Protect Your Film from X-Ray Damage During Air Travel


When you fly, take your camera and plenty of film. Analogue does more than capture your memories from a trip; it captures the feelings too. Your camera also causes you to interact differently with the environment: you are more observant and people are more likely to be curious about and approach you. Finally, you will be as delighted by the surprises when you return and develop your film, like the boar in the cloud below, as your friends will be when you share your treasures with them.

Traveling by air with the film is an adventure in and of itself, but well worth it. You will need to prepare for your trip though. This article offers tips for a successful photo expedition; most importantly, getting to your destination and back without x-ray damage to your film.

Pick a wide variety of film that suits your tastes and the unique qualities of your destination. In Jordan, I took a day trip to magnificent Petra.

Things You Should Know Before Traveling

X-rays used in security screening will damage your film, so prepare carefully for your analogue adventures. For an illustration of the consequences of checking your bag with film or passing it too many times through carry-on x-ray equipment, see Kodak’s pictures of ruined negatives and resulting prints at Kodak.

Before you travel, check the airport security guidelines for carrying a camera and film. If you will be traveling in the United States, the Transportation Safety Administration provides advice at TSA. During my first trip with an analogue camera, I found TSA agents friendly and helpful when requesting a hand inspection of my film. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you have a very long flight itinerary, I strongly suggest mailing your film. It was a major hassle going through six hand inspections—two in Amman, two in Frankfurt, and two in Newark—when returning from Jordan. Send your film to your place of destination in advance to avoid delays and possible damage. Use a well-known shipping company with media mail services. Call your lodging for delivery instructions. Consider the convenience and security of using a mail-in film development service, such as the Lomography Film Lab

I used Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 to capture the dusty oranges and dry environs of the desert.

Prepare Your Film by Packing

Packing your camera and film is easy. Here are some tips to keep your film safe:

  • Buy as much film as you can carry.
  • Throw away the cardboard packaging.
  • Keep the film in those iconic plastic canisters. If you have empty clear canisters, use these instead of opaque canisters.
  • Use a transparent zip-lock bag; don’t bother with buying a lead-lined pouch.
  • Place your film baggie in your carry-on where you can very easily locate and retrieve it.
Amman’s nightlife and people come to life with a roll of cross-processed film. I used Fuji Velvia 35mm 100 ISO film to capture the personality and mood on the streets and on the trail.

Traveling with Film: Do’s and Don’ts

If you want to make it to your destination and back home with film undamaged by x-rays, remember these do’s and don’ts:

  • Do be prepared.
  • Do not pack film in checked bags.
  • Do put your film in your carry-on bag.
  • Do not forget to remove your film when passing through security check-points.
  • Do pull your film out early.
  • Do not dig around in your bag and hold up the line.
  • Do ask for a hand inspection.
  • Do not be rude to the security officer.
  • Do smile and say thank you.
  • Do not forget to develop and share your photos soon after travel.
The canyon paths were a black-and-white photographer’s dream. I used Ilford Delta 3200 Black and White film to capture the full tonal range of the surrounding cliffs.

I hope this article helps you enjoy your photo adventure par avion. Don’t forget to take a handful of color negative film to capture all of the unforgettable moments you will want to share with your friends! Moreover, please share your pictures from your analogue adventures on your LomoHome. Put a link to your expedition’s photo album in the comment section. And if you have tips for making it home with the most precious souvenir from your trip, your film, please share them here.

written by cassidy on 2012-02-08 #gear #tutorials #travel #film #flying #tipster #traveling #damage #x-ray-fog #traveling-with-film #protecting-your-film #flying-with-film #protecting

Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 35mm

The Lomography Redscale XR 50-200’s extended range allows flexibility and unlimited possibilities.


  1. adzfar
    adzfar ·

    Nice tips!

  2. skrutt
    skrutt ·

    Nice tips! Will remember these when I go abroad this summer! I had no idea you could take out the films and ask for hand inspection.

  3. jezzyjung
    jezzyjung ·

    Great tip & Great photos

  4. stipley
    stipley ·

    What about putting film in your large/non-hand luggage? Will that be ok?

  5. mazott
    mazott ·

    I recently went to Macau and my films got x-ray scanned in the Macau Airport. The custom official said the x-ray is film safe up to 32000 iso, so I had no choice but to scan it ... I have already send my films to process, hopefully there is no real damage.....

