Last week there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the film fans in our group over the future loss of their favored media. If what you're concerned with is B&W film photography, then I'm here to make you happy. This is really easily addressed (color's much harder).
I'm not just talking through my hat—I've used the following strategies with success at various times over the past 40 years, beginning when Kodak made the original Pan-X 120 go away circa 1973.
Buy a small deep freeze. Buy a 20-or-whatever-year supply of your preferred B&W film. Stick it in the freezer. Pull out rolls as you need them. I can guarantee they'll stay good for decades. You've spent, probably, a few thousand bucks (depends, of course, on your burn rate) to guarantee your future in film.
Commercial B&W developers and fixers may disappear, but they're very easy to compound—the raw chemicals are cheap, and they will be readily available for a long time. If you fear they won't be, buy a large sealed tub of each chemical—keep them sealed against air, moisture and light and they will also last many decades. B&W film processing is easy to do, too. Any photographer can learn it.
Darkroom print papers could become a problem, unless you stock up on your favorite. That's not a new problem; it's been vexing B&W printers since Edward Weston's prime. You can either live with possibly losing your favorite paper, as folks have for 70 years, or stock up and freeze it, just like your film. Your choice.
Darkroom equipment lasts the better part of forever, unless you're careless. Cameras? Not so much. Afraid your camera body will die on you before you're done with the film phase of your life? Then buy two (or three if you're really paranoid). These days, used, very-good-condition camera gear can be bought for an average of 10–20 cents on the dollar, compared to mid-'90s prices. If that's too rich for your blood, well, then photography's altogether too rich a hobby/career for you. Find something else. I mean it. The bargains are amazing; you can't hope for better. It's the perfect time to buy film equipment. Compared to the bad old days, your redundant gear is still quite the bargain.
Keep one body in reserve. Pull it out every few months, cycle the shutter speeds and other controls, send it to your favorite repair guy for a clean and checkup every few years (and, yes, such folks will be around a very long time, although their services may not come cheaply). If/when you break the first one, switch to the second...and the first one will be a ready supply of parts that will keep the second one in repair.
Can I promise that this will make you safe for decades? Nah, life doesn't come with guarantees. Odds are better than 90% though.
This works. It's not expensive. Over the long run, it will even save you money. The majority of your expenses are upfront, but they're not impossibly large, and, forever after, your running costs will be very modest.
Color's another story
Sorry. I've no easy answer for color. The hangup is the processing. If commercial processing goes away, most photographers will be out of luck—color film processing is a demanding thing, requiring accuracy and precision beyond most photographers' abilities. Color developers can be tricky to compound and some of the component chemicals are obscure and may become very difficult to obtain. You can probably drag out your color photography life for five years if commercial processing becomes unavailable, but I'd not count on more than that.
Any chance for Kodachrome or dye transfer ever coming back, as one reader asked? As close to 0% as you can calculate, for a bunch of very good reasons. For a start, running a K-14 line requires two masters-degree-or-better chemists, and the chemistry is not stable. If you wondered why Dale Labs didn't just decide to run one batch of K-14 a year, it's because they figured that most of you would balk at paying $100+ a roll for processing, which is what it would take.
But, as regards B&W? Easy! Stock up and stop worrying. You'll be a lot happier in both the short and long run.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP on Wednesdays.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by David Dyer-Bennet: "In case anybody is worried about power failures on their freezer full of film—film is much easier to store safely than food is.
"Food reacts badly to being frozen and thawed multiple times (it tends to mess up the texture, which is important), and can become unsafe with relatively short times (hours) spent at room temperature.
"Film, in contrast, is rated to last years at room temperature. If you lose power long enough that your freezer gets all the way to room temperature (which would be quite a while, if you don't open the lid), all that happens is that the film starts aging at a 'normal' rate. (If you're in some hideous climate like, um, mine, where it got to 103°F yesterday, letting the film get all the way up to 103° would not be good; but a closed freezer in the basement will take a very long time without power to get up to 103°; in fact a basement won't get up to the full outside temperature ever—the ground is a huge heat-sink. Of course, lots of hot places routinely build without basements.)
"You do need to be careful about condensation when refrigerating film. What you want to avoid is having warm, most air come in contact with the cold film; water will condense out, soak into the gelatine, stick the layers to each other, and ruin it. (120 film generally comes with each roll in a sealed wrapper already; plastic 35mm film cans are adequately air-tight for this, so you can toss those in an ordinary bag and take them out freely, but let them come up to room temperature before breaking the air seal. If you have film that doesn't have its own seal, a zip-loc freezer bag is perfect.)"