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How do I protect photography film from Xray while traveling?

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thanks for the information; I agree about opening the box! Do you just let them x-ray it then? Sounds like yours has been x-rayed multiple times with no issues.

 

Yes, I just let them X-ray to their hearts’ content. Multiple passes, with check-in / hand-carry / exposed / unexposed.

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I never had a problem asking for a hand inspection in the US. I am ver polite and courteous. At one airport, an older TSA agent called others over to show them what film was in case they were to see it when he was not around. In general, the agent performing the inspection seemed concerned that he would damage the film handling it. I had to reassure him everything would be fine

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I'm a fairly frequent long haul traveller (~6 long haul a year). I used to ask for film inspections, but recently have just taken to sticking the film (Tri-X, Portra 400, Ektar) in a Domke lead lined bag. I put that in the tray along with the camera. No worries from security and film develops up fine without any discernible issue. Some rolls have done multiple trips and would have been X-rayed 20 to 30 times without issues.

 

I noticed looking at their screens that an M3 shows up as completely solid black if placed vertically in the tray, possibly that gives some protection to the otherwise unguarded roll in the camera...

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The Film Guard bag looks great have one arriving tomorrow now. 

 

 

 

 

 

@Huu,

 

Welcome to the forum - I hope your time here will be enjoyable and educational!

 

As for protecting your film when flying/traveling, the most important thing of all is to never put film in your checked luggage. 

 

I have used lead lined film shield bags and have had good results.  Domke bags come in different sizes and are the best bags of this kind in my opinion - see https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/185375-REG/Domke_711_15B_Film_Guard_Bag_Large.html?sts=pi

 

When I have used the large size Domke Film Guard bags when flying, I take my film out of the boxes and plastic canisters and put the rolls of film in a one gallon Ziploc freezer bag that then goes inside the Film Guard bags; You will be able to put 5-10 more rolls of film in each bag by using this method, too.

 

I put them through the x-ray machine that is used for carry on luggage.  They look like a black square to the x-ray machine operator, so they ask to open them at the other end.  I open the bags for them and take out the gallon Ziploc bags; they see a pile of 35mm film cans and that's us ally the end of the inspection.  Sometimes they will swab some of the film canisters or the inside of the bags to test for explosive residue which they never find.

 

If you don't have or can't get the Film Guard bags, in the U.S., airport security must hand inspect your film if you request it; that doesn't mean that they won't try to talk you out of it, though.  Just remain calmly and politely continue to make your request and you will get the hand inspection.

 

There are dozens of articles online about airport x-ray scanners and whether or not they will damage your film.  A lot people say they won't damage your film, but I have talked with a few serious film photographers and darkroom printers who insist that yes, airport x-ray machines will damage the grain structure of undeveloped film - even low ISO film - with the damage showing up as loss of detail in the shadow areas.  Why take a chance on that if you don't have to?

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I'm a fairly frequent long haul traveller (~6 long haul a year). I used to ask for film inspections, but recently have just taken to sticking the film (Tri-X, Portra 400, Ektar) in a Domke lead lined bag. I put that in the tray along with the camera. No worries from security and film develops up fine without any discernible issue. Some rolls have done multiple trips and would have been X-rayed 20 to 30 times without issues.

 

I noticed looking at their screens that an M3 shows up as completely solid black if placed vertically in the tray, possibly that gives some protection to the otherwise unguarded roll in the camera...

The problem with lead bags is that they only stop a part of the rays, and security staff may use multiple passes to try and see inside, making the exposure higher.

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Yes, I just let them X-ray to their hearts’ content. Multiple passes, with check-in / hand-carry / exposed / unexposed.

+1. My personal experience is that multiple passes of my ISO 100 films have never had any impact. The most passes it had was in South America (mainly Peru) .....around 6-8 (can’t recall exactly), and the film was perfect.

 

I’m back in the Alps with the remaining box of large format Provia 100, and it will have had 4x screens in total ..... and, personally, I’m not the slightest bit concerned that it won’t be 100% fine.

 

This is in hand luggage only, of course.

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This is admittedly anecdotal, but may be suggestive of what happens with very high ISO film in carry-on, and how lead bags can help.

