Scanning Film

March 15, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you've had a great week! This week is a continuation of last week about scanning your photo negatives to get them into your computer and into Lightroom or Photoshop. First let me start off as saying I am not a professional at scanning but I do it pretty well for me.  If you are an avid photographer you probably already have the tools you need to do this. So lets start there, what you'll need.



  1. Film Negatives
  2. Digital Camera
  3. Tripod or stand
  4. Light Box

I'm sure you already have these things if you're reading this .  The digital camera can be any modern digital
camera . I'm using a Sony A7C that is a 24 MP full frame camera. But it doesn't matter if it's crop sensor or full frame sensor. Megapixels doesn't matter all that much either but more would be better but whatever you have will be fine. For lenses almost anything will work I'm using a Macro lens set up but a 50mm
prime will work too. Some sort of tripod or stand . I have converted an old black and white enlarger stand that I didn't use anymore into a copy stand but tripod will work.  Light box of some kind. I'm using an old iPad that I don't use anymore and googled white and saved a white photo. Cranked up the brightness on it and it seems to work. I did put a diffuser on it that I had laying around. I would suggest defusing the light if you can. But you can buy light boxes from Amazon for under 50 bucks. And really that's the basics of what you need. 

The how to's.  First set up your tripod or stand and set up your light box underneath.  Try to make sure that your camera and your light box are level. You don't want to distort your photo by having your camera tilted one way or the other. Place the negative in a negative holder or flat on the light box. Use black construction paper
to frame the negative so your camera will only be focusing on the light coming through the negative. Focus and take photo. Care must be taken on keeping dust and particles off of the negative. Negatives create static and are magnets for dust and stray particles. The cleaner you keep the negatives the less work you will have in Lightroom or Photoshop removing all of the dust.  Also leave a little of the space between each photo in when you take the photo. That clear space is perfect for getting the correct white balance. And that's it for the scanning now to the computer!

Now load those photo's onto your computer. I do most of my editing in Lightroom but you could use photoshop just as well. Once you have them in you have a scanned negative but you don't want a negative you want a positive. There are two ways to do this. The manual way and the easy way. I have done both. The manual way is basically going into the curves section of your photo and reversing everything. This will make a positive but the colors will need to be tweaked and basic panel can also be tweaked. But remember everything is backwards! So if you try to increase exposure with the slider you have to darken to lighten and vice versa. The easy way is to get some sort of plugin in Lightroom or action photoshop. I have used both in the past. The one Im using now is "Negative Lab Pro" in Lightroom. This is my workflow now.  First after I get into Lightroom I create a virtual copy of the negative and stack them. I edit the copy that way if I screw it up I can get my original scan without having to actually re-scan the negative. One I have the scan I take it into the develop module. I make sure it's oriented correctly . Sometimes they are backwards and you can just flip horizontally. Then I get the white balance picker and choose the space between negatives. Then I crop. I then bring up the plugin . I have many choices to choose from but for this I just choose basic and hit the convert button. It converts the Negative into a Positive photo and your colors should be close . I then look for spots and specs of debris that was on the negative and remove with the healing tool. If I need to sharpen. Old manual lenses and old eyes sometimes it's not in focus. I'll take to Topaz AI Sharpener. If you have grainy photo's that's just the way film looks and a de-noise program will not work because those spots your seeing are not noise its grain in the film. And you are basically done. You can print or send to social media.  It's pretty awesome and is fun to do. It can be a little time consuming but worth it in the end and you did it your self. The whole process to go from film to Negative to Scan cost approximately one or two dollars per roll. Compared to the 12-20 dollars a roll to a professional lab that will send you back your negatives. A big savings and the results can look great! And the more you do it the better you will become.  You can practice on old negatives you might have in your closet in a shoe box somewhere. There are all kinds of tutorials on Youtube where they will take you through the manual process of converting Negatives to Positives. It's pretty easy. Now this is a basic set up to get you started you can improve your photo's by using better lightbox than an iPad. One that has a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 90 or better. I did and my scans did improve. So until next week get out and shoot! Some film!



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