Beware of X-rays


Traveling is not only about filling your film stocks in advance and finding the proper lab that won’t damage your films. It is also about keeping the films safe until the moment they will be proceeded for development.

Some say that any film speed below 800 ISO is safe from X-Rays, others add that it should be done no more then 5 times. In most countries the X-Rays baggage checkers are tuned to nearly 1/3 of their power. It might be safe. However, even there security staff are allowed to put the power up to its maximum in case of uncertainty and for the safety reasons, something that, as you can imagine, is not that good for your emulsions.

Most of time I’ve tried to keep the films in the specialized X-Rays safe bag (available in most Photographic stores). But if you feel like a little bit of DIY you can always modify a bag that you already have (all you need is to add 3 layers of foil!) I’ve also tried not to forget to pull out from my bags the cameras and the films that were just extracted from the camera or those that I was intended to push into the camera. Unfortunately you can still see some traces of the X-ray on my photos as I tried to put 80 films inside a bag made for 30…

Something somewhere still got a chance to go slightly wrong. Here is a proof: in spite of all the precautions some of the films succeeded to catch some radiation. Enjoy the pure analogue artwork on Ilford Pan 400 ISO or Kodak 160VC and beware of the “film safe” stickers :)

written by breakphreak on 2009-03-26 #gear #tutorials #travel #film #tipster #x-rays


  1. lomosexual_manboy
    lomosexual_manboy ·

    I always thought that was a myth because after traveling the world for four months with the same film I had no signs of any radiation, but since then I have seen over and over again examples of what x-ray machines can do to film. Thanks for the tip. Next time I will be lining my film in layers of foil for sure. It's not worth the risk.

  2. kirri-joy
    kirri-joy ·

    this is a good article..ive also wondered what x-rays did to film.

  3. oldskool_rider
    oldskool_rider ·

    wow, never knew this, im going to buy some bags next time i travel

  4. lomodirk
    lomodirk ·

    I always carry my films in my hand luggage. Never had any problems. These bags just make them turn up the power...

  5. sumlom
    sumlom ·

    wow. i never knew it would affect the films. always thought those x-ray machines were film safe. thanks for the tip off

  6. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    I always heard that if you use a film safe and the custom guys can´t really figure out what it is - they even go on higher x rays to figure out what it is.....

  7. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    That's all true: some will never experience any probs, other will be requested to pull off the contents of their bags because of an uncertainty. Some will be told that the X-Rays are film-safe. The bottom line (according to my experience in a journey through Israel, Jordan and China) is: if you can - never let your films go through the X-Rays (in custom, metro or airport) and if you can't avoid it - try to use X-Rays-safe bag. Mind frame N3 as the best illustration of what might happen.

  8. anarchy
    anarchy ·

    This is always a gamble, but most x-ray machines are set to a level of power that won't affect the film, so trying to protect your film with foil or lead bags will in fact raise the probability of the personel cranking up the power of their machine, thus you actually stand a better chance of keeping your film safe without those "protective" layers... However, personally I think your Ilford Pan 400 roll responded really well to the treatment =)

  9. stouf
    stouf ·

    I always use a Xray safe bag, and I keep it with me in the plane, because I heard that x-Rays for baggages going under the plane are way stronger than the one used for carry-on baggages... I never had any problem... Thanks for the info breakphreak!

  10. special_patrol
    special_patrol ·

    i always just ask the folks working the x-ray if they'd look over my film by hand so it doesn't get ruined by the x-ray. for the most part, they've been really nice about it.

  11. mandashitley
    mandashitley ·

    @ special_patrol. I was gonna say you guys go through a lot of trouble when you can just ask them to hand check it.

  12. dotdotdot
    dotdotdot ·

    Hmm.. so wad if you are shipping films from overseas.. say.. from the lomo shop? Won't the films go through worse in "check-in" xray that are claimed to be stronger?

  13. chris_tina
    chris_tina ·

    I traveled last week and tried to protect my film as well as possible. But now I find myself a bit excited over developing the pictures and secretly hope of some signs of radiation on them. Is there anyone here with any “damaged” pictures that turned out to be pretty cool even though they were “ruined”?

  14. pushkar
    pushkar ·

    just went through Dubai airport... they scanned my film ... attendant asked me do u have a some cameras & film? i said yes... & left... later i realized why he was asking... it probably ruined my loads of film :( 1st time traveling with film... been using digital too long :(
    hoping against hope all my film is alright..... pray for me guys

  15. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    Most likely the films at 400 ISO and below will be okay. And if not - relax and enjoy the defeKt :)

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