Protecting Your Pics

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The digital revolution has certainly made things more immediate and more individualized. Nowadays we can fast forward through commercials on television and take and send pictures immediately with our cell phones. And as consumer prices for digital cameras have come way down in the last few years, most people are shying away from the film cameras of yore.

But for those who take pleasure in the slower process of taking photos, developing film and being surprised by what shots they got, there is still some new technology to deal with.

The high-powered X-ray scanners that have been installed in nearly all U.S. airports are great for screening checked luggage for explosives. Unfortunately, they can completely ruin your rolls of film. It's a terrible thing to come home from a trip and find that the precious memories you've captured have been ruined.

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These machines can damage unprocessed film both inside and outside your camera. And the higher the film speed, the more likely it is to be damaged by X-rays.

So, try to pack your film in your carry-on luggage because those bags are scanned by X-rays that use a lower level of radiation. They most likely will not damage film unless it is scanned many times. However, most professional photographers choose to have film hand-inspected at U.S. airports. Just remember that if you are traveling outside the U.S., there is no guarantee that the scanning people will accommodate your request for hand inspection.

If you routinely use high-speed film, say, above 800, travel regularly, or if you're going to pass your bags through several X-ray machines, consider a film shielding bag, such as the ones made by Sima Products Corp.