How To Travel With Film

by | Oct 1, 2020 | Film Chat | 0 comments

A film camera in your backpack is quite possibly the best accessory you can have whilst you travel. They are stronger than a mobile phone and quite frankly, the photos will be far better. Traveling with film does create some risks though so it’s worth noting a few things if you’re going to do it, to avoid any cries of despair when you realise your rolls came back blank.

The first thing to note is how you pack your film, DON’T put your film in your hold luggage as these bags will be going through much stronger x-rays which could potentially damage your film. The film may come out super cloudy/foggy with darker edges.

Kodak has warned that the new TSA CT scanners WILL damage unprocessed film. You can find these in the US and they will slowly pop-up in other countries too. Be sure to advise the agent that you would like your film hand checked because just one scan through these CT scanners is enough to ruin the roll.

(Pic: Choo Yut Shing/Flickr)

Always pack it in your carry-on and where possible, try not to load them in your camera before your trip in case a security guard wants to inspect the inside of your camera and blow a whole roll out. (This doesn’t really happen but better to be safe)

It’s wise to take them in a clear plastic bag (just like your liquids) and have a go at getting them hand-checked at the airport so you don’t need to put them through any x-rays. In my experience, this works about 50% of the time as some airports can be quite strict on hand checking items but this depends where you are in the world. Most London airports won’t touch anything under 800 ISO as they claim it could go through these x-rays 100 times before it gets damaged whereas smaller airports may help you. In fairness, they might be right and it isn’t necessary, but there is no harm in asking.

Try not to worry too much if you can’t get your rolls hand checked. Most of the time, you’ll be fine (especially if you’re shooting less than 800 ISO) but to just to reassure you, here is an image I shot in Vietnam which went through a hand luggage scanner six times.

Have somewhere to keep your film safe! Always have a pouch or bag for your film, something that is easily accessible. Don’t be that guy who has to unpack their whole bag in the middle of the airport. Keep them together and make sure they get home with you safe.

As a final note, if there is a reputable lab where you’re visiting then get them developed there and save the risk of putting through a second trip at the airport. Processed film isn’t affected by X-rays so you can fly home knowing your images are safe.

Good luck!


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