How to Travel with Photographic Film

By Emma Lloyd

How to travel with film, another seemingly tricky question within the long list of analogue photography myths and fairy tales. But do not fear!

😊 This article aims to answer all your film photography travel questions, so by the time holidays are back on the cards you will be ready and raring to go - with your analogue gear safely in hand.

What's the problem with travelling and film photography?

To add to the wonderful year that was 2020, some of the major film brands such as Kodak, Fuji Film and Ilford issued warnings about new and enhanced CT scan technology and the serious damage it could do to unprocessed photographic film. Since 2020 more airports have added these scanners to their security set-ups.

Tales from the Film Community

We do have some unfortunate travel tales from the community, see some of the tweets we were sent below. Fogging seems to be the main issue to watch out for, but don't worry we have plenty of tips to make sure you're prepared for your next trip, regardless of the film type you're taking with you!


What's a CT scanner?

CT, standing for Computerised Tomography, uses much more powerful rays than x-rays in order to form a 3D image of the scanned object. Of course, this is to keep us all safe but our beloved film has had to make the sacrifice. Film can be damaged after just one pass through a scanner, even low ISO films.


Will CT scanners damage my film?

The CT scanners can cause fogging- this is defined as ‘the deterioration in the quality of the image or the negative caused either by extraneous light, other electromagnetic radiation, radioactivity or the effects of a processing chemical.’ Fujifilm also noted other damaging effects such as distortion in shadow detail and general image degradation. In other words, your photos just aren’t going to pack the same punch!

Jelmer Quist from Emulsive was brave enough to take the ultimate test and put their film through a CT scanner! One roll wasn’t put through the scanner and the other took the plunge. You can see the results of the experiment here.


The Good News

This all may sound quite worrying, but fear not, you can still take your favourite films with you on your next get away!. There are plenty of tips and tricks to protect your film, and most airport security will happily hand check your film, so you can avoid it being put through the monstrous CT scanner!


Our top tips and tricks for travelling with film

⭐ Get a case for your film! Or re-use your Analogue Wonderland packaging!

All our branded packaging comes with xray and ct scan warning indicators printed on the box, which may be useful when you’re going through airport security.



We also sell some handy cases (AnalogHeld, Kodak Film Case, JCH Case, Lomography Film Case) some of which also have the x-ray warnings printed on them.


⭐ Pack your film away safely!

Take your film out of all its packaging and wrappers and store it in a transparent, ziplock bag (the same way you would for all your liquids in your hand luggage). This way you can easily show it to airport security for hand inspection!


⭐ Easy access

Airport security is certainly not the most thrilling part of any trip. Make the process as smooth and quick as possible by keeping your film somewhere that you have easy access to. A side pocket or other easy-access area of your carry-on for quick removal is ideal!


⭐ Keep your friends close, but your film closer!

To lessen the chance of our film accidentally going through a scanner, DON’T put it in any luggage or baggage that will be put in hold storage. This includes cameras that still have film in them.


⭐ Load later

This tip is less to do with the airport scanners and security checks, and more to do with the actual radiation we are exposed to during our flight. Did you know that the amount of radiation commercial pilots are exposed to a year is the equivalent of about 75 chest X-rays? (Travelstatsman) This kind of radiation, known as cosmic radiation, can damage your photographic film. In order to prevent this it is advised to load your camera after you fly. This is because the lead in your canister of film will protect the rest of your film from being damaged. However, if it is unrolled and loaded in a camera, it leaves more of the film vulnerable to come into contact with the low level radiation that we experience during fights.


⭐ Pack films that like it hot!

As mentioned in our blog on storing film, it is always best to keep your films in a cool, dark and dry place. So if you're planning on jetting off to somewhere lovely and warm, with perhaps a more humid climate, your films may not be as excited about this adventure as you.

