Navigating Airport Security with Film: A Traveler’s Guide from Toronto to the World

Film photography essentials - a collection of 35mm film rolls neatly packed in a transparent bag for airport security.
photo by Eva Darron

So you love to travel and capture moments with the charm of film photography? Picture this – you’re standing in the security line at a major airport, a bag filled with rolls of film slung over your shoulder. The inevitable question arises: How will the X-rays and new CT scanners affect your precious film? Fret not, fellow photographer! This comprehensive guide unveils the mysteries, shares tips, and ensures your film soars through security unscathed.

Tips For Bringing Film Through Airport Security And Dealing With CT Scanners​

Overview: Film photography has witnessed a resurgence, and if you’re a film enthusiast traveling through major airports, navigating security checks becomes an art. Here’s everything you need to know about the impact of X-rays and the new CT scanners on your film.

CT Scanners: While not yet at every airport, the new CT scanners can potentially damage unprocessed film. Politely request a hand-check to protect your film from a single CT scan that could compromise its integrity.

X-Ray Scanners: Most security checkpoints indicate that film below 800 ISO won’t be affected by X-rays. However, it’s advisable to request a hand-check if your travel involves multiple scans. Understanding the nuances, major airports accommodate hand-check requests for film in carry-on baggage.

Packing Your Film for a Seamless Airport Experience

How to Pack Your Film: Kodak advises keeping unprocessed film in carry-on luggage. Take it out of canisters and wrappers, placing it in a transparent ziplock bag for quick removal during screening. Avoid storing film in checked baggage, as it may go through higher-energy X-rays.

Instant Film Caution: Always have instant film hand-checked, as X-ray scans can fog it. Prepare it for inspection, preventing agents from unwrapping it. For travelers, ensuring the preservation of instant film is a mindful travel ritual.

Understanding the Science and Impact of X-rays on Film

Effects of X-rays on Film: The photoreactivity of silver halides in film makes it sensitive to X-ray damage. Checked baggage scanners with high-energy X-rays can cause immediate fogging, affecting different film types in various ways.

Film Photography's Resurgence Amidst Travel

The Appeal of Film Photography: In the digital era, film photography’s allure persists, evident in the growing popularity of #35mm on social media. Major airports, gateways for creatives, embrace the influx of film enthusiasts, ensuring their journey through security aligns with the artistry of analog photography.

Preserving Film Memories: Each roll of film, capable of capturing 36 unique moments, becomes a vessel of nostalgia. Airports acknowledge the importance of preserving these memories, encouraging travellers to engage with security personnel for a seamless film-friendly experience.


Embark on your film odyssey from major airports with confidence. Armed with these savvy tips, your journey through airport security becomes a breeze, preserving the authenticity and creativity that film photography brings to each captured moment.

In the vibrant world of film photography, every frame is a testament to a unique narrative waiting to be unfolded. As you traverse through the skies, remember that your film, like your travel memories, deserves to be handled with care.

Major airports stand as not just transit hubs but partners in preserving the essence of your photographic journey. The renaissance of film photography finds its way into every security checkpoint, and with a polite nod to the agents, your film continues its storytelling undisturbed.

So, pack your film, request those hand-checks, and let each roll unravel a tale of adventure and authenticity. May your film capture the beauty of the world and the spirit of your journey, starting right at the heart of your travel experience.

For those eager to delve deeper into the science behind X-rays and film, Kodak provides an insightful resource on “Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film.” Explore more here.

Safe travels, storyteller. May your film capture the beauty of the world and the spirit of your journey!

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