Best Before…


Last year I was staying in a friend’s house – she was out all day and I got hungry, but couldn’t be bothered going to the shops. The only thing I could find that didn’t involve preparation was a tin of Heinz vegetable soup, and so into a pan it went. As the soup slowly heated, the pungent miasma that filled the kitchen should have given the game away, but it wasn’t until I tested the contents for optimum serving temperature that I realised something was horribly wrong. I’ve never sampled the liquid from the bottom of a dustbin before, but this is how I’d imagine hot bin-juice to taste. With the spoon still in my hand, I picked up the empty Heinz tin from the worktop, and holding it above my head I inspected the base… the use by date was March 1994.

There aren’t many things in life that improve after they’ve gone past their expiry or ‘use by’ date. In fact, I can’t think of anything off-hand? Is there anything with that date stamp on the side that shouldn’t be avoided at all costs? Yes, there is… film.

A few weeks ago I was given eight rolls of Lloyds Pharmacy 200 colour print film – the expiry date on the boxes are all between 2002 and 2006. I shot the images here with the first roll and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting the results to be great. Barbara, the photographer who’d given me the film, couldn’t be sure exactly where the films had been stored, but it certainly wasn’t a refrigerator. Christian and Erica Ward at UK Film Lab were equally sceptical, “I was slightly dubious when I picked it up to scan, the negs were so thin…”, were Christian’s exact words. But we were all surprised. The ‘look’ isn’t to everyone’s taste, I realise that, but I love it.

Here are a couple of shots from that roll, made using a Nikon F100 and 50mm 1.4G lens. I think it’s fair to say that a good proportion of the quality of these images has to be attributed to the expertise and skill of the wizards at UK Film Lab.

Out of date film is available to buy, but it’s getting expensive – the only way around this is to purchase a few dozen rolls of cheap film, put it in a cupboard, and forget about it until at least 2030.

I’m now faced with the dilemma of deciding what to save the other seven very precious  rolls for…



  1. Jennifer Kermode

    You never cease to amaze me – your photographs, your writing, your wit! You really should write a book!

    I really love the look of these images, very 70’s. Well done, again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GailyVacation85

    The thing I love about you, Phil, is that I never know what I’m going to get when I click on your notifications! – fashion, serious photojournalism, humorous street photography, landscapes, portraiture…. all I know is that whatever it is, it’s going to be superb 🙂

    PS – please write a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a roll of Kodak PanX, (B&W 125) with a process by March 1991 date! It belonged to my grandfather. My plan is to shoot it with his Argus C-3 which 60 years old. I’m scared of the whole enterprise, but not sure what I’m really waiting for. My birthday is in March, so I think I know what need to do to celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the earthy tones – just as much as the bright bold tones of Fish and Chips. The magical aspect of shooting film is that you never quite know what the results are going to be – the elation of getting great shots overrides the major disappointment when shots don’t work. Just beautiful….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Phil I know I previously commented on these images, but I have to say again these are 10/10…I have still to shoot film and seeing these made me say aloud to a friend “I need to start shooting film dammit”…but you’re shots here are “money”; “freaking lovely”. I actually have a very cheap and plastic Holga Lens attachment for my D7000 and the look and feel and color I’ve got from it takes me right back to the feel and look and softness you brought out in the images. I say this as encouragement purely; not a comparison of skills. Excellent work. Completely inspiring and thanks so much for liking my blog as well. Keep it up!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love to shoot with expired film, always got surprising but got really cool results. Even more so when combined with a toy camera and light leaks. I think I still have a few rolls left, the only one I’m still hesitant about is an infrared one but this year, it will get used. Also just remembered that I saw an old point-and-shoot camera at my parents house, with an unfinished roll of film in it. Going to be fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful shots, and a great look to them as well.
    I shoot quite a bit of expired film – gifts, thrift store finds and so on, most of it stored, at best, indifferently. Sometimes I get a batch of several rolls all with the same history. I find that the results within the batch can be highly variable, though some of that might be a difference between cameras or shooting conditions.
    I wish I had ready access to a great lab, I agree that some of the success of these photos has got to be put in the lap of UK Film Lab.

    Liked by 1 person

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