Taking undeveloped film through airport security

What’s the latest recommendations regarding taking undeveloped film through airport security for international flights?

Is it OK to let the film be scanned along with the carry-on stuff?
Is there the risk of the film getting fogged?

I’ve thought about taking the film out of the canisters and putting the rolls in a clear plastic ziplock and asking them to not x-ray it, but I’m wondering if that will just cause them to be more suspicious of me, with them finally just scanning it anyway (with a double-strong dose, just to be sure).

Any professional photographers/photojournalists on the boards?

I went to Ireland in May. At BWI they had a sign that said 800 speed film and up should be hand checked. My 800 speed was in my luggage so I’m guessing it went through the X-Ray. I took four rolls, all the same box, of 800 and all of them came out grainy. My 400 speed and 200 speed film came out ok. I can not say that 100% it was the X-Ray, but I’m thinking that it was since the rest of my film came out ok.

I know others say that it will not harm your film but that has been my experience.

Well 800ISO is going to be grainy anyway. The higher the ISO the granier the film stock. I recently took 3200 ISO to NYC exposed them and brought them back for developing. At the airport I explained the situation and they forced me to x ray them anyway. They came out fine. X ray doesn’t cause grain anyway…it’ll cause a foggy spot…and that isn’t very often.

My advise is to ask them to check them separately, but don’t freak out if they want to xray them.

Never, ever leave film, exposed or not, in your checked luggage - the xrays they use on the checked bags will fog virtually any film, in just one pass.

The friendly folks at Kodak say that most film, like 200 or 400 speed, can take up to 5 passes through the carry-on screening xrays without any adverse effects, but that 800 (or faster) film can’t take that many passes.

If you’re worried about it, get to the airport a little early, and ask them to hand-check your film. Just be prepared, especially overseas, to have the security guys just shake their heads and gesture towards the conveyer into the xray machine.

These days, I buy film for a trip, and whatever I haven’t used gets tossed out when I get home. Some trips, of course, are going to take you through more than 5 security checkpoints, so you start running out of options. If you’re traveling within the U.S., however, you might consider taking some film mailers with you, and mailing them to a lab from wherever you are on the road, or even just mailing them to yourself.

No matter what the technically ignorant guard may tell you, they’re using x-rays. How else could they see through your luggage? They’re not using sonar or radar. My dad got into an argument many years ago with a guard at the U.S. Mint, and finally had to put his camera through. Yep, he got a bit of fog.

I also knew a couple who fogged all their honeymoon pictures with the luggage scanners.

The last time I had an out of state photo job, I bought all my film there. At a local camera store. I had mailers already, so I turned in the film to Qualex through the photo store and the chromes were mailed to my house. Avoided any X-ray exposure at all that way.

For my personal, just for fun stuff, I’ve gone digital.

It’s worth a thought…

You can also reduce your film’s exposure by getting it processed on location before you return home. Ask for processing only, do not cut. Then get prints made at home.

If you let them cut it, your prints will be more expensive, since they won’t be able to run it through their automatic printer.

Also, if you go to a devloping nation, the chances are more that their X-ray equipment will damage the film. At least that’s what I was told when I went to Tanzania a few years ago.

Taking film to a developing nation, heh heh heh…

Ah, never mind…

I had some hand-checked, unexposed Fuji 800 print film set off a detector while boarding a plane in Maui. It caused quite a stir. I was taken aside, told that it had tested positive for EXPLOSIVES RESIDUE. All my carry-on stuff was searched by hand, and I was asked to provide my previous hotel info, as well as destination hotel AND home address and phone number.

When I asked the TSA guy if the 800 film might be outgassing something to set off the equipment, I was simply told that I might want to get some new film. I tossed the rolls in question, and from then on, just put all my film, 100-400 ASA, fresh and exposed,in my carry-on. No more security hassles, no fogged film.

I never pack undeveloped film in checked baggage.

I always insist undeveloped film be hand-checked in my carryon. I’ve never been ordered to put it through the carryon xray.

Why? Never assume the x-ray machines are calibrated correctly, nor checked for calibration on a regular basis. While one airport ecurity system may claim its safe, what is the basis for the claim? Are their machines calibrated? All of them? Tested regularly?

I doubt it.