Travelling with Polaroid: Will X-ray hurt my film?

As an instant photography fan, we love to bring our instant cameras on trips but how do we protect our instant films from X-ray? This is a common concern and people have been asking us for years.

X-ray in airport scanners don’t affect film that is already developed – digital photos, slides, and developed pictures aren’t affected. But undeveloped film is sensitive to light because they are waiting to be exposed. The X-ray may penetrate and expose the film.

How exactly does it affect undeveloped film?

You will see random fog stripes or light patterns appearing on the photos. The fog will become more severe if it goes through a high energy X-ray scanner.

Precautions when travelling with Polaroid film:

#1 Don’t pack undeveloped film in your checked baggage.

Pack undeveloped film or cameras with film inside in your carry-on baggage. The X-ray used to inspect carry-on baggage is much milder than the X-ray for checked baggage. 

Low energy X-ray will not cause noticeable damage to films under ISO800 such as Fujifilm Instax mini, Instax wide, Polaroid Originals 600 (ISO640) and SX-70 (ISO160) films.

#2 Be polite and ask for a manual inspection.

If your baggage needs to be X-rayed, try requesting for a manual inspection *politely and patiently*. They allow manual inspection of photographic equipment and film in some airports.

#3 Pack your films inside a dark bag (filmguard bag)

Although there has been a ton of debate on whether or not filmguard bags work, you can still try one just to be safe. You can also save time showing the security one bag instead of digging through your whole backpack.

One more thing: Use it up!

Use up your instant films during the journey so that you don’t have to carry it back home (and worry about the damage from X-ray inspection again). Trust me, you will thank yourself later for capturing those great memories!

In the next post, I’ll write more about travel tips with instant film. Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment if you wanna share your experience traveling with film.

One comment

  • Thanks for this article! I almost always travel with an Instax camera, so I’ve made requesting a “hand check for my high speed film” part of my regular airport security routine. You’re absolutely right, you need to arrive a little early and be polite and patient. But I’ve found that the security officers are (nearly) always happy to help and seem to appreciate the break in their routine. They often ask me questions about the camera and how it works. It’s actually become a nice moment of human connection in the middle of what is typically a rushed and unfriendly experience. Just another example of how instant photography can be “social” in a different kind of way. 🙂

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