Photography began to go digital about 30 years ago, so if you’re older than that your relatives probably documented part of your childhood on film-based formats, such as slides or prints made from negatives. Or maybe you have piles of old slides and long-lost image negatives boxed up in your attic or garage. Although it’s not as simple as that scan of old photographic prints, digitizing that film saves family history from outdated media and makes it easier to share restored memories. Here are some ways to get the job done.
The smartphone method
As with prints, you can “scan” a slide or negative with your smartphone by taking a photo or using one of the many slide / film scanning apps. For best results, make sure the original is free of dust and evenly illuminate the transparency from behind. An inexpensive scan kit, which provides backlight and a place to put your phone down for a more stable shot, is an option.
Kodak Mobile Film Scanner kit ($ 40 or less) is an option. Works with the free Kodak Mobile Scanner app for Android or iOS. Just put a slide or negative on the battery powered LED backlight, then focus your phone’s camera from above and take a picture. Depending on your phone and cameras, however, you may need to experiment with distance and focus to capture clear images.
Rybozen makes a similar smartphone film scanner. So you can make your own slide scanner out of the common materials to capture images with your smartphone or stand-alone camera with macro lens for close focus. YouTube hosts several videos on the subject – just search for “DIY film scanner” or something similar to find several guides from DIY enthusiasts.
SlideScan by Photomyne another option is a fancy app ($ 40 for two years; free trial available). Hold the slide in front of a laptop showing a plain white web page and take a picture; the software automatically enhances and crops the resulting image, or you can make manual adjustments. Photomyne is separate Movie Box the app does the same for negatives. FilmLab ($ 6 per month) is another smartphone scanning app that has Windows and Mac versions.
Scanning your smartphone has some downsides. You don’t get the highest quality results and it can be boring if you have a lot of images. But it is relatively inexpensive.
The scanner method
Smartphones can be all-purpose devices, but using hardware designed for a specific task often brings better results. If you have boxes of transparencies to convert, invest in a compact film scanner (like those from glutton or kodak) can simplify and speed up the process for around $ 150; Plustek creates high-end models.
A flatbed scanner that can handle film along with prints and documents is another option, such as the Epson Perfection V600 (about $ 250 online). wire cutters, also the New York Times-owned product review site scanner recommendations.
If you already have a flatbed scanner for documents and photos, check your model’s manual to see if it can handle film negatives and slides, as some include this capability. If your scanner is not equipped to handle transparency, you can make your own silver cardboard adapter to diffuse the scanner light and illuminate the image; Brand: magazine has a free template and instructions online, as well as other DIY sites.
And make sure you scan your images at a high enough resolution to look good at enlarged sizes and for printing; 3,200 pixels per inch is common.
The professional method
If you don’t have the time, patience, or equipment, send the photos to a media conversion company such as Memories renewed, ScanMyPhotos or DigMyPics is another option. Most stores charge based on the slide – prices can start at around 21 cents each.
For your money, you get high quality images. Some companies allow you to preview the results and even skip a number of difficult shots in your collection. The originals are returned when scanning is complete and digital copies are ready.
Slides and negatives can fade over time, especially if they have been improperly stored. Many movie scanning smartphone apps also include basic editing tools for adjusting color and cropping. And you can always use those from Apple Photos Other Google photos for mobile and desktop for fast, free photo editing to prepare photos for sharing.
Share and save space
All the time, effort, and (maybe) money you put into digitizing the old film brings another benefit beyond easy sharing of photo files. You can store them in a safe place online as a backup and as a new archive if you decide to part with the originals during spring cleaning.