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News & Insight

Don’t Give Airport Security A Reason To Take Your Gear! Heed This Warning.

By Kishore Sawh on July 7th 2014


Traveling by flight, today, is very different than it was 20 to 30 years ago. Instead of a calf holding cell, even those of a 6 foot persuasion would be able to sprawl with comfort; you could get a steak with sauce béarnaise instead of some mystery meat in glue. Each man, woman, and child would be given amenity bags with trinkets and toys, whereas now you get your trinkets stolen from you by TSA, and where used to be friendly smiles from the crew, are often grunts.

Bit of a different story today though. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who are able to walk onto an airplane and turn left, your flight is likely to be the worst part of your trip. And scare stories abound now in regards to commercial flight.

It seems that each week someone is cooking up some news to bring about some new and exciting way to die in an airplane; you can’t fly on any flight longer than 6 hours before you’ll die of deep vein thrombosis, or the cancer caused by radiation in the upper atmosphere reacting with the metal airframe. So, it’s all rather bleak, and it just got a bit more miserable.


Numerous airports dotted around the globe are ramping up security checks and screenings, particularly pertaining to electronic devices. It’s in response to a perceived terrorist threat from Al Qaeda based in Yemen and other terrorists out of Syria, and primarily affects those returning to the United StatesMajor airports like LHR (London Heathrow) are to be affected. But what does this mean for photographers? Well as part of the newly administered measures, some travelers may be asked to power up their devices before boarding. If, however, the device will not turn on, due to defect or battery, it may not be permitted on board the aircraft and thus subject to being left behind, and you to additional checks.

[REWIND: Don’t Get Caught In A Copyright Mess – Watch This Video]

Due to the seemingly broad application of the rule and lack of itemized specificity, this would seem to apply to anything that can be powered on, including laptops, tablets, cameras, and possibly even external drives. So, make sure if you’re traveling anywhere soon, that your devices are juiced up before returning/heading to the US. You could also expect, as happened to one of my fellow editors recently, to have all your lenses removed, caps on both ends taken off, and each run through the scanner. Give yourself some extra time, and factor this time in when scheduling connecting flights, and airport arrivals.


I detest going through airport security checks, because I love traveling and it just sort of spoils it for me. However, I’m entirely fine with this check, and wouldn’t be opposed to most types should it ensure safety. I don’t know if any of you have had this experience, but I’ve traveled so many times with large amounts of gear on my person, from camera bodies to large lens cases and haven’t had them given even a second look by TSA. I actually found this concerning, but I assume they know what to look for.

Source: BBC (Image is screen cap from linked BBC video)

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Phil Bautista

    Kinda amusing how the TSA figures out ways to inconvenience the flying public whenever a SUSPECTED threat pops up while Congress drags its feet on gun reform and control laws even as REAL threats pop up every day. Or not.

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  2. Herm Tjioe

    I had my photo/video gear pulled aside for specialized gunpowder residue scan. If I was Von Wong I probably would have missed my flight.

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  3. Camila Brock

    Thanks for your heads up. I don’t think they are constant in their searching. I have had both experiences, flying within USA: sometimes they couldn’t care less what is in my backpack, and are satisfied with scan only; in other occasions they go into each item with those blue gloves, over the lenses, camera, charger, batteries… But it’s all right! Just get extra time at airport!! Good luck, folks!!

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  4. Nick Viton

    Also, don’t forget to leave your Giotto Rocket Blower at home.

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  5. Carlos Campuzano

    Just came back from the Caribbean islands and going through security they made me take out my cameras and security looked through each lens that I had in my camera bag. First time I had that happen coming back into to the US.

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  6. Ryan Filgas

    I think some photographers are going to get nervous about their caps being off the lenses. Maybe the rule for airports is now to buy a cheap $5 filter to protect the front element and put the nice filter on when you get to your destination. I’m hoping they also have a solution to keep lenses from rolling around or gathering excessive dust inside the machine. It’s not a big deal, but it would become annoying to clean the back element at every destination.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Ryan, I actually hadn’t even thought about the lenses rolling around, but that would irritate me to no end. It’s impossible to expect the TSA officials to understand the fragility and expense of our gear but there should be some better solution. Even more concerning though is that this won’t happen as much on US soil, but rather more so on international flights returning to the US, as far as I understand, and some of my worst experiences with officials mishandling computers and other gear have been in other places, specifically France, India.

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    • Camila Brock

      It has happened to me. The lenses were each one with their both side covers. The TSA official noticed my anxiety when she grabbed my lenses and said ” relax, I will be carefull with your gear”! Well, she was kind!!

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  7. ed russell

    Good info, Kishore. I’m always trying to think how I’m gonna cram all my gear into my baggage that I don’t think of that kind of stuff.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Ed, I think we all go through that, but like you, I’ll be more vigilant from now on. Especially given that there is no date set for when this procedure will stop.

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    • Drew Valadez

      It is never going to stop. It will only get worse.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Drew, that’s depressing. Why can’t we just have teleportation already?

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  8. Ralph Hightower

    Okay, if I’m flying with one of my three 35mm film cameras, they don’t have an LCD screen. My cameras are probably older than they are. So, I will have to waste a shot if film is loaded in my cameras.
    PS: I recently bought a DSLR.

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  9. Michael Chapman

    Thanks for the heads up, that would be a major pain!

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