Instant photos through the mail

So I recently started thinking about maybe sending instant photo/film through the mail as a small goodie with postcards, so I did a quick google search and found that USPS and other mail services sometimes use X-Ray and if you work with film/photos you know that X-rays will RUIN the photo, I searched for how to bypass X-rays but nothing helped.

Has anyone here successfully send instant film with their postcards or know a way to bypass the system? Without making an innocent letter look suspicious by writing “Do NOT X-Ray”


Hello! I think this is a super fun idea and I have good news for you!

X-Rays will only ruin film that is undeveloped so sending an instant photo is totally fine and the X-Ray will do no harm to these!

X-Rays do harm to film that is undeveloped because the film is still sensitive to light (which an x-ray is) and still has light-sensitive chemicals (silver in the case and B&W film). Part of the photo deloping process is the “fixing” of the chemicals and recorded light. Once the fixing chemicals have done their work on the photo an x-ray will do no harm.

Something else to keep in mind is that undeveloped film is shipped from online retailers all of time with no harm done. I personally have had undeveloped film mailed to me, mailed it to the darkroom, and had my negatives mailed back to me without ever having any adverse effects from x-rays. Airport x-rays are really the only x-rays to be concerned about when it comes to film, and even those have some exceptions.

I hope this is helpful and folks enjoy getting your photos in the mail!


On the other hand, it would also be funny to send undeveloped photos and then see what kind of experimental and post office-X-ray-influenced photo arrives at the recipient. :smiley:


My uncle once told us it was a myth that x-rays can damage ordinary camera film, he said it would have to be x-ray film. Indeed, the family member who had been forced to put her camera through the airport x-ray machine had no trouble when the film in it was developed.

Are you sure you heard him correctly? Just about every professional photographer who has used film strongly disagrees. There are decades and decades of research to prove it. While it is true that Low Dose x-ray ( generally used for carry on bags and probably mail as well) will not damage most camera film after several passes, it eventually will. Kodak did a test back in the 1990s and found that about two dozen passes will show x- ray fogging. Checked baggage is almost always run through a high dose x-ray and that will fry ANY film on the first pass. There are decades of research out there on the effects of x-rays on ordinary pictorial film.
DEVELOPED film is safe from any x-ray so no worries sending instant prints by mail.

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My uncle is more an expert on ex-ray equipment than photography, so could have been wrong :person_shrugging:

When my aunt’s vacation photos were developed and came out fine, we all thought he was right, but it was carry on and probably only ex-rayed once, so what you’re saying is, that proves nothing :slightly_smiling_face: