Film through airport security

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climber2020
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Film through airport security

Post by climber2020 »

I'm flying to London Heathrow later this month and plan on taking a few rolls of film and a film camera with me. It's been a few years since I've traveled by air with film, and I've read that many of the larger airports (including Heathrow) now use CT scanners for your carry-on luggage that can ruin any type of undeveloped film with a single pass.

Has anyone traveled recently with film rolls and had any issues having the security people hand check your film? I'd love to take this stuff, but don't want to risk it getting ruined on the way back.

*Edit 9-21-22: update added below after my trip. No issues getting the film through security.
Last edited by climber2020 on Thu Sep 22, 2022 9:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
Silk McCue
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Silk McCue »

I suggest you follow these suggestions if you want to protect your undeveloped film. Answer brought to you by a Google search.

https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-scr ... items/film
Film

Carry On Bags: Yes
Checked Bags: Yes

We recommend that you put undeveloped film and cameras containing undeveloped film in your carry-on bags or take undeveloped film with you to the checkpoint and ask for a hand inspection.
Cheers
quantAndHold
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by quantAndHold »

Recently, no, not in over a decade. I did confirm by googling that can still get those lead lined bags for camera and film, though, and the Amazon reviews suggest that they go through the scanners without ever being questioned.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
MGBMartin
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by MGBMartin »

Do not put undeveloped film in checked bags as the scanners used for checked bags are much more powerful than those used for carry on bags.

Supposedly film 400 ISO and under is OK to go through carry on scanners, I’ve done it many times without problems.
You can ask for a hand inspection but you may be turned down.
Those lead bag things are OK but a chance when the scanners picks up the bag the TSA agent is going to want to investigate it more.
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samsoes
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by samsoes »

Film? Kodachrome??
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climber2020
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by climber2020 »

Thanks everyone.

TSA is a US thing. Things are different overseas.

If I encounter a CT scanner at Heathrow, then I’ll request a hand check. Looks like not all their security lines use that technology at the moment. Regular X-ray should be fine.
samsoes wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 4:57 pm Film? Kodachrome??
C-41 120 film. 400 speed Portra. I occasionally like to take my Holga 120N on vacation. There is nothing digital, hardware or software, that produces the aesthetic of a Holga; it’s really good for wall prints if shot correctly.
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Harry Livermore
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Harry Livermore »

climber2020 wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:36 pm Thanks everyone.

TSA is a US thing. Things are different overseas.

If I encounter a CT scanner at Heathrow, then I’ll request a hand check. Looks like not all their security lines use that technology at the moment. Regular X-ray should be fine.
samsoes wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 4:57 pm Film? Kodachrome??
C-41 120 film. 400 speed Portra. I occasionally like to take my Holga 120N on vacation. There is nothing digital, hardware or software, that produces the aesthetic of a Holga; it’s really good for wall prints if shot correctly.
Holga as in the plastic carnival-prize camera? I agree, nothing comes close to the artsy artifacts. I used to enjoy shooting with that one (and many other film cameras) As a veteran of the motion picture business, I have had good luck requesting hand-checks. You can also fib a little and say you are pushing the film to 2000 ISO and any X-ray or CT exposure will fog it. They'll do the chemical wipe instead.
Cheers
MGBMartin
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by MGBMartin »

The photographic community seem to be all over the place on this topic.
Do a google search and you will see all kinds of answers. I know Kodak and Ilford were working with the airport security on the issue.
I think the only definitive answer is to ask for hand inspection but I’ve seen reports of people being refused and their film has been OK while others reported ruined film probably due to different technologies used.
Kodak warns that all CT scanners will ruin film.
It’s also my understanding that security lines will have warnings about film if needed and the TSA are supposed to not refuse hand inspection.
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MGBMartin
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by MGBMartin »

Harry Livermore wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:47 pm
climber2020 wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:36 pm Thanks everyone.

TSA is a US thing. Things are different overseas.

If I encounter a CT scanner at Heathrow, then I’ll request a hand check. Looks like not all their security lines use that technology at the moment. Regular X-ray should be fine.
samsoes wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 4:57 pm Film? Kodachrome??
C-41 120 film. 400 speed Portra. I occasionally like to take my Holga 120N on vacation. There is nothing digital, hardware or software, that produces the aesthetic of a Holga; it’s really good for wall prints if shot correctly.
Holga as in the plastic carnival-prize camera? I agree, nothing comes close to the artsy artifacts. I used to enjoy shooting with that one (and many other film cameras) As a veteran of the motion picture business, I have had good luck requesting hand-checks. You can also fib a little and say you are pushing the film to 2000 ISO and any X-ray or CT exposure will fog it. They'll do the chemical wipe instead.
Cheers
Because the TSA agent won’t know that pushing film does not actually change its sensitivity or ISO.
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Harry Livermore
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Harry Livermore »

MGBMartin wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 6:04 pm
Because the TSA agent won’t know that pushing film does not actually change its sensitivity or ISO.
Um. OK, pal.
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snackdog
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by snackdog »

Never put film through any kind of scanner. It may be fine or it may be ruined. Why risk it?
HawkeyePierce
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by HawkeyePierce »

I’ve never been refused a hand inspection of film but obviously YMMV.

