official advisory from Fujifilm USA about commercial air travel with film. Also advice about postal and delivery services : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

This is courtesy of noted photographic writer and editor Bob Shell. iadd to it the following advice; Get to the airport early, be courteous, you are not the only person trying to catch a plane or carrying photographic materials: your rude behavior causes trouble for all of us. You don't want to play by the rules? Fine. Stay home.

New Postal Service and Increased Airport Scanning Procedures Fog Photographic Film

In an effort to make the skies and United States mail safer after the tragic events of September 11th, new and increased scanning procedures have been put in place by both the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the airline industry. Unfortunately, these recent changes put photographic film at risk of fogging and exposure.

In airports around the country, the use of baggage scanners to detect explosive devices has been increased. Because of its silver content and metal canisters, photographic film, especially large packages or bundles of film, appears particularly suspect. Unfortunately, the scanners are fogging undeveloped film left in checked baggage. Unlike the airport x-ray equipment of the past, which had little or no effect on unprocessed film, the International Imaging Industry Association, Inc. (I3A) has tested these scanners at the request of the FAA and determined they have the potential to fog both unprocessed color and black and white film. Processed film is unaffected.

As of October 27th, the USPS has begun purchasing electron beam scanning equipment for use in sterilizing mail and eliminating any possible exposure to anthrax. This electron beam technology will fully expose undeveloped film as if it were exposed to sunlight. At this time, we do not have complete information regarding the extent to which these scanners will be used or when the USPS will begin using them. As we receive additional information, we will update this document to remain current with these events.

While we applaud the FAA, airline industry and USPS in their efforts to ensure that checked baggage and mail are safe, we also realize that your pictures are very important to you and want to do all we can to see that your photographic memories are preserved. We offer the following suggestions to help you avoid damage to your film from airline scanners. We do not currently have information regarding any safeguards that may be taken to protect film sent via the USPS.

* Make sure there is no unprocessed film in your checked baggage.

* Carry your undeveloped film with you as carry-on baggage and ask for hand inspection whenever possible. Place film in a separate mesh or clear plastic bag for easy identification by airport security.

* When carrying large amounts of unprocessed film, contact the airline prior to your flight to arrange for a special baggage inspection. When possible, send your film via a cargo carrier that will certify that the film will not be x-rayed. The FAA and I3A are currently working on guidelines with respect to this situation.

* At some airports, passengers may be randomly selected from the carry-on baggage check line and their carry-on luggage scanned as checked baggage. Please be aware that this scan will fog film. If you are asked to step into another line, remove your film from your carry-on baggage.

* In time, security measures at airports may increase, and stronger scanners may be used to scan even carry-on baggage. Be aware of the signs in the airport; most carry-on baggage scanners, at this time, will be marked as "Film Safe" if they will not damage your film.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, November 07, 2001


Well, I just recently traveled from Houston to Mexico City.. I requested a visual check of my PC and film...and it was a no go, I asked to talk to 3 different supervisors, I was nice and polite and everytime I was denied a visual check I asked for the next person higher. They all told me the rules, everything goes through the x ray. When I stated I thought they were mistaken and that visual checks were still allowed they were adamant in their attitude that no more visual checks, of course when I asked them to show me the ne regulations they were unable to do so, but in the end what do you do? you have the choice of missing your flight, keep arguing or passing your film through the x ray and hoping it does not get exposed. If any of you out there are counting on getting a visual check you might as well forget it.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 07, 2001.

On Oct 31 we traveled from Portland, Maine international airport where a visual check of the film was denied (35mm 6x6 and 4x5). My wifes film had allready gone thru x-ray in a lead bag with no questions asked. Security,state police, national guard all watching, my wife empties her lead bag gives it to me "here use my lead bag"I place my film handed back to security... it goes thru x-ray security hands me the bag and tells me I'm all set. At the same time my computer is being sniffed.??? In NewOrleans with long lines they were very friendly and willing to hand check the film, cameras loaded/unloaded still have to be x-ray. I wonder what exactly the folks in Portland saw in the lead bag to be assured it was safe ??? They did confiscate my fileless finger nail cliper, Go figure


-- Victor (, November 07, 2001.

I recently queried A+I about postal safety before sending some mailers with undeveloped film. While they didn't come right out and say it was absolutely safe, they did say that right now the USPS is only scanning letters and not packages and that they are concentrating on mail destined for NY and Wash DC. To me it sounded safe for the time being (Colorado to California) and I took a chance in using US mail. They also said that that are monitoring film sent to them for any problems and have not detected any so far. Also that UPS and Fedex do not scan packages as the USPS is planning to do. They indicated that they will be updating their web site with further info as the information becomes availible.

-- Roger Rouch (, November 07, 2001.

I travelled on September 29th and took a 120 folder camera. I just kept the film in my pockets, since the packaging is cardboard & plastic now, and it didn't set off the metal detectors. No problems. It might be now, though, since I've heard of people being asked to take off their belts, and shoes, and ...

35mm cannisters, of course, wouldn't work.

-- Charlie Strack (, November 07, 2001.

So what is the current consensus? Film shield bags in your carry-on baggage

-- David Best (panoramaman@, November 08, 2001.

While we're in full paranoia mode....

Now I'm worried that most people will ditch their film-based cameras and get digital to avoid these hassles. Film manufacturers will then go out of business or switch to all digital products, and we won't be able to get any film at all.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, November 08, 2001.

Too late; that's already begun.

-- Chad Jarvis (, November 09, 2001.

Has anyone had problems with the people at the airport demanding that your boxes of sheet film be opened? I would hope not, but was curious. Especially if you're traveling internationally. I'm thinking about an international trip and taking MF & LF gear with me. Just wondering.

