of film in a hot car or where it can be heated by the sun can cause rapid deterioration. Insulated bags are available for travel, and should be used in hot or humid climates, or in winter when film must be kept relatively warm for immediate use. (Extremely cold film may break or crack in use.) If you take film to the beach, it can be protected by stowing it in a picnic cooler provided it is properly wrapped and air-tight. Allow it to warm up to ambient temperature before removing it from its packaging to protect it from condensation.

When traveling by air, suitcases, handbags and even checked baggage are often examined using X-rays. If you pack film in your checked baggage (especially high-speed film), you would be advised to use special film containers made from lead (available from most camera shops) to block the x-rays and protect your film from fogging.

DEVELOP EXPOSED FILM QUICKLY

Once you have exposed the film, have it processed (developed) as quickly as possible. If the atmospheric temperature is above 70F or if the humidity is high, don’t wait more than a couple of days to get the film into the lab. If that is just not possible, put the exposed film in an airtight container and refrigerate it.

OTHER HAZARDS TO FILM

Film should be protected from chemicals, fumes such as formalin vapors and radiation that may fog or otherwise alter its characteristics. (Formalin is often found in adhesive agents used in new building materials, like plywood, and in new furniture. Avoid storing film or your loaded camera near such potential vapor sources.) Film should be kept protected from rain, snow, salt spray and other damp conditions in the environment. Storing 35 mm film in its canister after exposure will generally afford good protection from environmental hazards you may encounter, since most canisters snap shut and are air-tight.

PROCESSED FILM

Processed film (negatives or transparencies) is subject to color fading and color change from high temperature, humidity and exposure to light, especially ultraviolet light. Keep mounted slides and negative strips in sleeves or envelopes in well-ventilated cool, dry and dark conditions.