Flying with Film: Results from 3x TSA X-Ray

Traveling with film can be stressful for photographers, as airport X-ray machines can damage or ruin the film. The X-ray machines emit radiation that can fog or distort the images on the film, especially if the film is exposed multiple times.

Photographers concerned about their film can request a hand inspection at the airport to avoid possible damage. This involves presenting the film to a TSA agent for manual review rather than sending it through the X-ray machine.

However, some airports may not allow hand inspection due to security concerns, and photographers may be forced to send their film through the X-ray machine. While it’s unlikely the standard X-Ray will affect the film, the film can be stored in a lead-lined bag to reduce the risk of damage.

Film with an ISO of 800 or higher is more sensitive to X-ray radiation and may be more prone to damage. In these cases, photographers should request hand inspection or pack the film in a lead-lined bag.

We conducted a test at the airport by scanning a roll of Portra 400 three times through a traditional X-ray (not the CT scanner). The results were surprising, with minimal visible damage to the film.

Overall, while traveling with film can be nerve-wracking, there are steps photographers can take to protect their precious rolls. Photographers can ensure their images are safe from X-ray damage by requesting hand inspection or packing the film in a protective case. However, it is reassuring that some film stocks may be more resilient to X-ray radiation than previously thought.

1 reply on “Flying with Film: Results from 3x TSA X-Ray”

Okay, I was wondering about this. Doing a roadtrip with my brother later this year. Driving up to Wisconsin from Texas, but I’ll be flying back, and it’s a good excuse to bring a camera. Hopefully MSP is good about hand inspecting film.

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