Traveling with a disposable camera isn’t as complicated as you might think.
Even so, you can’t just walk through the airport security screening area without knowing anything about it since you might damage your disposable camera beyond repair.
The worst part is that you may not realize this until you receive your photos from the lab.
Keep reading if you want to avoid having this happen to you.
According to the TSA, you can bring your disposable camera in your carry-on or checked luggage.
However, TSA recommends bringing your disposable camera in your carry-on or as a personal item since the new and improved x-ray scanners will damage the film inside.
You can place the disposable camera inside your checked luggage if it doesn’t contain the film.
Related: Can you bring a camera on a Plane?
Contrary to popular belief, wrapping the camera in aluminum foil will not protect it against the x-ray scanner.
It is essential to mention that just a couple of years ago, some types of photo film could undergo scanning without getting damaged.
Nowadays, the x-ray scanners installed in airports are more powerful, and once the film gets scanned, you can consider it as good as dead.
Precautions you need to take when you arrive at the airport with a disposable camera
The TSA states that disposable cameras and photo films should be searched by hand by airport security.
Once you arrive at the screening area, keep the camera in an easily accessible place. If you have more than one disposable camera, I advise placing them in a transparent bag.
Related: Can You Bring a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera on a Plane?
Remember to tell the agent that you have items that need to be hand-searched.
If TSA agents insist that the camera must be scanned, don’t argue with them. Instead, ask to speak with a supervisor. This should resolve the issue.
What is the chance that a single scan will ruin your film?
Nobody has studied this question, but it would be like flipping a coin. Scanning has a cumulative effect on film. One scan might not damage it, but two or three scans definitely will.
Some travelers say that after passing a scan or two with their disposable camera, their film was undamaged, but these are rare instances.
However, if you forgot your disposable camera was inside your checked luggage, you can say goodbye to it since you don’t know how many times your luggage was scanned.
You might think one airport equals one scan, but you don’t know for sure since TSA internal regulations require that every piece of checked baggage should be scanned from at least two angles.
I suggest buying a lead film protecting bag if you fly a lot. This way, you can place the disposable cameras inside your checked luggage.
Be aware, though, that the x-ray scanner can’t see the inside of the bag, so if you place it inside the checked luggage, your baggage will likely be opened and manually searched.
Lead bags appear resistant to x-ray; some people mentioned that they can pass ten scanners without film getting damaged.
Why don’t we all use a lead protection bag since buying one does not cost much?
The drawback is that a film protection bag weighs a lot since it contains lead.
If you want to use the cheapest route and use a lead sheet to protect your camera against the x-ray machine, I would advise against it since lead is a toxic material.
In addition, small particles will remain on the disposable camera, and you will inhale them when you take a photo.
Not to mention that on the x-ray scanner, a disposable camera wrapped in a lead sheet will look like a brick of narcotics.
Can you buy a disposable camera at the airport?
At the time this article was written, in almost all United States airports, you couldn’t find a place selling disposable cameras.
Overseas, things are looking way better since you can find them in every major airport.
I think the reason for not finding them inside U.S. airports is the small profit margins the shops make from them.
Another reason is that digital cameras such as GoPro are available to buy at the airport. Even vending machines, such as Best Buy’s Kiosks, sell digital cameras and other electronics.
It wouldn’t make sense for Best Buy to offer a $20 disposable camera near a $600 GoPro since most airport buyers will choose the first option and avoid paying for an overpriced GoPro.
In the rest of the world, you can find dedicated shops such as Kodak Express where you can buy disposable cameras.
However, if you fly internationally, I advise you to avoid buying a disposable camera at the airport since they tend to cost more.
Tips for using a disposable camera as a first-time user
1. Don’t place your fingers in front of the lens.
This is easier said than done, considering disposable cameras are much smaller than regular ones.
If you have big hands, you will need to check where you place your fingers if you don’t want to have the shadow of a finger in every photo.
You might not realize that your finger is on the front of the lens because when you take the shoot, you look through a viewfinder and not the actual lens.
What makes it even more frustrating is that you will not know that you messed up your photos until you receive them from the photo lab.
2. Read the camera instruction about using the flash.
All disposable cameras need a few seconds to charge the flash before using it.
You need to press the flash charge button for a few seconds until the flash-ready LED is at maximum brightness, and after that, you can use the camera to take pictures in the dark or in low light.
Remember to always power down the flash after using it if your disposable camera doesn’t have a press and release button.
It would be best to use the flash whenever you are indoors unless the place you are in receives a lot of natural light.
If the light in the room is artificial, I advise you to use the flash because your pictures will look better. Likewise, if you are inside an airplane, you should use the flash to take photos.
Every time you are in doubt about using the flash, use it. Disposable cameras are known for taking underexposed photos.
3. Keep your distance
Disposable cameras are not designed to take selfies or close-range photos. Usually, the sweet spot is around fifteen feet away from the camera.
At this range, you will get the best shots. However, if you are too close to your subject, the photos will get blurry.
4. Pay attention to the light.
To take the best shoots, always have the sun behind you, not in front of you. This way, you will take detailed photos and not end up with your subject silhouetted in the dark.
Can a disposable camera be reused?
A disposable camera can be reused, but there are some things you need to know.
First, disposable cameras are not all the same; some are easier to open than others.
For example, if you have a Kodak FunSaver, it’s effortless to reload new film compared to a Fujifilm disposable camera.
Remember, though, that when you reload film, you must do it in a pitch-black room.
That means absolutely no source of lighting. Blocking the outside light with a blanket isn’t going to cut it.
The film will get ruined during this procedure if it’s exposed to even a tiny light source.
I advise you to train yourself first by doing this procedure a couple of times with used film until you get the hang of it.
The reason is that when you change the film, you will have to do it without seeing anything. You should also watch this video to understand the process:
If you find it hard to do, you can go to a photo lab and ask the people working there to reload the film for you in the dark room.
After installing the new film, you will need black tape to seal the camera. You might also need to change the battery.
I advise that if you are thinking about reloading your disposable camera, it’s better to buy a cheap reusable camera. It will make your life so much easier and will cost only a few dollars more.
Should you reuse your disposable camera?
That’s your choice, but I don’t think it’s worth it and I will explain why.
First, these products are not designed to be reused. There is a reason that they are called “disposable.” If you reuse them, they can break at any given time.
Second, you can buy a Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash 400 Disposable 35mm Camera for about $20. This camera comes loaded with a Fujicolor Superia 400 Color Negative Film that costs around $17.
You might think that the camera without the film costs $3, but that is not right since Fujifilm needs to turn a profit.
They actually cut the length of the film from 36 exposure to only 27 in the disposable camera.
Even so, I still consider it’s not worth it to reuse a disposable camera just to save a couple of dollars.
If you don’t know what you are doing, the risk of damaging the film is too high.
If you want to save money, I would advise you to wait for Black Friday and buy a pack of four cameras at a significant discount instead of trying to change the film yourself.
Unless you are an avid photographer, four disposable cameras should be enough for a whole year.
However, if you want to find better prices all year round, you can try Walmart since they have disposable cameras at a discount.
The only drawback is that those discounts are unavailable online, and you must go in person to check for them.
As you can see, you can safely take your disposable camera onto a commercial flight as long as you avoid the X-ray scanner.