Skip to Content

Does Polaroid Film Expire? 3 Surprising Benefits of Expired Film

Before smartphones and digital cameras made photography and photographs so accessible, Polaroids instantly allowed people to develop their photos. Today we are spoilt for choice for photography options, but the Polaroid still holds its charm and unique value.  

If you have a Polaroid camera, you will know the film can degrade with age, but does Polaroid film expire?

Does Polaroid Film Expire?
Does Polaroid Film Expire?

Does Polaroid Film Expire?

Yes, Polaroid film does expire. The expiration date is typically 12-15 months after production and can be found on the film packaging. The expired film may exhibit color shifts, uneven development, or unpredictable effects because the active layers of the film undergo chemical changes as the film ages, reducing its effectiveness.

For the best image quality, use film within its expiration date and store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Why Do Polaroid Films Expire?

Polaroid films expire due to chemical changes that occur as the film ages. These changes can be exacerbated by exposure to heat and moisture. This process results in unpredictable effects as the photo develops.

Why Does Polaroid Film Expire?
Why Does Polaroid Film Expire?

To understand this process, we need knowledge of how a Polaroid film can instantly develop a photo.

Is it magic?

No, it is impressive science! Edwin Land, the father of the polaroid camera, first developed this polarization process.

The Role of Silver Halides

Understanding how a polaroid film develops a photo will allow you to know why the film degrades with age.  

Silver Halides are the key to allowing us to develop a photo. Your polaroid film contains layers of silver halides. Silver halides are light-sensitive ionic crystals that are modified when light exposure. It is through this light exposure that we can develop film.  

Silver halides age, they become less sensitive and degrade, so you should use your film within the first twelve months for best results.

Using old or expired film is a common reason why your Polaroid picture is not developing.

With a colored film, you have multiple layers of silver halides interspersed with dyes and color masks. A colored polaroid picture uses light-sensitive layers sensitive to only specific light wavelengths

Underneath each light-sensitive layer is a colored dye that will form the photo’s colors.  

These layers will degrade at different timescales. 

If you shoot with old film, this produces varied color shifts and tints in your photos.  

Common Effects Seen in Expired Polaroid Film

Common Effects Seen In Expired Polaroid Film
Common Effects Seen In Expired Polaroid Film

No two expired films will produce the same effect.

The degradation process will differ depending on the film’s storage and your shooting environment.

These effects are unpredictable and will vary, so you never know what you’ll get, which can be part of the appeal for using expired film.

Here are common effects you could encounter if you shoot with expired film.

  • The film itself becomes unstable due to age
  •  Uneven color saturation
  •  A hazy image
  •  A strange tint to your photos
  •  Poor clarity
  •  The uneven development of the photo
  •  Film pods may rupture or harden, which can damage your camera

One thing to be particularly aware of is that using a film that expired several years ago could increase the risk your film will damage the camera itself if the pods have ruptured or dried out.  

What Is the Date Listed on My Polaroid Film?

There is a date listed on all boxes of Polaroid film. This date is the expiry date of the film; however, it is the date that the film was produced.

Pre-2008, Polaroid did print an expiry date on films. However, after 2008 there was only the date of the film’s production published on the box.

Looking at this date will tell you what date the film was produced. Your film will be most effectively used within 12 months of production.

Ways In Which Storage Affects Polaroid Films

Due to the chemical makeup of Polaroid films, they are sensitive to light, heat, and moisture.

If you store your films correctly, they will last for the most time. If you keep them somewhere exposed to lots of light, heat, or moisture, they will be damaged and degrade quicker.

Ways In Which Storage Affects Polaroid Films
Ways In Which Storage Affects Polaroid Films

According to the Polaroid website, you should keep your film sealed in its provided box.

They also suggest storing them in the fridge at a constant temperature between 4 to 18 degrees Celsius and keeping them flat.

Be careful not to freeze your film as it will damage them, and take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you intend to use it for the best results.

Can Polaroid Film Last Longer than a Year?

The 12-month date is effectively a best-before date, but this does not mean your film will be useless after that date. Polaroid film could last longer than a year, especially as it has been stored properly.

Can Polaroid Film Last Longer than a Year
Can Polaroid Film Last Longer than a Year?

Temperature, humidity, and moisture will affect how a polaroid film ages. If you put effort into storing your polaroid films carefully, they could last longer than the recommended 12 months.  

Artistic Effects of Expired Film

Many people seek out expired films due to their exciting and varied results. The color shifts and tints can be visually appealing and create a unique photo.  

Using expired polaroid film for artistic use can make for a cool art project. Go crazy and let your camera do the work. Just be careful if you are using film that has expired for a long time. 

How Long Do Polaroids Last?

When properly cared for, Polaroid photos can last for many decades. To preserve your Polaroids, keep them away from direct sunlight, high temperatures, and humidity. Store them in an acid-free photo album or a protective sleeve to prevent damage and fading.

When Does Polaroid Film Expire?

Polaroid film usually expires 12-15 months after the production date, which can be found on the film packaging. However, an expired film can sometimes produce exciting and unexpected results. To ensure the best image quality, use film within its expiration date and store it under proper conditions.

How Long Does a Film Last After It Has Been Opened?

Once the polaroid film has been opened, it is removed from the sealed container protecting it.  

Once you have loaded your film into your camera, the Polaroid website states you should aim to finish it within two months as it is now exposed to changeable air temperature and moisture.

Can You Leave Polaroid Film in the Camera?

Can You Leave Polaroid Film in the Camera
Can You Leave Polaroid Film in the Camera?

Yes, you can leave Polaroid film in the camera without any issues. The film pack is designed to stay inside the camera until all the shots are taken. Store your camera properly when not in use, avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, or direct sunlight. This will help maintain the quality of the film and ensure that it remains in good condition for future use.

Storing Your Polaroid Pictures Safely

As your film degrades, the same can be true of the photos themselves, which will fade and warp with exposure to light and heat. If you want your Polaroid pictures to last, you must store them correctly and protect them from heat and light.

If they are exposed to light, after a while, they will fade.

Storing Your Polaroid Pictures Safely
Storing Your Polaroid Pictures Safely Is Important For Their Longevity

They need to be stored somewhere dry and dark to keep them fresh.

Another good tip is to store the photos in an upright position. Properly caring for your photos will allow you to enjoy them in the future.