How to Transfer Slides & Negatives to a Computer

Updated March 23, 2017

You can easily transfer slides and negatives to a computer by using a film scanner. This is a device that reads the slide or negative and converts it to a digital file. Unlike flatbed scanners, film scanners are designed specifically for slides and negatives. They range in price from a few hundred dollars to over £1,950, depending on the quality of the scanner and the features it offers.

Attach the scanner to your home computer using the included cables. Turn on your computer and install the software for the scanner, if you haven't already done so. Turn the scanner on, open the scanner program, and specify whether you are scanning negatives or slides.

Specify the resolution for the scanning process. Resolution refers to the amount of information the scan will record; the higher the resolution, the more information is recorded.

Don't confuse information with detail, however. The detail of the picture is already recorded in the slide; increasing the resolution reduces the amount of pixelation that occurs when you enlarge the picture. Therefore, you normally want to set the resolution as high as possible.

Some film scanners will scan at 2000 dpi (dots per inch) or higher. You wouldn't print at this resolution, though, as most prints are processed at 300 dpi. Scanning a slide at 2000 dpi produces a file of 3000 x 2000 dpi, which is equivalent to a 6-megapixel file.

Create a folder on your computer for the scanned images. Choose a descriptive name, and include the date.

Prepare the negatives and slides for scanning by cleaning them gently with an antistatic cloth. This specially treated cloth removes dust from your slides and negatives, and helps to reduce the amount of dust that will collect on them during the scanning process.

Place the slides or negatives into the scanner’s carrier tray. Insert the tray into the scanner and start the scanning process.

Save the scanned images into the folder you created in Step 3. It's best to save them as TIFF files. Because TIFF files are larger than JPEGs, they take up more room on your hard drive. However, they contain all the data from the scan, while JPEG files process and eliminate some of the data. Therefore, you get the most accurate results by scanning the originals as TIFFs, editing them, and saving the edited versions as JPEGs for printing or e-mailing to family and friends.


Some scanners automatically remove dust specks from the slides and negatives as they scan, which can save you time when editing the scanned images.


Scanning negatives and slides is not a quick process, especially at higher resolutions. If you have a significant number of photos to scan, you may want to approach a photo lab that offers the service and weigh their prices against the amount of personal time you will invest in scanning.

Things You'll Need

  • Film scanner
  • Computer
  • Antistatic cloth
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About the Author

Since 2002 Mark Spowart has been working as a freelance writer and photographer in London, Canada. He has publication credits for writing and/or photography in Canada, The United States, Europe and Norway, with such titles as "The Globe & Mail," "The National Post," Canada News Wire, Sun Media and "Business Edge" magazine.