Slide Digitizing - Super Low Tech




Introduction: Slide Digitizing - Super Low Tech

I am possibly the world's worst photographer. Still, I have slides that I would like to have digitized - most taken with a point and shoot camera in the late '70's on a trip with my grandmother. It was dark and rainy, but hey, it was a once in a lifetime trip, so I took lots of dim and more or less black slides.

Professional conversion felt too pricey for low quality slides. So one evening I tried to see what could be done at home with my point and shoot digital camera..

Step 1: Materials Needed

1-A light or light box. I use an unmounted under-cabinet fluorescent unit. It's my "portable light box" for viewing slides.
2- A piece of aluminum foil big enough to cover the light surface
3- A roll of toilet paper and a roll of paper towels
4- Slides
5- A digital camera
6- tape, scissors, and a knife
7- A piece of black paper - optional

Step 2: Cut Enough Foil to Cover the Light

Unless you are comfortable looking into a light, cover the light surface with foil - plan to leave the air vents uncovered.

Step 3: Mark and Cut a Hole Slightly Larger Than the Film Area of the Slide.

Where you put this on your light depends on the shape of your light.   I put mine near the edge because that is the flattest place on my light.

Step 4: Tape the Foil to the Light Frame

DON'T cover any air vents.

Step 5: Mark the Correct Slide Placement Over the Hole.

Place a slide on the foil so the image is completely over the light.  Putting  tape around the exact placement of  the slide makes positioning them much faster. 

Step 6: Put It All Together

Turn on your light source
Put your slide over it
Put your TP roll over tthe slide so you can see the image in the tube
Put your camera into the tube and see what kind of an image you have.   

This is where you play with focus or any other settings on your camera.   My camera has normal, close up and super close up settings. I use super close up  while in the portrait setting

Depending on your camera, the TP roll may be too short for your focus.  If it is, you need to cut a roll of paper towels to fit instead.  Starting with the TP, figure out how much more height you need to focus.  (you can put paperback books under the TP to try out different heights.)  You probably won't need more than another inch or two. 

Cut the paper towels to the length of the TP PLUS whatever additional height you need.  To cut the paper towels use a carving knife and long slicing strokes. Turn the roll  as you cut toward the tube and finally through it..  Brush off any crumbs

Step 7: Start Shooting.

 By pressing the camera against the roll the camera is held steady.  Now it's just a matter of picking up the roll, replacing the slide, putting the roll and camera back and shooting again.

Step 8: Enjoy Your Digitized Slides

I admit that the results are unlikely to be ART quality images.  But the goal here is to convert ordinary snapshots into digital files.  Now I can  improve the jpg's with Photoshop,  use them as screen savers or whatever, and easily enjoy  them anywhere.



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    81 Discussions

    Thanks! Now do I have what it takes to actually get rid of the old slides? Maybe not. Feel virtuous for being decisive, robbadooz!

    I haven't tried this but couldn't you take something like masking tape and tape your toilet paper roll to the camera body? If this worked it would simplify replacing the tp roll and the camera.

    1 reply

    That makes sense to me, paqrat. I haven't tried it either, but it seems like a good idea. Thanks!

    The GIMP is as good as photoshop and can be downloaded free. I have used it for years and get the same results as someone using photoshop. Try it you may like it!! Sure saves money.

    4 replies

    I was curious so I looked up GIMP Magazine and they have site(of course LoL) But what I found out and want to share is that you can download previous issues for free. I'm thinking the most current issue is #6 and 1-5 are available for download here.

    Thank you for the link to GIMP Magazine. Looks like a great source of information and learning opportunities.


    I was in Barnes & Noble bookstore they other day and in the computer section of the magazines was a GIMP Magazine. It gave hints and tips on how to use the software and also included a disc with the latest versions for PC, MAC and Linux. I don't recall the exact price but it was under $20. I didn't know this but GIMP can handle RAW photos also. I use Photoshop and have for years, but the price is getting out of my range as a hobby photographer. I've heard a lot of good things about GIMP. I might just give it a try.

    I have a similar idea that uses a light source and a wood tray that slides in and out to adjust for focal length. (I saw it on another website and am going to make it) I shoot a Canon 7D, the TP/Paper Towel roll won't support the weight of the camera. I really like your idea also. Requires a lot less work to make than mine. What I'm wondering though is, have you tried to photograph a negative with this set up and then reverse the negative image into a positive in the photo editor? I have Negatives in the Thousands range. And Like you said, having a pro service do them is quite pricey.

    Thank you for the instructable.

    3 replies

    Thanks for the word on Gimp magazine, ned103. I didn't know there was one. We've just changed computers and operating systems, and I'm not sure my old Elements will work in Win7. So information about alternatives is very useful.

    I have scanned negatives and reversed them in Elements with good results. Haven't tried it yet with this set up. I have some ideas off the top of my head for bulk negatives and will pm you.

    I was curious so I looked up GIMP Magazine and they have site(of course LoL) But what I found out and want to share is that you can download previous issues for free. I'm thinking the most current issue is #6 and 1-5 are available for download here.

    I see that my thought has already been made an ible...

    Stand to repropduce 35 mm film and slides with digital camera by impcpro

    How did you get 35mm slides from a 110 camera?

    It would be easier in photoshop if your light source were closer to 5000 kelvin, also.

    1 reply

    Good eye, chuckyd! One of the steps above does show a 35mm slide (taken by one of the 'real' photographers in the family) on the light. The slides I took are all square. rene1502 points out that my camera was probably a 126 not a 110... although I know I did have a 110 at some point. I plead total brain blur... I had a several in succession in the '70's.

    What kind of light would give me closer to 5000 kelvin? I've almost got a projector (with a stack loader- YAY!) ready to use for digitizing and need a less strong light.

    The PDF button has sometimes not shown on some instructables...let them know and they'll fix. This one is now fixed.

    Good question. I'm wondering why Pro doesn't show up anymore. Makes it hard to give a membership to non-pros if there's no way to tell who's who.

    Thanks for looking at this ible, jdevries4!

    Hello, great post. Several (many, about 20) years ago I bought a RCA film/slide adapter for my camcorder. It was a real bargain. It was listed $99.99 but I paid only $9,99 on a Sears' clearance sale It could be screwed directly to the lenses, just as a very heavy filter. The principle is the same.

    After many years I found it could be used on my Fujifilm digital camera, as the lens diameter is the same (52mm). I tried many types of lamps, but daylight is unsurpassed.

    I have one advice for users:before taking pictures with this device: fix white balancing on your camera. This will solve many troubles in post-editing.