How to view photo negatives

Written by jennifer moore
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How to view photo negatives
Use a film scanner to view photo negatives on the computer. (film-camera on camera-bag image by Andrii Oleksiienko from

Use a film scanner or your regular scanner to convert old film negatives to positive images that can be printed. In many ways, saving those negatives was a good decision, because scanning the film negative is getting a scan from the original image, whereas scanning a print is a second generation copy which is not as clear and defined as the original. Additionally film has a larger dpi (dots per inch) printing capability--as much as 3000 dpi--whereas a print may only have 300 dpi.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Film scanner
  • C-41 stabiliser
  • Kodak Photo Flo
  • Slide mounts

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  1. 1

    Place the negative in the centre of a photographer's light box and connect the box to the outlet. The centre is the area that receives the least amount of shadowing and the most light, making it easier to see the negatives. Use a loupe, which is a magnifying lens that helps photographers see even the most minute of details. Viewing your negatives in this way will allow you to discard any pictures you may not want because of background, distortion, or damage.

  2. 2

    Clean the negatives. Place colour negatives in a solution of C-41 stabiliser and warm water. This solution can be found in any good camera store. Mix the solution according to the stabiliser directions. If you cant find C-41 stabiliser then use warm water and a drop of very mild soap. If they are black and white negatives, then use Kodak Photo Flo solution. Pull the negatives out of the solution and hang up to dry.

  3. 3

    Place clean negatives in slide mounts. These are plastic containers for slides and can be found at your local photography shop or at websites like Gepe, 3D Stereo, or Frugal Photographer.

  4. 4

    Place your slide mounts on your scanner and use the scanning software that came with your scanner. If you don’t have this type of software you can purchase and download a program for this at Silverfast or VueScan. Most scanners can scan negatives, however it is best to use a specialised film scanner because of the higher dpi (dots per inch) printing capability. Scan your images and save them in any folder you want on your computer.

  5. 5

    Open the imaging software you use. If you don't have a software program like Photoshop or Photoshop elements, you can download free imaging software like Gimp or Paint. Open the scanned negatives files in the imaging software.

  6. 6

    Convert the negative images to positive images by looking for the “Invert” command. In most imaging software, this will be on the toolbar under “Image,” “Adjustments” and “Invert.” Save the positive inverted images to files in any folder you choose so you won’t have to scan the images again.

  7. 7

    Make colour corrections by going to “Image,” “Adjustments” and changing colour hue and saturation or by adjusting the “Color Levels.”

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