(Ilford FP4 die hard here)
MGBMartin
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by MGBMartin »

I’m heading to LHR next week but I’m not taking any photo gear.
I’m intrigued myself now so I think I will sacrifice a roll of film and take it with me through the carry on security to see what happens to it once I get home and develop it.
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climber2020
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by climber2020 »

Update to this post. The tiny airport that I fly out of has one of the new CT scanners for carry-ons. Requested a hand check and the security people were already familiar with the film situation.

Returning from London I had no issues because many of the security lanes at Heathrow still use the older style X-ray machines.
livesoft
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by livesoft »

Be sure to shoot a test roll or two and have them put through the scanners. Then please report back what you think the scanners did to them. Thanks!
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criticalmass
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by criticalmass »

MGBMartin wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 6:04 pm
Harry Livermore wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:47 pm
climber2020 wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:36 pm Thanks everyone.

TSA is a US thing. Things are different overseas.

If I encounter a CT scanner at Heathrow, then I’ll request a hand check. Looks like not all their security lines use that technology at the moment. Regular X-ray should be fine.
samsoes wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 4:57 pm Film? Kodachrome??
C-41 120 film. 400 speed Portra. I occasionally like to take my Holga 120N on vacation. There is nothing digital, hardware or software, that produces the aesthetic of a Holga; it’s really good for wall prints if shot correctly.
Holga as in the plastic carnival-prize camera? I agree, nothing comes close to the artsy artifacts. I used to enjoy shooting with that one (and many other film cameras) As a veteran of the motion picture business, I have had good luck requesting hand-checks. You can also fib a little and say you are pushing the film to 2000 ISO and any X-ray or CT exposure will fog it. They'll do the chemical wipe instead.
Cheers
Because the TSA agent won’t know that pushing film does not actually change its sensitivity or ISO.
Even if TSA employees worked overseas, I’m not following your statement. How can you determine that any security officer won’t (or will) know about film, unless you ask? I wouldn’t assume without verification.
Jeepergeo
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Jeepergeo »

Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
Silk McCue
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Silk McCue »

Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
The OP didn’t ask for our opinions on film vs digital. They asked about getting film through airport security safely.

It’s an art form. To each their own.

Cheers
MGBMartin
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by MGBMartin »

criticalmass wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:17 pm
MGBMartin wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 6:04 pm
Harry Livermore wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:47 pm
climber2020 wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 5:36 pm Thanks everyone.

TSA is a US thing. Things are different overseas.

If I encounter a CT scanner at Heathrow, then I’ll request a hand check. Looks like not all their security lines use that technology at the moment. Regular X-ray should be fine.
samsoes wrote: Sat Sep 03, 2022 4:57 pm Film? Kodachrome??
C-41 120 film. 400 speed Portra. I occasionally like to take my Holga 120N on vacation. There is nothing digital, hardware or software, that produces the aesthetic of a Holga; it’s really good for wall prints if shot correctly.
Holga as in the plastic carnival-prize camera? I agree, nothing comes close to the artsy artifacts. I used to enjoy shooting with that one (and many other film cameras) As a veteran of the motion picture business, I have had good luck requesting hand-checks. You can also fib a little and say you are pushing the film to 2000 ISO and any X-ray or CT exposure will fog it. They'll do the chemical wipe instead.
Cheers
Because the TSA agent won’t know that pushing film does not actually change its sensitivity or ISO.
Even if TSA employees worked overseas, I’m not following your statement. How can you determine that any security officer won’t (or will) know about film, unless you ask? I wouldn’t assume without verification.
My statement was a bit of a poke at the idea of pushing film in the belief that doing so increases the sensitivity to light of the film thereby making the film more suitable for lower light conditions.
A film only ever has one ISO and if you push that film all you are doing is underexposing it with the idea of increasing development to compensate for the loss of detail caused by underexposing the film.

So, I doubt very much a TSA agent is going to say, ‘ wait a minute, pushing film doesn’t make it more sensitive to light or X-ray etc’. Even some film photographers that push film don’t understand that idea.
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HawkeyePierce
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by HawkeyePierce »

Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
Some of us enjoy the art and ritual of film. I have several film cameras and built my own darkroom at home for black and white prints.

