Advice About High Speed Film at the Airport

Security guards at the airport have told me that if your film is 800 speed or faster you shouldn’t run it through the x-ray machine. Although I have heard stories of film being ruined at slower speeds, I haven’t had any problems at 400 speed or slower. This week I was flying with 3200 speed film, so I asked that my film not be run through the x-ray machine. Apparently this is an extremely rare request because the guards acted like I was the first person ever to ask. In Chicago, the shocked guard said, “No one can deny you that right.” In Indiana the guards said, “What speed is it?” and then didn’t seem to believe me when I said 3200. Needless to say, my unusual request sent the guards into super alert mode. Since my film was in the original sealed box, I expected them to just pass it through and give it back to me. How silly of me! No, they gave my film the terrorist treatment taking all four rolls out of their box, out of the plastic, and then began swabbing it with what I can only guess was a bomb sensing cloth. Luckly they didn’t unroll it and exposed the film, since they acted like they had never seen medium format film before.

Once they were satisfied that my film was safe, they treated me like a professional photographer. “Wow, you must be a VERY professional photographer to need 3200 speed film! How much is that a roll? I need to get some of that.” They are just doing their jobs, I know. I guess as long as my film isn’t ruined I will forgive them. My advice is if you are traveling with fast film, you might want to make sure you budget a few extra minutes to get through the line!

2 Responses to “Advice About High Speed Film at the Airport”

  1. Dan Says:

    I am surprised that they did that for you in the current climate. I have heard of photographers being hassled by airport security and being refused, even with legit ID etc. It used to work for me but I havn’t travelled internationally for a while. I used to take the film out of the cannisters and put it a large clear zip lock bag, wait till I was last in line and had no problems, (make it easy for them). But now,…I know many photogs who say ‘just buy the film you want at the destination, and process it there too’ (if you can).

  2. garry Says:

    Your story brought back memories of the hassles I had with security and x-ray machines. I did everything I could to make it easy for security to check my film, including removing the plastic canisters and carrying them in a clear bag. etc… But this didn’t go down well in London.

    In Vietnam I had to walk through 3 x-ray machines to get on a plane. Because I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t get them to hand check it.

    The best thing to do is buy on of those film x-ray proof bags. Never got hassled again.

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