  6. mikeydavies
    mikeydavies ·

    Awesome! X

  7. myahcat
    myahcat ·

    I've travelled loads with film in both my checked and hand luggage. Never had any problems. I think, like @mazott said, the machines are safe now for film. I may be wrong, and maybe my next trip will prove it... but so far, so good.

  8. mintandcoke
    mintandcoke ·

    Lucky you. In Portugal, Brasil and France security officers were adamant: film could NOT be hand inspected, it had to go through x-rays. I was told no film under 1600 ISO would be affected by the x-rays. The only place where they let me take the ziplock bag out was Italy. Anyway, I got an xpro film that looked a little washed out, but I am not sure weather it was the expired film, my crappy scanner or the x-rays effects.. :)

  9. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    nice tips! :D

  10. lomonesia
    lomonesia ·

    nice tips ang great photos

  11. norabernard
    norabernard ·

    This is interesting. I'm going to the Bahamas from New York City...yikes! Should I take my camera out of the 120mm wrapper for it to be checked?

  12. bridgetj
    bridgetj ·

    I found myself digging for "flying with film" info last summer when I travelled with film cameras for the first time in two decades. The Kodak site linked in the tipster is very useful. I let a few rolls go through the scanner on the outbound flight, but since I bought more film at my destination, I requested hand-inspection of about 15 rolls (in a largish ziplock bag) of 120 film at Boston Logan on the way home. They were happy to do it, even though none of the film was over 400iso. When asked, I told them honestly that it was low-speed, but some of it had already been scanned once and I was trying to avoid cumulative scans. They used one of those chemical sniffer wand things like they use on laptops. He opened the newly-bought 5-pack box and wiped the ends of each roll individually, but he didn't take the new rolls out of the foil - I kind of expected he might, but no.

    Caveat: The airport was absolutely NOT busy at the time. No line at security. I got there quite a bit early.

    I kept notes about which rolls had been scanned - none of my film showed fogging when it was developed. YMMV.

    My advice? Take low-speed film. Keep it in your carry-on. Get to the airport early. Ask very nicely for a hand-check. If it must go through the scanner, treat that film as an experiment. Experiments are fun!

  13. halamoodie
    halamoodie ·

    Mint! Thanks for the advice and ace photographs! I had a film ruined as it was left in my camera and was scanned twice due to a connecting flight! Booo! :(

  14. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    So ask for a hand inspection instead of the X-ray if i have film in carry-on? okaay (:

  15. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Thanks for the tips and great pictures of Petra! I travel a lot and never had any problem with all the films I carry around... and no film was ever damaged by the x-rays for me... perhaps I always was lucky?

  16. superkulisap
    superkulisap ·

    If you have a changing bag, then you can use that as an anti-xray bag. Put in all your films and cameras loaded with films inside your changing bag and that should do it. That's what I do when I travel. Hand checking is the safest way though but I find it a bit time-consuming especially when you carry more than 10 rolls. Cheers! :)

  17. traci516
    traci516 ·

    Good article. Definitely have to echo bridgetj's point about getting there early. I forgot about this fact recently and almost missed my flight because I had them hand inspect my film. =)

  18. ianaggie
    ianaggie ·

    I have found that older expired rolls are definitely more susceptible to xrays than fresh film. I always keep mine in a ziplock bag and have them hand check them.

  19. gorableme
    gorableme ·

    It's nice to know that...

  20. violetz
    violetz ·

    What about films already INSIDE your camera? If I ask for manual inspection so there's the risk that they'll open the camera burning the photos already taken! [I'm sorry for my poor english!!]

  21. kaimcn
    kaimcn ·

    I'm traveling domestically in Canada this weekend and hoping that I can get away with a manual inspection. With luck I"ll remember to NOT load my camera before going through security.

  22. bluemie5
    bluemie5 ·

    Great pictures of Petra!

  23. sandyt
    sandyt ·

    I am travelling with Porta 160/400 film 120 format. On a trip through China, VietNam Middle east and Poland I had only one case where the screeners refused to hand check. It was in Hong Kong where not a single person in security knew what film was!! A numer of their people were contacted while I waited. The final answer was that they had to put the film through the machine because they did not know what it was! Sandy

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