So before you travel, why not consider picking a film that performs well in a hotter climate? Did you know that Kodak Pro Image was specially formulated and designed predominantly for Asian and South American markets. These areas of the world have much hotter climates than we are used to, hence the films have been designed to perform well in this heat. Kodak Pro-image is unique in that it can can be stored safely at room temperatures for long periods of time, including hot and humid climates. (see our youtube video on it here). 

⭐ Send your film home first!

Another way to avoid the airport security is to send your film home to the lab before you make your way back (you could even re-use your Analogue Wonderland packaging to send it home as it has x-ray warnings on!). You could bring a pre-paid mailer with you (but of course this means relying on the post in whatever country you’re in). Consider shipping your exposed film to the WonderLab for processing prior to your return trip… It’s easy if you take some prepaid mailers - we send these in our boxes for your convenience.

An alternative is to develop locally before making the return trip - as we discuss in our article on shooting New York City on film as long as you can find a reputable lab that will look after your images (and you have the spare time) then it can ease your mind.


Positive Experiences from the Film Community!

Have a read through of some tweets from the film community, sharing their more positive experiences of travelling with film! See, nothing to worry about (just don't miss your flight)!

So there are definitely some risks when you travel with photographic film - CT scanners, heat, the radiation from flying are just some of the things to look out for.

But hopefully you are now feeling prepared and excited for travelling with your cameras again! Miles from ExpiredFilmClub flies frequently as part of his sports film photography career and has never had any problems - which makes me much calmer about my holiday snapshots. Plus I have my speech for airport security ready and can't wait for the chance to photograph somewhere that isn't just my local high street 😂

Edit: We have just heard from a lovely member of the film community who was travelling through Bristol airport recently that there were no issues! "I went through Bristol airport security and had no issues with film being hand checked. They were outside of plastic containers in clear plastic bags and they were hand checked within a few minutes." Brilliant news, thanks for the heads up Clarke!😁



  • There are only two safe options, given the type of obstinate persons employed by Heathrow in particular [and for no good reason]. First option is to FedEx your film to your hotel a few weeks in advance. And FedEx back again. Dont travel with film anymore, of any speed, those days are gone. The second option is to use a digital camera whilst abroad.

    Douglas Fir
  • I was worried about taking film with me on a trip to Bergerac, France and then this post came through to my email 2 days before I flew out.

    I followed the advice of putting the film in a separate clear bag and asking for a hand check on the film. The security people at John Lennon Airport (Liverpool) were really nice about it I just handed it over and asked for a hand check on the film, they said ‘certainly’ with a smile and gave me it back afterwards.

    However coming back was different. I done the same as I had done previously, but security at Bergerac Airport refused and said their machine was safe for film. They did show me a label on the machine that said ‘film safe’ but I was still reluctant. I had no alternative option though so through it went. I guess I’ll see next week if the film has been ruined or not. 🤞

  • You use to be able to get a bags with an x-ray proof lining to protect your films. are these still available, and would security accept them ?
    Terry Yelled
  • Heathrow refused to handcheck for me. I emailed them beforehand to ask, they emailed back to say it would be fine. When I showed the email to the security person on request, they called a supervisor and then told me “sorry, I think there was crossed wires with that email – we only hand-check over 800iso”. The whole discussion took considerably longer than it wpuld actually have done to hand-check…and so did raking through my film to find the canisters/rolls labelled 800, as they wouldn’t hand-check them unless it was actually printed on there.

    I went through five other airports during that trip and didn’t have a single problem getting a hand-check at any of them.

  • I don’t even bother risking it these days, airport security usually don’t want to know and will refuse a hand search. So on my last few trips I’ve researched places to purchase film when I arrive and get it developed before I leave! Most labs just email a download link once they’re ready anyway. Obviously this won’t work everywhere but for a city break it’s always been fine for me! In some places it’s also been less than half the price of film/developing in the UK. Maybe an issue getting the negatives posted but I’m sure most places would do it for an extra cost.

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