A Word to the Wise...


Recently my husband and I decided to take a leap across the pond and visit Germany and Spain. This was to be my first overseas journey with my Diana and I was super excited to capture these countries through her eyes. I researched and stockpiled film until I was sure the amount I had compiled bordered on ridiculous. Forty rolls later I was ready to go. I purchased the lomo camera bag, a must if you own more than one camera, and assumed I was ready for whatever the world was going to throw at me.
A few days before we left my husband happened to check the TSA website to see if there were any regulations for going through security with film. We learned that if the film speed is 800 or higher it was recommended to get a hand check of your film. They also recommend that you only run the film through the x-ray machine 5 times at most. Also, it’s recommended to NEVER put film in your checked bag because they go through the high powered x-ray machines. Now if I would have been feeling more adventuresome I would have thrown caution to the wind, thrown them in my suitcase and crossed my fingers that the x-rays would produce some crazy, otherworldly effect.
I’m not a very lucky person, so I knew it was best to play it safe on this one, and decided to be safe and get it hand checked all the way through. Here are some lessons I learned along the way.
1) Take your film out of all boxes and packages. If you don’t be prepared for an eye roll from security and rude side glances from those waiting behind you as you scramble to rip the packaging off of your film. I suggest putting it in a large see through plastic bag.
2) If you are traveling to another country where you do not speak the language look up, “Please hand check film!” This is something I did not do and wish I would have. The security line can be a stressful place as is, and not being able to communicate this can be stressful and take up time. I found out pointing to your alarmingly large bag of film, is unfortunately not a universal sign.
3) For those of you who have a Spinner 360 camera, be prepared to explain what this is every time you go to the airport. For those people that are not lucky enough to be part of our lomo world, it is easy mistaken for some tool of mayhem, like a gun or bomb. Also, if you happen to be abroad during a terror alert and you a standing in a crowded tourist area yanking on something that looks like a grenade you’re probably going to get some looks of fear from those beside you.
4) It seems as if every country has a different idea of what hand checking film entails. Some may just look, others may take swabs. You may be asked to journey to some room in the bowels of the airport as I was in Berlin while they test your film like a mad scientist. You’ll often find these rooms are outside security so you may have to go through the line again once it’s been cleared. I was even asked to go through a full body x-ray scan after asking for a hand check when returning to the States.
5) Going to a museum or government building? Guess what, they are going to make you run your stuff through an x-ray machine as well. If you ask for a hand check you will often have people tell you not to worry. “The film will not harm the machine." I was told at one spot in Berlin as attendant urged me not to make a fuss. Sometimes it’s just best to find a locker and check your bag for awhile in these places.

Hopefully these tips will help to make your journey a little less cumbersome and a lot more enjoyable!

written by megs79 on 2010-11-09


  1. -alia-
    -alia- ·

    I remember, this time in Heathrow (…), the security guy passing the f*cking hand scan machine on my cameras…and through the book’s pages as well ~.~

  2. spoeker
    spoeker ·

    hmmm I transported a lot of undeveloped films in my checked bag and nothing happend to them so far.....did you had problems with this?

  3. nicnocnoo
    nicnocnoo ·

    Coming back from Barcelona with my sis last month, they stopped me because my bag flagged up a concern, opened it up & checked it wanting to know what it was. They were then laughing and showing all the other staff when I had to explain there were about 7 lomography cameras in there plus loads of film! Guess boxes with minimal wires look concerning!

  4. megs79
    megs79 ·

    @spoeker- We flew to a few different places while in Europe with a few stopovers as well. I knew before I left that with the airports alone I would have had to put them through a scanner at least 8 times, and this would not have counted every time I would have had to get it scanned at a museum or otherwise (would have probably been more like 14 times). I did not want to take the chance of the film getting damaged. I did have a few rolls accidentally go through once or twice without any damage, but I don't know what 14 scans would have done.

  5. maxwellmaxen
    maxwellmaxen ·

    but why take such a load of film with me? i always buy on location :D