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How to convert 35mm slides to digital photos

Updated April 17, 2017

Transferring old 35mm slides to digital format not only will preserve the originals but offers ways to enhance them as well. It can be a time consuming operation, although with practice and the right equipment, the time per slide can be reduced to less than 30 seconds. Editing and improving the appearance may take longer. Converting slides to digital images does not require an expensive scanner; equipment under £65 will do the job. However, for the highest quality end result, more costly dedicated film scanners are needed. In either case, good photo editing software is a must to clean up the scanned results.

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  1. Remove any protective sheet from the glass cover of the scanner if there is one to expose the film guide.

  2. Remove or tilt out the film guide from the cover for access and open the film holder on the guide.

  3. Insert the slides into the film guide. If there are not sufficient slides to fill the guide, block the uncovered parts with a shield to prevent extra light from spoiling the scan. Then replace the film guide in the scanner cover. It may take some experimentation to ensure the image will be scanned with the correct orientation.

  4. Open the photo editing software on the computer and choose colour or black and white and negative or positive film depending on the type of slide. Identify the number of slides being scanned; adjust any desired settings for output resolution and size. Start the scanning process.

  5. Save the images in TIFF or JPEG format to the computer. TIFF format is best for archival storage since it preserves all the data, while JPEG compresses data resulting in some possible degradation of the image if it is reused and saved often.

  6. Tip

    Remove any dust from the slides carefully with an electrostatic brush. Use the photo software to preview the scans before saving. If the software has an option for multi-crop, use it. This will save each slide as a separate file. The larger the output resolution, the more flexibility there will be in editing, but the file size will be much larger. For example, 300 dpi (dots-per-inch) will create a file about 6.5mb. 600 dpi equals about 26mb.


    Remove the slides from the scanner as soon as possible to avoid heat damage to the film. Scan only one type of slide (positive or negative) at a time.

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Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Scanner with slide attachment
  • Photo editing software

About the Author

Robert Karr has been a writer, indexer, reference librarian, computer programmer and Web designer. He has a Master’s Degree in Library Science. Karr has 30 years experience in reference and research and has been writing professionally for 25 years, focusing on the library, medical and computer areas.

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