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The "Can I develop my b&w film a year after shooting it?" question got me to thinking...

I have some film, both B&W and colo(u)r, which I shot the night the Berlin Wall fell at Checkpoint Charlie, and have not yet gotten round to processing.

Would it be worth my even trying to have this professionally processed? Maybe just one or two of each type, to see how it goes? Or is it too late?

The film canisters have just lain around the house in a carrier bag since 1989.


[Update] Film Rescue International have just replied "Good morning. Thank you for reaching out. Our project primarily only rescues film that has been orphaned from it's photographer. We'd recommend contacting bluemooncamera.com to process your film. They work with expired film all the time and their prices are very reasonable." I will contact them, although their prices don't seem all that cheap, especially considering that I have 20 or more rolls to process, and would prefer to receive digital images.

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    Photos of one of the most historic moments in 20th century European history? Nah, don't waste a few dollars on that! – osullic Jan 5 '18 at 12:05
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    I'm thinking the question is less "should I develop these rolls" and more "are there any special precautions I should be taking when developing these rolls, given their age etc". – You Jan 5 '18 at 12:08
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    Seriously!? You have personal pictures from a significant historic event of the 20th century, and you haven't gotten around to processing them for 29 years? Even if you don't care, imagine what a descendent might think of this 100 years from now. "Look, here are pictures taken by my great-great-grandfather back in 1989 at Checkpoint Charlie the night the Berlin Wall fell. That was before the Grand Empire of Lichtenstein, the Fourth Reich, and then the corporate takeover by Burger Barn, which converted the whole area into a kangaroo farm." – Olin Lathrop Jan 5 '18 at 14:30
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    Please report back with what you decide to do, and how it works! – hairboat Jan 5 '18 at 17:52
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    I will. I really didn't expect this to raise so much interest – Mawg Jan 5 '18 at 19:18
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In 1924, 29 years before Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary summited Mount Everest, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made an attempt to climb the mountain. They were last seen high on Everest making their final push for the summit. Nobody knows for sure if they made it, because they were never seen alive again. But they carried a camera with them, and it is speculated that if the camera is ever found, it will contain a photo of any successful summit. Mallory's body was found in 1999, but no camera. Presumably Irvine then had the camera, but his body remains undiscovered.

To quote Wikipedia: "Experts from Kodak have said that if a camera is ever found, there is some chance that its film could be developed to produce printable images if extraordinary measures are taken, and have provided guidance as to handling of such a camera and the film inside".

The advantage in that case though is that the film has remained in cold conditions since exposure. Your big disadvantage is that you left your film to the vagaries of room temperature at home.

If I had undeveloped photos from Checkpoint Charlie from the night the Berlin Wall fell, I would most certainly make an effort to have them developed. (I would additionally be asking myself why I waited 28 years to do so!!) I would probably use the services of someone like Film Rescue International or The Rescued Film Project, to give myself the best possible chance of getting useful images back. I'm not in any way affiliated with them, nor have I used their services, but see their samples online for what is possible.

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    The disadvantage of using someone like Film Rescue International or The Rescued FIlm Project is that normally one gives them the rights to any recovered images. The advantage is that they are probably as good as anyone at handling old film and getting the best images possible from it. In this case, since you know the historical significance of the contents of the film, you may be able to negotiate retaining at least partial rights to the images. – Michael C Jan 5 '18 at 15:43
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    @MichaelClark from Film Rescue Intl.'s FAQ: Film Rescue International reserves the right to use photographic and motion images for promotional purposes when work has been requested, completed and then not paid for after a period of one year. - sounds like you don't give up any rights, or is there something I missed? – flolilo Jan 6 '18 at 0:30
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    @flolilolilo Maybe, maybe not. Just because they reserve a right in one place (the above referenced FAQ) does not mean they don't claim any other rights elsewhere. I'd be sure to check the full agreement before ruling anything out. I'm fairly certain The Rescued Film Project does reserve at least limited usage rights to the images they process. – Michael C Jan 6 '18 at 1:31
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    The Rescued Film Project says "By donating your film you are granting The Rescued Film Project full print/publish copyright of recovered images". Lawyers would have a field day with that, especially as there is no guarantee that the person sending in the film owns any rights to the images, but there's still a sense in which when you have to get lawyers involved everyone else has already lost. – Peter Taylor Jan 6 '18 at 8:20
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    [Update] Film Rescue International have just replied "Good morning. Thank you for reaching out. Our project primarily only rescues film that has been orphaned from it's photographer. We'd recommend contacting bluemooncamera.com to process your film. They work with expired film all the time and their prices are very reasonable." I will contact them, although their prices don't seem all that cheap, especially considering that I have 20 or more rolls to process, and would prefer to receive digital images. – Mawg Jan 16 '18 at 7:53
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Back in the early 1990s I purchased an antique camera (folding type, similar to a Kodak 1a) that I discovered had film in it. The film could have been in the camera for 20 to 50 years (based on type of camera and the images on the film) and I didn't even have an idea as to what kind of film it was, other than probably B&W. I made some guesses and developed the images, and although they were a little faint, they were still there.

You are in much better shape, as you do know what kind of film it was.

I'm assuming here that you have multiple rolls of each type of film.

What I would do is find a decent lab (maybe the Film Rescue International that osillic mentions) and explain what happened and then have them develop one roll of each type (they might even suggest this). If it is a good lab, they should be able to tell from those first rolls how best to develop the rest of the rolls. If you only have one roll of a particular type, you might consider developing a portion of the roll first.

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Yes have it processed, see what comes out, only charged a few dollars for film only if it's blank. Dwaynes Photo in Kansas is regarded as a decent place to have old film processed.

Old film usually has latent images, b&w or color. If images come out there will likely be color differences (too magenta or too green) that may be difficult to correct in Photoshop. Color needs consistent temperature and other processing requirements vs. b&w which has some variance.

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I do not have the technical knowledge to evaluate how likely it is that you can recover something useful from those films, but I would belive it is more likely if you have it handle by professionnals.

There is an organization that specializes in recovering pictures from old negatives. You can have a look at this at The Rescued Film Project.

  • I have emailed them to ask if they are interested. I will let you know what they reply. An excellent suggestion, which is a win-win solution +1 – Mawg Jan 10 '18 at 17:47

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