 

I gave a friend a pack (now discontinued and very expensive) of Fuji FB-3000B film for Polaroid, which is ISO 3200. He took it from the the UK to Greece in his hand luggage and used it there but found it to be ruined, completely blown out. Our guess is that it was heavily pre-exposed at the security checks at Heathrow.

 

I have now travelled through Heathrow and other airports many times with other packs of the same ISO 3200 film. Domke lead bags come in two sizes, so I put each pack of film inside a small bag, and then two or three such bags inside the big bag. Maybe it’s overkill, but so far it seems to work.

 

I have seen the bags on the monitors show up as completely black. If asked by security staff, I just explain about the ISO and the bags, and have experienced no hassle. The results with this film are excellent. I use it to shoot in very dark churches and see no problems with the film at all.

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The problem with lead bags is that they only stop a part of the rays, and security staff may use multiple passes to try and see inside, making the exposure higher.

 

No, after the first pass they are more likely to empty the bag, swab the contents and put it through the scanner again as you would expect them to.  Which effectively renders lead-lined film bags pointless. 

 

I have never, ever had any of my films damaged by a security scanner, even after a dozen or more passes.

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I know virtually nothing ut x-ray machine impact other than what they tell me at big airports such as LHR, Paris and Frankfurt where they seams to be happy from time to time to manually look at the camera and film, only London seams to be annoyed by this and claiming that 400 fil is not an issue. But other times they have dusted it manually. 

 

I have ben told by a photographer friend that in the 3rd world the old x-ray machines can damage film. Since 01-01-17 I have done about 150 flights most of them in and to the 3rd world.  May of the countries I go to have very old Russian machines. So my thinking is that Its a small cost to at least try and be on the safe side with a lead bag. I sometimes do 8-10 flights in a week so I will revert back with an update on what the airport security reactions will be after my next 3 week travel block

 

Ps  I do not work for an Airline. 

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No, after the first pass they are more likely to empty the bag, swab the contents and put it through the scanner again as you would expect them to. .

That makes sense but, surprisingly, has never been my experience. Usually visual inspection and swabbing is enough, and the film stays in the bag and is not directly x-rayed.

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Some recent personal experience to support the evidence that x-ray scanning is a non-issue.

I've just completed a Silk Road trip from Beijing across China. Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and iran. I lost count of the number of x-ray machines my hand luggage had to pass through, especially in China and the western Uighur region where there are scanners at not only airports, train stations, every museum, but also regular highway stops. With no word of exaggeration, my ASA400 films (Fuji Superia & Kodak Tri-X) must have passed through over 50 scans, and even some checked-in luggage scans where I had left some films in my main baggage.

I've had all the colour developed and am half-way through scanning them. There is absolutely no effect on them. This is about as severe a real-world test as I am ever likely to experience. Case closed as far as I am concerned.

  

 

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What all the advice boils down to is this:

1. Don't check it in, keep it in the carry-on bag.

2. When going through security, say there is film in there, can it be hand checked?

3. When they say no, don't panic.

4. Try to use the lowest ISO film you can, so whatever X-ray exposure it receives, it will matter less.

5. Lead-lined bags and boxes will simply result in the X-ray intensity being increased so the contents will be visible to the inspecting staff. Don't bother.

And like everyone else, I have travelled with film and have not experienced harm.

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21 minutes ago, chrism said:

What all the advice boils down to is this:

1. Don't check it in, keep it in the carry-on bag.

2. When going through security, say there is film in there, can it be hand checked?

3. When they say no, don't panic.

4. Try to use the lowest ISO film you can, so whatever X-ray exposure it receives, it will matter less.

5. Lead-lined bags and boxes will simply result in the X-ray intensity being increased so the contents will be visible to the inspecting staff. Don't bother.

And like everyone else, I have travelled with film and have not experienced harm.

No, this can't happen. If they see something suspicious your bag is simply held back for a hand search.

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On 6/23/2019 at 3:29 AM, Narsuitus said:

I use lead-lined storage containers to protect my film from the X-rays used by airports and cruise ships for security purposes.

Travel Camera by Narsuitus, on Flickr

Rather useless. If the operator cannot see the contents properly he'll rescan until he can. 

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