-- Diane Maher (, November 16, 2001.

I've had a sealed 4x5 film box opened by security on a domestic Australian flight - luckily they didn't open the bag inside - ???!!! Also - Kodak IR film - try explaining why you can't examine the cannister (or it'll get fogged). Easy photographer solution - don't visit the USA - I won't be...

-- Chris Groenhout (, November 19, 2001.

As long ago as Sept 1997, I was unable to get a hand-check of several rolls of Delta 400 size 120, which I had placed in plastic Zip-Lock bag. This was in Heathrow, fling British Air (which I will NEVER use again, they were snotty all the way up the line of supervisors ("Stanley, explain to the man why we have to Xray his film, he won't listen to me"). I finally had to give in, or miss the flight back to Seattle. I bought an Olympus digital camera, but it is strictly for sending web photos to the parents---enlargements for exhibition are just not possible (I am spoiled by the 30x40 prints Ivey Seright made from my 6x9 Fujichromes). Next time I photograph in Italy, I will buy and process the film locally, and mail it back (in several aliquots) to Seattle, or carry on person. The best digital cameras (Minolta Dimage 7, Nikon D1X) produce useful enlargements no greater than 13x17, at resolution and smoothness the same as from a 35mm point&shoot. THis will change, but not as soon as the industry would have us believe. Better is 120 chrome scanned and digitized for LightJet output. Wonder if you could mail film to Post Office in your destination City, for pickup when you get there???

-- terry Roth (, November 27, 2001.

"As long ago as Sept 1997, I was unable to get a hand-check of several rolls of Delta 400 size 120, which I had placed in plastic Zip-Lock bag. This was in Heathrow, fling British Air (which I will NEVER use again, they were snotty all the way up the line of supervisors ("Stanley, explain to the man why we have to Xray his film, he won't listen to me"). I finally had to give in, or miss the flight back to Seattle."

There is reason why you are not entitled to a hand check at Heathrow (and haven't been for 20 years or more as I recall) - it's called the I.R.A. , INLA and various other terrorist organisations - a reality Britain has been living with since 1969. Something N Americans are only just learning to live with.

When they won't hand check your film or put up with your whining protests, it for a darn good reason. The rule is - through the x-ray or you don't get on the plane. Simple as that.

Tim A (who has had to deal with the aftermath of far more than one terrorist bomb blast - x-raying your film is a small price to pay, I can assure you)

-- tim atherton (, November 27, 2001.

"Whining protests"?? Pardon me, you need to read more carefully. My requests for handcheck were unfailingly polite and reasonable, why are you so caustic? So you have had to deal with consequences of --- what? bombs? I wonder. Talk's cheap, and internet braggadocio is common. Well, pal, big deal. The subject of these messages has to do with x-ray damage to film and how to avoid it, not damage to your fragile ego, and your flamey response to those of us who endeavor to help others online is not relevant. Grow up.

-- Terry Roth (, April 03, 2002.

Would somebody answer (first-hand) the BIGGEST question: Is all of the new security doing damage to film?

-- bill youmans (, April 04, 2002.

I haven't had to fly with any large format film yet, but so far I have seen no damage on any of the 35mm and 120 roll film (up to !SO 400) that I have had pass through the x-ray machines for carry on lugggage in Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, Frankfurt, El Paso, & Newark since October, 2001.

The safest bet will be to Fed Ex your film to & from your location.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 04, 2002.

Bill: I think the bottom line within the US is as follows:

1. Carry on going through the machines is unaffected, as before. If you get hauled out for more special treatment you'd better ask about what they're using. 2. Some checked luggage is being subjected to very high intensity x- ray scans which will fog film and create a dark line of density IF the machine happens to focus on your bag. If you put the film in a lead bag, creating a large radiographically opaque object, there is an increased chance the operator might spend more time exploring your film. 3. The manufacturers of the lead bags claim that their products (within the ISO ratings of the bag) will stop damage from even the high intensity scans of checked luggage 4. #3 is hard to verify, if you send through some test film in a lead bag (I've done that) does it mean you survived a scan or just that they didn't scan it?

The was the best I could come up with, so far as I know it is still accurate. I guess the moral of the story is anything but checked luggage until #3 is known to be true.

-- Kevin Crisp (, April 04, 2002.

I've done a fair amount of domestic and international flying since Sept. 11th with both 35mm and LF film (color & B&W) with no ill effects. In all cases I carried it on and made no attempts to put it in a lead-lined bag or anything. It's all turned out just fine. If I was shooting something critical I would probably follow Ellis' advice and FedEx it or develop it locally, but of the hundreds upon hundreds of rolls of film I've traipsed around the world with I have NEVER had a problem with a single one.

-- Jennifer Waak (, April 04, 2002.

Beware of carry-on scans of digital equipment. My Fuji Digital camera was damaged and left unusable until Fuji replaced the circuit board and CCD. I suppose the x-ray ruined these components. The security people assured me that memory devices are not damaged, but the main capture circuitry was damaged. Should I use a lead lined bag for digital camera?

-- David Beard (, October 31, 2002.

Just arrived back in Vienna, Austria via Portland, OR, Seattle and London (Heathrow). I carried several exposed but undeveloped Kodak Readyloads of T-Max 100, 4x5 (Didn't have time to develop them in the States). I developed them here, yesterday. Despite being put through the X-ray machines a total of 3 times, there was absolutely no fogging or streaking. Although I try to avoid travelling with film at all, buying and processing on-site, this seems to be encouraging for the possibilities of travelling by air with unexposed or unprocessed film. I'll repeat the question I've asked before and was asked above: Does anyone have any evidence at all of film damage from film carried in hand luggage? I'd really be interested to know.

Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, November 11, 2002.

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