X-ray Power

32

Do x-ray machines at the airport really hurt undeveloped film?

Before I went on my trip to the UK I searched the internet to find out what would happen to my film when it goes through security x-ray machines at the airport. From my findings I decided that it would be perfectly fine and nothing would happen to the undeveloped film I was going to take there and bring back. Oh how wrong I was!

shot on Kodak BW400CN

My films were generally over-exposed and the colour film had gone a bit green from the turbulence. I can’t find any other reason for this happening because I had used the same films before in my Diana Mini and they had always come out normal. I would advise developing before departing, unless you want your touristy snaps to come out strange and foreign.

shot on unbranded colour film 400ISO

It would be interesting to know if anyone else has had this happen or if you had your films come out perfectly fine!

written by jschussler on 2011-06-25 in #gear #tipster #x-ray-traveling-film-exposure #quickie-tipster #film

32 Comments

  1. yapfl
    yapfl ·

    did you put your films in the check-in baggage or hand carry it?

  2. scriptkat
    scriptkat ·

    This also happened to me recently when I went over to the UK; my film ended up cloudy. I even asked that the film be left out of the xray machine but they said it would be fine. Maybe they didnt recognize the funny 120 film packages :) Your cathedral shot still looks pretty cool tho!

  3. robotmonkey1996
    robotmonkey1996 ·

    Incheon Intl ruined my photos.

  4. phalanx
    phalanx ·

    I recently took several rolls of film from the US to Germany (in my hand carry bag). There was no noticable impact on the film, no matter if already exposed or still unexposed.

  5. z
    z ·

    I went on a plane with a few rolls of Kodak BW400CN and they developed completely normally, however that was in a carry on... Although the picture are very interesting although i understand your frustration.

  6. lakandula
    lakandula ·

    When I was still clueless about it, I did not bother passing my films through x-ray checks. Then upon returning from Bangkok, I found out one of the rolls (an ASA400) was odd when developed - it produced rainbow colors even when I did not use any color filters. The outcome was awesome though but I tried to discover the most probable cause - which lead me to x-ray checks. Based on my experience, low ISO films like 200, 100 or below are not much affected by x-rays. It's the higher ISO films like 400 up that are prone to react to x-ray scans. Now, when passing through airport security checks, I usually bring my films inside x-ray safe bag I bought from a fellow photographer. The bag is made of layers of polyester laminated film and is really intended for protecting films from x-rays.
    Check this out: www.amazon.com/Quantaray-Film-Safe-X-Ray-Rolls/dp/B00009V3E9

  7. jschussler
    jschussler ·

    @yapfl I had them in my carry on because I had read on various websites that this was the best place for them as the x-rays used in checked in baggage are stronger

  8. stephanie_maks
    stephanie_maks ·

    I had a camera in my purse during a visit to the dentist when they X-rayed my teeth, and the film came out with wavy lines through it. I could find no other explanation for the waviness. The camera was fine, other rolls from the same batch were fine, only the roll in the camera at the dentist that day came out wavy. It was Ilford HP5+ in a Canonet GIII QL17.

    I think you can never tell, sometimes X-rays have no affect, other times they do.

  9. stratski
    stratski ·

    Crap, I'm flying today! Not time to get a special bag or anything, I'll just have to take my chances with my carry on bag. Fingers crossed for the 400 ISO already in my plastic camera...

  10. jschussler
    jschussler ·

    @stratski I also saw a tip that you should fly with your camera unloaded because they could ask you to open it and your film would be destroyed, just to be on the safe side

  11. stratski
    stratski ·

    Hm, a bit too late for that... Sounds a bit exaggerated, anyway. As long as you don't go around taking pictures of the security and stuff (or indeed at all, if you want to be on the safe side), you should be okay. They can hardly ask everyone the see with a camera to open it, or delete all the digital files (which would be the same thing).

  12. nleppa
    nleppa ·

    I end up traveling a lot and you are allowed to ask for a hand check on all of your film and cameras. You just have to make sure to have it in a gallon size zip top clear bag. They may put up a fuss, but they HAVE to do it. There is no way that airport security can knowingly ruin your film. It has to all be in your carry on but ask for a hand check and tell them that the scanner WILL RUIN YOUR FILM. I have had to do this in the US and internationally and have yet to have any film or camera scanned and thus ruining my precious film. It's too hard to find and too damn expensive to just waste! Lomo on and safe travels!

