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Photography News

New TSA Security Procedures For Electronics Will Affect Photographers

By Holly Roa on July 27th 2017

Unless you live under a rock in Antarctica you are probably aware that there have been many changes to the way people in America live under the current presidency, and that one of the areas of change that has been the farthest-reaching in how many people are affected is air travel.

New regulations involving the handling of laptops on flights was big news recently, and now even an even broader electronics policy has been revealed, and it’s going to affect photographers.

Already implemented in 10 major US airports and soon to come everywhere else in the USA, electronics larger than a cell phone that are stored in a traveler’s carry-on luggage will need to be removed from their cases and passed through the TSA’s X-ray scanner. As it is generally a photographer’s preference to travel with their gear in the plane’s cabin rather than entrusting TSA and baggage handlers to not break, steal, or send baggage containing gear to the wrong airport, this is definitely going to be a hindrance to our ilk.


There is a workaround, however, but it will cost you $85 to apply. If you are a US citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident, you can apply to enroll in TSA’s pre-check program which will allow you to bypass many of the standard screening procedures.

It may be worth it for eligible photographers who travel frequently to enroll in pre-check. If you don’t, you will basically have to empty your camera bag every time you fly, unless you decide to check your gear instead. Laptops, flashes, battery-powered strobes, tablets, cameras, and any other electronics you travel with that are bigger than a cell phone will all need to come out and be scanned.

Don’t forget to make sure your carry-on luggage will be TSA compliant to save yourself an extra headache. Check out bags like Think Tank’s Airport Roller series, which are all specifically designed with TSA requirements in mind. Or, consider a backpack or messenger bag which will almost surely be small enough to fit carry-on size restrictions and can be carried through an airport hands-free.

If you opt to check your gear instead, look into rugged options from Pelican, designed to withstand whatever baggage handlers may (literally) throw at them.




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Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Matthew Saville

    I just few domestically within the US and had no trouble getting through TSA without removing anything more than just my camera bodies and flashes. All lenses and other electronics stayed tucked in my bag.

    It did feel unsettling to be proclaiming to the world that I had that much camera gear on me, but at least I’m at the airport, it’s not like I’m going to get mugged *inside* the terminal…

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  2. Ryan Bartels

    I just returned from three weeks abroad in Africa last Thursday. Going that way in late June (Charlotte, London, Nairobi, Lilongwe), security was more or less normal. Returning, however, I noticed a difference in Paris (in place of London on return) and Charlotte, where I was asked to remove my camera. To be honest, I don’t recall if I was asked to remove my camera body in Charlotte or if I did it automatically having done it in Paris on my prior stop.

    My iPad Pro 10.5 and my camera body were the only items in my bag I was required to remove. So, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t take a drone this year, but a Mavick, etc., would likely need to come out as well I would imagine.

    Batteries (both camera and larger device-restoring units), external grips, lenses and even speedlights weren’t necessary to remove as I asked the crew working by opening my bag and showing them. They said, “Just the iPad and the camera.” 

    I’m sure your milage may vary (no pun intended) with TSA depending on airport and agent temperament, but in my experience late last week, it wasn’t a problem at all. Had I been running with multiple cameras, camcorders, etc., I could easily see the bottleneck it could create.

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  3. Tom Love

    I’ll say this, Pre Check is not a guarantee to hassle free
    boarding. I have it and have passed right through and other times had to do a
    regular screening. It all depends on the Airport and the TSA agents working the
    gate. Remember this, always comply with any officials request, be they TSA or
    Airline personnel.


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  4. Gary Langshaw

    I’m a photographer and a firefighter. Since 911 we had many changes in air travel that it’s in response to intelligence gathering around the world. Not just this presidency had affected our daily lives, but the one before and the one before that one and many in the past. Unless you live under a rock you should know that. In the other hand, my visit to Portland, OR last week was without a hitch. I did bring my camera and laptop with me in the cabin. I also have TSA and it’s worth it. Respectfully, Gary Langshaw.

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  5. adam sanford

    $85 for 5 years.  Problem solved:

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