For color I shoot digital but there’s a special beauty of a large format black and white photo that digital just can’t beat. Even today very few cameras can capture the same amount of detail as an 8x10 negative.
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by climber2020 »

Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
Great question! Over 99.9% of what I shoot is digital. The last real camera I bought was released in 2013, which I still use on occasion as well as a full frame Sony, but almost all my photos are now shot with my iPhone.

The only film camera I currently shoot is the Holga 120N, and I maybe shoot a couple of rolls a year. If you're unfamiliar with this "camera", look up some photos online. In the right hands, the results can be stunning, and the aesthetic is impossible to reproduce with digital. That's the only reason I still shoot film, and believe it or not, the photos I get the most compliments on are prints made from the Holga.
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by homebuyer6426 »

Back when I shot film 400 speed was no problem through the x-ray. It was said you could get noise with 1600 so I avoided bringing that on flights.

I believe some people would use a lead shielded bag. That way if the security people don't know what they're doing, at worst they'd remove the bag to inspect by hand.

The effect on decades old expired film is often similar to film that has been put through an x-ray. Cosmic background radiation. Have shot film from the 90s and it performed well, but there is more noise/color-shifts.

I offered a film developing service while I was in college, and one time someone sent in some rolls from their dad from the 80s. Looked like pictures of the overthrow of Soviet power in Romania. That was the highlight. One thing that film/cassettes/records have over digital is longevity. Sure, you might be able to store a digital file technically forever if you keep backups, but in practice I have almost no files older than 15 years due to computer switches, hard drive crashes, format changes, etc.
deikel
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by deikel »

Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
come on now

I like digital photography, but it was only very recently that a good digital camera came even close to old school film. You can shoot well on both platforms all you want, the moment you go to larger print (and not get stuck on screen), you may still want film over digital.

For me the crossover happened with the XT-3, which is a decent 3/4.

Sure, if all you look at is screen, and flat pictures, then a cell phone will do. If you only look at 4k large screen TV a decent digital does it and gives you some artistic ability, but when you put stuff on paper is where it gets interesting (and expensive)
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Jeepergeo
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Jeepergeo »

deikel wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 2:56 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
come on now

I like digital photography, but it was only very recently that a good digital camera came even close to old school film. You can shoot well on both platforms all you want, the moment you go to larger print (and not get stuck on screen), you may still want film over digital.

For me the crossover happened with the XT-3, which is a decent 3/4.

Sure, if all you look at is screen, and flat pictures, then a cell phone will do. If you only look at 4k large screen TV a decent digital does it and gives you some artistic ability, but when you put stuff on paper is where it gets interesting (and expensive)
Come on now....

The question to the OP was legitimate and, from the OP's reply, appears to have been appreciated. All the gyrations to get film through airports would be a wasted effort if the OP didn't really need to take photographs with film to accomplish the goals of the photography. The OP has now come back and, after considerstion, notes that film is what's needed for this trip even though 99.9% of the OP's photography is digital these days.

I hope the OP has a great trip and can sleuth out of the advice for special bags, hand checks, and carry on Vs checked baggage given in this thread to find something that will work for the OP and get the OP's film back home safely.
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Re: Film through airport security

Post by Silk McCue »

Jeepergeo wrote: Sat Sep 24, 2022 12:20 am
deikel wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 2:56 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Wed Sep 21, 2022 7:58 pm Film is so 80s.
Seriously....
Does your photography really require film? Even lower end digital cameras and phones are able to support fairly high quality photography in the right hands. Plus you can back up regularly to the cloud and nearly cut to zero the chance of lost shots.
come on now

I like digital photography, but it was only very recently that a good digital camera came even close to old school film. You can shoot well on both platforms all you want, the moment you go to larger print (and not get stuck on screen), you may still want film over digital.

For me the crossover happened with the XT-3, which is a decent 3/4.

Sure, if all you look at is screen, and flat pictures, then a cell phone will do. If you only look at 4k large screen TV a decent digital does it and gives you some artistic ability, but when you put stuff on paper is where it gets interesting (and expensive)
Come on now....

The question to the OP was legitimate and, from the OP's reply, appears to have been appreciated. All the gyrations to get film through airports would be a wasted effort if the OP didn't really need to take photographs with film to accomplish the goals of the photography. The OP has now come back and, after considerstion, notes that film is what's needed for this trip even though 99.9% of the OP's photography is digital these days.

I hope the OP has a great trip and can sleuth out of the advice for special bags, hand checks, and carry on Vs checked baggage given in this thread to find something that will work for the OP and get the OP's film back home safely.
Come on now …

The OP was very polite in responding to you. They didn’t “after consideration” note that film was needed for this trip even though 99.9 of the OP’s photography is digital these days. They only asked a question about getting film through security. They didn’t ask a question seeking opinions about film versus digital photography.

Had you left out the dismissive first two lines of your post -
“Film is so 80s.
Seriously....”
which mocked their choice you would have been far better off and not received pushback on your post.

Cheers
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