Medium format film cameras shoot a variety of negative sizes on 120 or 220 film. These range from 6 by 4.5cm, to 6 by 6cm and 6 by 7cm. The most common negative size is 6 by 6cm, meaning the camera produces a square image approximately 2.25 by 2.25 inches. These negatives, being much larger than 35mm versions, tended to be the choice of professional photographers, especially when large blow-ups were required. They produce better detail. This remains true when converting them to digital.
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Things you need
- Compressed air
- Flatbed transparency scanner
- Negative scanning software
- Photo editing software
Set up the scanner for transparency scanning. In most cases, this means removing the pressure holder on the inside of the scanner cover to reveal the light source there. This padded plate usually unsnaps or slides out.
Select the appropriate negative template if your scanner came with these. These usually are plastic and fit onto the scanning glass. In most cases, 6-by-6-cm negatives are cut into three-image strips. Scanners that have negative templates usually will allow you to scan two such strips at a time by clipping the negatives into the appropriate slots. If your scanner does not have such templates, place the negatives flat and square on the scanner glass and close the lid.
Open the scanning software and set it for negative scans. Some software will allow you to reverse the negatives to positives during the scan, while others will simply scan the negatives as they are. You can use photo editing software to turn them into positives.
Select the highest resolution you can in the scanning software. Although 6-by-6-cm negatives already are large, the higher the resolution you choose, the more digital information will be gathered for later use during digital editing. Higher resolutions do require longer scan times.
Scan the images. Save the batches of negatives as single files to your hard drive. You can cut them apart in photo editing software later, then save them as individual images. This will give you the option of going back to the original scans if you damage the individual scanned images.
Tips and warnings
- Make certain the negatives are clean before attempting to scan them to your computer. Any debris, dust or dirt will take extra work in photo editing software to repair, so get all you can off of the negatives first. Compressed air works well and will not damage the negatives.
- Scanning 6-by-6-cm negatives at high resolution is the best for editing and printer, but it will take up a lot of hard drive space if you are scanning many of them. For this reason, consider an external hard drive for image storage.
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