Can I Take Camera Film On An Airplane?

Travelling by air can be stressful enough as it is, never mind worrying about your film too! Luckily over the years, I’ve discovered just what to do with film while flying!

The best way to take your camera film through airport security is to keep your film in a clear plastic bag and ask for it to be hand-inspected at security. Most airlines suggest that film stocks with an ISO of 800 or more are the only stocks in any danger from CT scanners, however, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise.

There are a few different ways to ensure that your camera film is completely safe when flying, so if you want to find out more, keep reading!

So What Happens If Film Goes Through Security Scanners?

You might be wondering why you’d have to worry about putting your film through security scanners, I have sent through rolls of Kodak Colorplus in hand luggage and I haven’t really had any issues. But that was before Covid, since then many of the big film brands have issued warnings regarding more powerful CT scanners at airports, meaning your film could be in danger of fogging and degradation.

The slight degradation and fogging caused by airport scanners is perfectly illustrated here by Jelmer Quist as one roll of film went through a scanner and another did not. You can see clear but subtle differences in the quality of the film after it’s been through a CT scanner. These differences may not bother the average traveller but they would certainly affect anyone who’s shooting for something import or for a commission.

When your film goes through a CT scanner (this would be the one used for hand luggage, absolutely do not put it in your big suitcase), your film would be subject to light, electromagnetic radiation and radioactivity. These things collectively could cause damage and degradation to your film. Your film won’t be completely destroyed by any stretch but it won’t be as good as it should be.

So How Can I Avoid My Film Going Through Security Scanners?

So you’re probably wondering how you can avoid your film going through scanners. Most airports say that it’s only 800 ISO film or above that gets damaged when going through CT scanners but film companies are saying otherwise.

A trick to try to get your film hand-inspected rather than put through the film destroyers is to carry one random high ISO film stock, bag up all of your film in a plastic bag and keep one 800+ ISO film stock in there. Aparently, this is a great way to get security to always hand inspect all of your film rather than telling you your low ISO stock will be fine.

As long as you’re prepared and make it easy for security to check your film then you shouldn’t really have any issues. This should mean you can avoid having your film go through the CT scanner at all.

Load Your Camera After You’ve Been Through Security

Obviously, when you get to the airport you may have film in your camera already. If you can help it, load your film after you’ve been through security because your camera will probably have to be in your carry on luggage.

If you have an SLR and you’re half way through a roll, you could rewind your film (leaving part of the film poking out of the cannister), remove it, put it into your clear plastic bag for security and then load it again when you’re through. Then you could take X amount of shots with your lens cap on until you are back to the number of shots you had taken initially.

Send Your Film/Get It Developed On Location

Another good alternative once you’re away is to either send your film to your developers via mail or to get it developed in your current location, this would at least mean you only need to worry about security once and take that stress off.

Taking Your Film Camera On An Airplane

Taking a film camera onto an airplane should be just fine, I’d suggest keeping your camera in your hand luggage if you only have a moderately small setup. It’s certainly worth loading your film into your camera after going through security, as noted previously.

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