I remember coming into Photodom (the first film store I’ve visited) for the first time and staring at the fridge full with a variety of film types. When it comes to caring for film, colder is always better. Both processed and unprocessed film require a level of care to ensure that you get both the highest quality photo and the highest quality print after processing.
Color film is usually more impacted by improper care than it’s Black & White counterparts, however it is the best practice to care for both at a high standard so that the film can last well after the expiry date. Unprocessed film is packaged in plastic bags and canisters to protect film before use. For optimal results, keep film in the canister or in a film case until you are ready to load your camera. Be sure to check the expiry date to determine when you will use your film or how you will store it until it is ready for use.
While unprocessed film is still packaged, keeping it at temperatures below 70°F slows the natural changes that happen to film characteristics such as contrast and color balance. While you can store your film in a cool spot in your pantry or closet, many photographers store their film in fridges for the best . In cases where you want to keep film long-term or you’re uncertain when you’ll use it, storing film in freezers allows you to halt the film degradation process and maintain quality well past the expiration date.
If storing your film in a fridge or freezer, it is important to make sure your film is taken out and reaches room temperature before use. Fridges and freezers have high levels of humidity so letting your packaged film warm up prevents condensation. I typically take film out of the fridge the night before use to make sure it’s ready to go for the day.
Once you load the film in your camera, it’s best to use it as soon as possible so that humidity and other natural factors don’t decrease the film’s quality. This is definitely hard during the summer when you’re out and about, and I can’t say I haven’t kept the same film in my camera for over a month, but in order to get the best quality photos, it’s best to be intentional with each step of the process. On this same note of intention, once you load your camera, remember to keep the back CLOSED — light ruins unprocessed film so opening the back will destroy a few of the limited frames in your canister. Load your camera and use the film in its entirety before opening again (ideally to replace with a new canister!). 🙂
Once your film is processed and you have received your negatives, temperature and humidity remain the top factors to control. Again, the colder the better, but I can imagine that people are not trying to put a binder full of negatives in their fridge. With negatives, I place them inside archival sheets in a binder, (both of which can be purchased at Photodom), then set it in a dark, cool area in my closet. When placing your negatives in the binder, it’s important to take time and care to minimize fingerprints, dirt and dust. Keeping your negatives cool, clean and away from light is key to long-term maintenance.
Michal Petros documents her photography journey on Instagram and Exposure. She is a member of Black Women Photographers and was first introduced to film photography by Photodom in 2020. View her work here!