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Tips for Traveling with Film

Tips for Traveling with Film

Our love of film in this digital world is stronger than ever. There is still something wondrous about the look of an image created on film. We have a tendency to slow down a bit, think more about the image we want to create, since each roll, or pack of film, has a limited number.

When we travel, we tend to take a lot of pictures, right? Especially if we are in a new place. We get excited and curious and just want to document every little thing. Many of you may be traveling at the moment or thinking about getting in one last trip before the end of summer. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few tips to protect your film, if you are going through an airport.


It’s best to carry on your film, whether it’s been shot or not. The X-Ray machines used for checked luggage are more powerful and could damage the film. So best to be safe. This would apply to roll film like 35mm or 120, or even instant film. Keep in mind that film over ISO 800 should really be hand-checked if TSA is using the older X-Ray machines.

We recently came across a tweet from Kodak that highly encourages that all film be hand-checked, especially if the airport is using newer CT scanners. These scanners are reportedly stronger which could impact the film even more.

When you’re going through the TSA line, simply let the staff know you’re traveling with film and would like it to be hand-inspected.

35MM or 120 FILM 

Consider the following steps in handling these types of film before you travel and when you head home. 

  • Unwrap the film from any boxes or plastic
  • If you want to have the film protected, try to use the plastic containers most rolls come in 
  • Keep your rolls in a see through bag to make inspection easier
  • Place this as the top of your bag, or in a pocket where you can quickly access it
  • Make sure your film camera is free of film, so each roll can be inspected


    Please, please, please try to avoid un-exposed instant film from going through a scanner. For instant Fujifilm Instax film has an ISO of 800, if it goes through the scanner you do run the risk of fogging of the film. Film that has already been exposed should be fine, at least I’ve yet to have any issues with prints I’ve already made going through the older scanners.

    Here are a few tips to think about when t with Instant film:

    • If you have packs that are fully sealed, this should be able to go through just fine, if you are worried about it, since there is a foil layer on each pack internally, you could consider opening boxes and taking that foil pack off. Personally, I have gone through with closed boxes without issues.
    • Just like with the roll film, consider putting your pack film in some kind of see-through bag, so that it’s a bit contained and easy to look through. These days we can get well-built, reusable plastic or silicone bags, this would be a great type of bag to consider. 
    • Keep your exposed prints in a tin, box or small bag to help prevent them from getting bent or damaged in travel. Some brands like Fujifilm have albums you could use, and Polaroid has occasionally offered limited-edition boxes too.

    TSA ultimately has the final decision if it can go through or not.


    Share your fave film shots with us on Instagram with #GlazersAnalogue. 


    Photo Credit: All images by Kate Hailey.

    About the Author

    Kate Hailey is a freelance portrait photographer and photo educator based in Seattle, WA. Kate also runs Glazer's event programming. Follow Kate on IG!


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