  13. aprilrich427
    aprilrich427 ·

    Every time I ask for the film to be hand checked the people always say if its an iso of 400 or below that the xray wont hurt it and therefore they wont hand check it
    however some airport people are nicer than others, so ask every time just to be safe

  14. sammy-fries
    sammy-fries ·

    I shot a couple rolls while I was in Hawaii. I shot on BW, and developed my self. It was some type of film that I shot on for the first time (sorry I can't remember which) and when I went to hang it up after developing, I noticed that it was really grey. I kept it in a checked bag so it must've been blasting with an x-ray. However, after I toned it, and did some exposure correcting when printing, my prints came out great.
    Check them out on my tumblr:
    doctorfries.tumblr.com/page/3
    Three are on page three and one is on page two. They are the potato head pictures :D

  15. 2mur
    2mur ·

    I made this mistake, but had the opposite results. Most of my pictures looked completely black. Some turned out fine, others were visible, but extremely dark and grainy.

  16. russheath
    russheath ·

    X-Ray absolutely exposes film. It's just a matter of how much. The security folks in the US are taught that anything below 800 won't be affected. To me this makes NO sense. It's just a matter of scale. If more sensitive films are affected in a visible way, then ALL film is affected. So I always travel with the cameras empty, I put all film in a leaded bag for a little extra security (it doesn't prevent damage, just forces them to look a little harder), and I always ask for a hand check of the film. If they ask me about film speed, I always tell them that "several rolls are 1600," and they don't argue with me. Most are actually pretty nice about it once you tell them that the film is fast (and most can't tell the difference, they don't read the canisters very carefully). Hope it helps!

  17. cutebun
    cutebun ·

    Mine is normal though. I took some photos and bring them back from China and it turns out still good. =)

  18. slimspidey
    slimspidey ·

    I wrap my film in foil. I did it to keep the light leaks out but it seemed to help with the Xrays...

  19. thistown
    thistown ·

    always bring your film as a carry-on. add all the film to a separate ziplock bag and ask for a hand check of the film so it won't have to be scanned. it helps to remove the film from the packaging and just have the rolls in the bag because it's quicker for them to check everything.

    i didn't have a problem when i asked for one, but i've heard when you fly internationally sometimes people will give you a hard time. just politely explain to them that it will ruin your film or ask to speak to someone higher up. they say film under 800 asa is fine going through the carry-on scanners, but i'm still afraid to take that chance.

    those lead bags that supposedly keep out xrays are actually worse than just having the film in your checked luggage. all the machine will do is crank it up so they can see what's inside and you end up exposing your film to even more xrays. but yeah, putting film in your checked luggage is always the worst possible thing you can do.

  20. thistown
    thistown ·

    always bring your film as a carry-on. add all the film to a separate ziplock bag and ask for a hand check of the film so it won't have to be scanned. it helps to remove the film from the packaging and just have the rolls in the bag because it's quicker for them to check everything.

    i didn't have a problem when i asked for one, but i've heard when you fly internationally sometimes people will give you a hard time. just politely explain to them that it will ruin your film or ask to speak to someone higher up. they say film under 800 asa is fine going through the carry-on scanners, but i'm still afraid to take that chance.

    those lead bags that supposedly keep out xrays are actually worse than just having the film in your checked luggage. all the machine will do is crank it up so they can see what's inside and you end up exposing your film to even more xrays. but yeah, putting film in your checked luggage is always the worst possible thing you can do.

  21. paintinglines
    paintinglines ·

    I had my first film go through the carry on xrays at the airport, I was afraid it would ruin it but the airport staff didn't give any other choice, so I took the chance. I had two other unused rolls of film, I've only developed the first one and it came out alright, nothing funny, I'll see what happens with the one on the camera (still haven't developed it) and the third one, but I think there's probably a 50/50 chance it will be affected/ruined or not.

