How to convert negatives to JPEG files

Updated February 21, 2017

When film photography is processed, it becomes a negative. A negative is then used to create a photograph by projecting light through it onto photo paper, which is then chemically processed. But the negative can be scanned into a computer to create a JPEG file. From that JPEG file, a photograph can be printed.

Connect a desktop scanner to your computer. Choose a scanner that will also scan slides and negatives. To hook up the scanner, you will normally plug a USB cord from the scanner to the computer. Download the scanner's software from the CD.

Insert a clean negative into the negative-and-slide insert on your scanner. The shiny side of the slide should be facing the glass of the scanner. Read your scanner's user's manual for proper insertion instructions. On the scanner shown, the slide slips into the insert located on the inside of the scanner lid.

Close the lid to the scanner and push the button to signal a scan of a negative or slide. On the scanner shown, that button has an icon that looks like film and a slide.

Check the appropriate box to indicate you are scanning a negative. A scanning menu should appear on your monitor after pressing the "Scan" button. The scanner needs to know what type of document you are scanning such as a photo, negative or slide.

Choose the type of file you want to create in the drop-down menu. Scanners typically give several file type options. Choose "JPEG Image."

Click the "Scan" link. If you want to preview the image before the final scan, check "Preview."

Adjust the scanning borders around your image. If you have chosen to preview the image, you will be given this option. Adjust the borders by dragging the corners of the image in or out with the cursor. If you did not check the "Preview" option, you will skip this step.

Click "Accept All" for the scanning command to proceed. If you did not check "Preview," this step will be skipped as the scanner will be making the final scan. The new JPEG image will be saved to your computer.

Open the new JPEG image in an editing program and make colour adjustments if necessary. Old slides might be slightly discoloured. Editing programs such as Photoshop can be used to adjust the colours.


Instructions might vary according to the type of scanner.

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About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.