Can I Take Film Through Airport Security?

Taking film photographs on holiday is the absolute best, and is why this question is asked so often. It is important to make sure your rolls of film get there and back safely. This article goes through all of the myths and the truths of travelling with rolls of film.

Vintage camera on top of map

What is the issue with airports and rolls of film?


This is such a hot topic with film photographers and there is a lot of mis-information out there. Everyone has a different opinion on how you should handle your film through airports, but we have done all of the research and are here to present the facts.


As you know, rolls of film are light sensitive. And airports have several points where your luggage goes through x-ray scanners. This means x-rays are being blasted through all the items in your luggage, which means the rays could touch your negatives and ruin your rolls of film.


There is also new technology that has been introduced called "CT scanners" which have much more powerful rays and can damage your film much more than the traditional x-ray scanners.


Most rolls of film under 800 ISO can go through a few x-ray scanners with no effect as you travel from place to place. But putting your film through a CT scanner, even once, can cause issues with the film.

View of aiport

So, can I take my film through the airport?


Yes! You absolutely can.


Ignore all the fear-mongering that seems to happen around this issue! Here are the facts for you.


Firstly, not all airports have CT scanners. And traditional x-ray scanners only affect films with an ISO of 800 or upwards.


Secondly, you can ask airport security to check your rolls of film by hand. Keep your rolls of film in your hand luggage and carry them through security yourself.


Thirdly, wait until you are in your destination to load your roll of film. This can make it easier for your rolls of film to be hand-checked and means airport staff won't accidentally expose your film in your camera.


Keep reading to find out more details about how to make sure your film stays safe in the airport so you can get those gorgeous holidays shots.

How do you know if it is a CT scanner or a x-ray scanner?

One tell-tale sign that you are about to put your luggage through a CT scanner, and not a x-ray scanner, is that the airport staff will not ask you to remove liquids from your bag. 


Ordinarily, and for airports with x-ray scanners, there will be areas and opportunity to remove liquids from your hand luggage into separate bags so that they can be easily checked by the airport staff. When approaching a CT scanner in the airport, you will not be asked to do this, and there also won't be any signs or areas for you to separate your liquids as you normally would.


Also, don't be afraid to ask airport security which type of scanner they are using if you are not sure. They are there to help you and keep security flowing constantly, so you're not holding them up at all by asking a simple question.

What should I package my rolls of film in?


Taking your rolls of film out of the packaging and putting them into a transparent ziplock bag is the best course of action. This makes it a lot easier for airport security to check your film and make sure that it can get through security quickly.

What can happen to my film?

Coming into contact with these rays will have an effect on your images. I found this out the hard way with my images from Amsterdam as I didn't know that the new technology was present there.


Repeated contact with x-rays, or contact with CT rays, will cause fogging on your rolls of film. This can make them look more grainy, blurry, and low quality. 

Summary

Avoid putting film through CT scanners.

Package it in a clear bag to be inspected by hand.

Load your film when you get to your destination.

We hope you found this article helpful. Please consider buying me a cup of coffee so that I can continue creating content for photographers like yourself.

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