  22. feelux
    feelux ·

    Great timing! Hahaha! I read stuff about this before, but I didn't know how it'd look if I'm not careful with my films during airport x-ray scanning. I hope they don't give me too much of a hard time. Wish me luck, and thank you for this article :)

  23. blinghaha
    blinghaha ·

    Aaaah! I still have to scan in my 120 shots from my holiday! (i asked as well they said it would be fine!) I'll let you know how they turn out!

  24. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    I had the same bit of drama. I have an X-ray Proof bag for film (lead lined). But I still just had my film hand checked. There is a Part two of my trip and I'm not sure if I'll have time to have a hand check for that one.

  25. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    I had tons of used, undeveloped rolls in my pack traveling from California to my home in Florida. I'm not sure how to tell if my films got messed up. look at them
    www.lomography.com/homes/itsdebraanne/photos/13497184
    www.lomography.com/homes/itsdebraanne/photos/13441176
    www.lomography.com/homes/itsdebraanne/photos/13441150
    of course i had to put my camera pack and all its goodies through the X-ray scanner thing but i can't tell if my images are messed up. i also have my 120film but they only processed it; no prints. don't see anything wrong there.

  26. jonalon
    jonalon ·

    uhmmm there are radioactive stuff at my school i might creep to the science teachers and see if they can get it out for me.. or some of the chemicals... hmmm

  27. burney
    burney ·

    I never had any problem with that but I think that's a very interesting review to keep in mind.

  28. rdp_ribeirense
    rdp_ribeirense ·

    Went to israel and where the film wasn't exposed there was interesting wavy lines, like the diagrams you see of radio waves. The lines slightly appeared in my photos. In israel you facy x-ray machines everywhere and my photos seem fine, film was all 200 and I think one was 400. Interesting fact is that if the person manning the machine zooms onto the film object, the x-rays are more concentrated and therefore will have more effect on the film, heard that from somewhere.

  29. rdp_ribeirense
    rdp_ribeirense ·

    Here some examples of photos I reckon got affected, please tell me if i'm crazy tho!

    <a href="www.lomography.com/homes/rdp_ribeirense/photos/12016808?utm…" title=""><img src="assets5.lomography.com/576/425/1a/251563762a49289258c3e1c6b…" width="576" height="425" alt="" /></a>

    <a href="www.lomography.com/homes/rdp_ribeirense/photos/12016918?utm…" title="Shops in the Old City"><img src="assets5.lomography.com/417/576/11/317334e4b5c3bf88bed21a17f…" width="417" height="576" alt="Shops in the Old City" /></a>

    <a href="www.lomography.com/homes/rdp_ribeirense/photos/12016915?utm…" title="Old city Tunnels"><img src="assets5.lomography.com/394/576/60/d2af16baccc0f9b9208f182e4…" width="394" height="576" alt="Old city Tunnels" /></a>

    I thought they might be lens flare at first until I saw the un-exposed film with the same thing...

  30. jackparker
    jackparker ·

    I went on holiday to Greece from the Uk recently and like you I was concerned that my films might be damaged. However, several web forums said it would be OK so I transported them back in my hold luggage. I didn't notice any difference in the films when I got them developed. I'm not sure if they will have been X-rayed them on the way back but my experience was totally fine - no damage to the end product!

  31. t0m7
    t0m7 ·

    I flew to Barcelona and all my filme where x-ray'd 2 times. The results were just fine, even the INFRARED film! :-O

    Don't want to disturb you, but the Diana Mini is very "fast" with her 1/60s and f/8 and f/11. On a sunny summer-day you will overexpose even 100 ISO films. You used ISO 400 films and all your pics are outside on a bright day. In my opinon that's the reason for the heavily overexposured results.
    On i bright sunny day i shoot with f/11 and 1/100s on ISO 100 film. If you used the sunny-aperture you had f/11 with 1/60s on ISO 400 - that's about 3 steps overexposure!
    I recommend shooting low-ISO films in the diana mini. ISO 200 negative for general or ISO 100 (slide) films on sunny days.

  32. hello-alexander
    hello-alexander ·

    I will be taking 20 rolls of undeveloped film from Manchester, UK airport to Melbourne, I hope they are alright otherwise it is a big waste of money...

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