Convert Negatives to Digital Photos





Introduction: Convert Negatives to Digital Photos

For years I have been trying to find an economical way to convert negatives and slides to a digital format, especially those in an older larger format.  The scanners available for these large format negatives and slides are out of my price range.

Step 1:

For this project you will need:


A digital camera with a macro setting

Slide light box


Computer with paint program (Mine has the Windows operating system, but I assume MAC has a similar   program)

Large format slides and negatives

Step 2:

Place slide box on a flat surface.  I used a TV tray.  Position tripod next to tray and mount camera.  Adjust tripod head until the camera is looking down on slide box.  If your tripod will not adjust to that extent, you will need to prop the slide box into a position which will allow you to take a photo of the negative or slide.  You can do this without the tripod, but unless you have extremely steady hands, it will be difficult to get a clear photo.

Step 3:

Turn on slide box and camera.  Set the camera to macro.  Place a negative on slide box and adjust camera lens until the negative is clear in view finder.  This can be a little tricky, even with the macro setting.  Once you have the camera focused, you should not have to make any changes in the setting. 



Check the positioning of the negative to make sure that it fits in the viewfinder.  Take the picture.  Place a new negative on the slide box and check the positioning in the viewfinder.  Continue until you finish with the negatives.



If you have large format slides, you would use the same process as the negatives.

Step 4:

Transfer the images from your camera/card to your computer.  Open the paint program, then open your first image.

Click on the Select box on your toolbar
Click on Select all in the toolbox
Rightclick the mouse and click on Invert Color
Save your photo

Step 5:

You now have the photo to go with the negative you started with.  I was mostly working with black and white negatives, but I also have a few large format color negatives.  The results were not as good, but I haven't worked on them with a photo editing program yet.  The last image is a large format slide.  No need to use paint, go straight to your photo editing program



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    15 Discussions

    But I haven't found a cheap scanner that handles the oversized negatives. My husband bought me a great scanner (until it bit the dust) because it was advertised to scan negatives and slides. No where on the box did it indicate that it only handles 35mm which was the case and attempts to make it work for 126 or 110 failed miserably. This process has not worked on the 110, but I was able to copy my 126 as well at the 2.25 inch negatives

    IMHO, Though a good option, this sounds like a complicated process. Many cheap scanners already have features to handle slides and negatives, and come with software to process accordingly.

    You can use Gimp among other apps to invert, resize, and retouch. It's a Linux program, also works on Windows. DigiKam is another, simpler, one made for photos.

    Thanks, this is great, but while I was reading it, I thought about the possibility of using a scanner to scan all the negatives with high resolution and then invert them... I know it sounds too good to be true, but I just wanted to ask in case you did try it, would the results be too bad??

    I'm actually about to do something very similar (using a homemade light table) but because I want to capture the full negative including the sprocket holes (see attached) or the film border on 120 film. I made an instructable for a low-fi way to digitize slides (I needed to digitize about 1200). Shooting the negs this way should be good enough for posting to the web or doing 4x6 prints. A piece of black construction paper would help too otherwise you might always be fighting the auto-exposure with point and shoot cameras. Nice instructable!

    Sprocket Example.jpgSprocket Example II.jpg

    This is exactly what I've been searching for! I also have a huge number old negitives, most old 35 mm, but negtives from the 1930s through 1960s. I can't afford to send them off to get prints, even if I find a place to send them off to. Thanks for posting this!

    THANK YOU ! I've been holding onto a box full of very old large negatives trying to figure out how to turn them into prints without breaking the bank and now you've given me the answer! I love it. Thank you again.

    I'm going to try this with 35mm slides! In fact, I bought a set of screw-on close-up lenses for my Kodak Easyshare. I have yet to try them, though. Radiograf's idea of the black frame is a good one. In fact, assuming you have only a few different film formats, you could make a cut-out mask for each one--I think making sure the light box is completely covered would be a good idea. An art store should have black cardboard so you don't have to paint it.

    Also, when I do any macro work, I usually use the self-timer so that by the time the "shutter" trips, any vibrations from my hand are gone.

    Excellent idea, can I suggest that you try using two L shaped pieces of card (painted black) to frame the negative. this will cut out flare in the camera, and improve the contrast of the image

    1 reply

    Magical! This is a much more economical solution that others I've seen...

    1 reply

    Thanks for posting this, dcivarson! I just got WIN 7 and hadn't known that newer Paint had an inversion option.