Programs to convert 35mm negatives into positives via a scanner?

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If you are looking for a program that will convert 35mm negatives into photographs via digital images when scanning them into your computer then the following suggestions may help: 

First of all you will need a scanner which has a backlight otherwise it will be very difficult to capture the negatives as an image.  Standard Microsoft Photo Editor has the ability to change negatives into colour and with a little tweaking you should be able to produce digital images.

HP have some great advice which may help you along the way.

Secondly the two pieces of recommended software to use are: Vuescan and Silverfast.  Each have their own advantages and disadvantages and you will probably find you will get on better with one than the other.  Give them both a try and see which one suites you best.

If on the other hand you have a purpose built negative scanner it should come with it’s own software capable of converting the images into the correct format.

What is a negative scanner and how much should a decent one cost?

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slide scanner questionsA negative scanner is a piece of equipment which allows you to scan slide negatives and film negatives and turn them into digital images, in a similar process to that of using a traditional scanner.

If you need something to let you scan in old 35mm negatives or slide negatives to the computer, a negative scanner is the thing you need.

How long does it take to scan in negatives with one?

Negatives can usually be scanned in small batches of around 4-6 depending on the scanner involved and the capabilities of it.  Scanning can take between a couple of minutes per batch, upto 10-15 minutes again depending on the scanner and also the results you are looking to achieve.

Is the quality good and how much should a decent one cost?

With prices ranging from around £40 upto many hundreds of pounds you should expect to get quality in comparison with the price.  Like many things in life you get what you pay for, however having said that if you are a novice to photography or negative scanning then the lower end of the market may still be more than adequate for your purposes.  You could always upgrade at a later date should the quality not be up to your required standards.

Many PC scanners come with negative holders that may do the job also so consider looking for a holder if you currently have a normal flat bed scanner.

For those into photography that use a negative based camera should consider converting to a Digital SLR such as the entry model EOS 1000D from Canon.

Copying 35mm negatives to digital?

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What would give the best quality results when converting 35mm negatives to digital?
If time isn’t a problem then you could always do it yourself.  However the best option as far as quality is concerned is to use a professional photographic company who specialise in negative scanning and copying.  This obviousy would be a more costly route, but may be ideal for small numbers of slides or film which may not warrant the purchase of a negative scanner.

If you truly want the best quality way to get negatives into digital files, dedicated film scanners are specifically designed for the job, and works better than a traditional flatbed scanner that you would use for everyday scanning. The Nikon Coolscan scanners are professional quality devices, yet not that hard to use, ok they may require a bit of learning and tinkering to get the desired results, but they are not beyond the use of an amature or someone learning to convert negatives for the first time.

They used to be very expensive, but not as bad now, try looking at the shop section of this site, available from the top menu bar to get a better idea.  As with many things digital, the newer the scanner, the newer the technology and generally the better the scanner, modern versions have Digital ICE, a feature that can automatically retouch out dust, scratches and fingerprints perfect for those with an untrained eye.

If you don’t wish to buy a film scanner just for a small batch of negatives, another option is to send them to a professional person or company as mentioned above, although as said previously the cost may far outweigh the price of a cheap 35mm negative scanner.

Another advantage of working on your own slides and film is that you never need to hand over your precious negatives which often are irreplaceable, and may become lost or damaged at the hands of others.

Whatever scanner you decide to use, good scanning software can make a big difference to how the digital images turn out. Often the software included with a normal flatbed scanner will not have the capabilities to manage conversion of negatives into digital prints.  Try using some dedicated software such as Silverfast or VueScan and see which software works best for your needs, the best advice would be to try different software on the same set of slides and see which results you prefer before making a final choice, you could even use different software depending on the type of slide or film negative.

Once you have the digital images on your computer you can then use a photo printing company to get your images printed or store them on one of the many USB Hard Drives available where they can be kept in digital format for future use.

What is the best way to sort hundreds of old large format negatives?

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Many purpose built negative scanners only take standard size 35mm film and slides, and anything larger such as 120mm or the larger old glass plates would not be suitable for using with such scanners.  There is however a solution.

Take a regular scanner (if you need to purchase one then consider viewing the options available from the negative scanner shop section of our site, then take the followin steps:

  • carefully place film side down in the scanner
  • place an incandescent lamp over negative without the scanner lid in place
  • cover negative, with thin paper or opaque plastic to protect the negative
  • scan to photoshop, and invert in photoshop to turn the negative into a picture
  • crop, adjust contrast and brightness as necessary

This should then have the same or very similar effect as using a negative film or slide scanner, and may even be an alternative to buying a purpose built scanner altogether providing you have the right equipment and necessary photoshop skills in the first place.

Film Scanning – Convert or backup your microfilm records or 16/35mm roll film to Adobe PDF or TIFF format via our film scanning and archiving service.