View Full Version : Traveling with sheet film?

15-Nov-2014, 07:48
I have never traveled with sheet film only roll film and digital. This is a real basic question but when you use a changing tent, do you place the exposed film back into a film box and mark it "Exposed"? How do you keep from scratching the film and how do you keep it organized?

15-Nov-2014, 07:55
I keep several boxes that are marked "EXPOSED FILM" and they should be the same size as the film itself, to prevent lateral shifting of the sheets. I don't seal them with tape, but once there is exposed film inside, I use several sets of rubber bands around the box - which to me indicates that the box contains exposed film. I brought several boxes of exposed sheet film back from Scotland this way, and did not have any problems with film getting scratched, nor was there any fogging from carrying the film with me on the plane. Carry on items get a lower dose of radiation scanning than checked bags. Also - the boxes for exposed film always have either the third "inner box" or else the black plastic bag that the film comes in originally - always keep those black plastic bags that Ilford film comes in...

And - only one film type per box (labeled with a post-it). If you have film that is to be pushed/pulled in processing, keep them separated from normal processing sheets.

Andrew O'Neill
15-Nov-2014, 08:09
My exposed film goes back into a box labelled, "exposed". I always have a few boxes. The film goes into the box in order according to my exposure record notebook. HP5, FP4, IR, Xray, whatever. They all go in together. Naturally, 4x5 and 8x10 have their own boxes. Never had an issue with scratching. The boxes have rubber bands around them and stored in ziplock bags. Never had any issues with airport X-ray fogging. I've been doing it this way for many years without a hitch.

15-Nov-2014, 08:51
This may seem like a silly/obvious suggestion but if you shoot more than one type of film then be sure to label the boxes appropriately.

Bill Burk
15-Nov-2014, 09:43
Can't see the labels in the dark bag...

I use a pouch with 6 pockets that holds my boxes of N-1, N, N+1 and N+2 plus fresh film. When laid out flat, and oriented ... I know which one is which in the dark bag. As I unload the Grafmatic, I look at my notes for the shots and cycle through the septums in order unloading the sheets into the corresponding holding boxes.

Jim Andrada
15-Nov-2014, 17:16
The lab I use has no problem using the notch code to separate the different emulsions. I usually use only two on any given trip - one B&W and one color.

Of course when I do my own processing notch codes are good enough

I do draw the notch code for anything in the box on the box itself labeled with the film type just in case.

Doremus Scudder
16-Nov-2014, 06:03
Like Bill, I carry empty film boxes labeled "N," "N-1," and "N+1." When unloading, I'll do the same as when developing: make a stack of all the "N-1s" and unload them first into the appropriate box (I keep the single-sides and double-sides straight by making two stacks). Then the same with the "N+1s." Usually these are not too numerous. I then unload all the "Ns," which is now easier, because the pluses and minuses are already gone.

Holders with N-2 or 3, or N+2 simply don't get unloaded. I tape the darkslide in with masking tape and label it. N+2 is very, very rare for me, but I often have a bunch of N-2/3 to deal with. I could carry another box, but I have enough holders that I don't need to. On "road trips," which can be up to 100 days sometimes, I carry 50 holders and change them out as described above only once or twice.

When flying, I carry about 20 holders and do the same. Usually my trips are shorter when flying, so I often don't have to change at all. When returning to my home in Vienna, Austria from locations in Europe, I just carry the loaded, exposed film in the holders in my carry on. However, if there is any risk, or space is at a premium, I'll unload all the holders into boxes and put those in my carry-on.

Hope this helps,


16-Nov-2014, 09:46
Thanks! I figured it had to work like that I just wanted to make sure.

Noah A
19-Nov-2014, 07:25
No need to repeat the advice above, but I will add that Freestyle Photo sells black plastic bags that can be used inside of your film boxes. I find that these bags make things tighter so that the film doesn't slide around. Even in the correct size box, there is obviously still room for film to slide around. I shoot Kodak so I don't have ones to reuse, but these are similar to the ones that come with Ilford film.


I'm not affiliated with freestyle, but I've been using these for a few years and they work great. I also have found that I can fit 50 sheets of film into a Kodak 10-sheet box, even with the black plastic bag. This is important for me since I tend to travel with 2-300 sheets of film. That would take up a lot of space in 10-sheet boxes.

Additionally, I make labels on my laser printer that list my business name and info as well as large print reading "Exposed Photographic Film, Open Only in Complete Darkness" or something like that. I also translate this into the language(s) of my destination and transit countries.

We have to remember that many people (including customs agents and security personnel) have never seen a box of sheet film. So an official-looking label may help.

I do send my film through the carry-on x-ray machine, but I take my film boxes, which are placed in clear ziplock bags, out of my carry-on bag and put them into a tray with nothing else. Since my camera bag is full of metal, they sometimes run it through the x-ray again or give the bag added attention. So if the film is by itself it will most likely only be zapped once.

19-Nov-2014, 08:49
Thanks everyone for the great information!