How to Digitally Scan 35mm Slides

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How to Digitally Scan 35mm Slides


  1. There are several inexpensive methods to scan your 35mm (or larger) slides. However, most if not all, will never yield the quality of purchasing a dedicated slide scanner or having your slides professionally scanned. If you are planning to scan more than 100-200 images, it is worthwhile to consider investing in your own professional or semi-professional scanner.
  2. If you have a flatbed scanner, you can check to see if there is an adapter available as an accessory to allow you to mount your slides into a mount holder and scan using your flatbed. This should provide you an opportunity to preview and save very easily. If an adapter is not available you can make one using some household materials (e.g. paper, tape, etc.) see Scanning on a flatbed will not generally give you a similar quality image to a digital photograph nor a professionally scanned slide.
    1. Set up your projector, screen, and tripod and digitally photograph your image as it is displayed on the screen. If there is a manual focus on your camera, use it to adjust for the distance to ensure the image is as sharp as possible.
    2. Using a slide viewer (those with the fluorescent backlight) and a digital camera, you can either zoom in or use the macro function to take a picture of the back lit slide. Sometimes the peripheral light present around the slide itself needs to be blocked/blacked out, for which you can use some cardstock/paper/etc. such that only the slides image has any visible light behind it. This process typically requires a tripod to make a sharp image.
    3. Use a slide/negative copy stand that allows you to use your own digital still or video camera if it can focus to within an inch of the lens to copy slides, negatives and small prints. Capture is quick with a click of the cameras shutter. You can test your camera for slide, negative copying at and build your own copy stand if you choose.
    4. Again, nothing compares to a professionally scanned slide or the use of a dedicated slide scanner. Reproducing images from older slides can be enhanced by using a scanner with Digital ICE technology (typical of $500+ scanner models) which has the ability to digitally remove dust and scratches present on the slide though infrared scanning.
    5. Get a slide scanner. They run from $300.00 to $6000.00. The cheapest models only allow you to preview the slides on a monitor and not print them.
    6. Get a slide copy stand that works just like the old fashion copy stand but designed for 35mm slides and negatives. This shotcopy copy stand allows you to use your digital camera or camcorder which can focus to within one inch of the lens.
    7. Tips

      • You can also have them digitally scanned at a number of stores for around 25 cents each.
      • Check for photography rental companies in your area. Often they have professional grade scanners available for rent and may even offer "free weekends" if you rent on Friday and return "24 hours later" on Monday.
      • Keep in mind how valuable your image may be and who will be handling them. They could be lost or otherwise irreparably damaged with no liability by the company.
      • Professional shops will often charge $5-$10 per slide to prepare, scan, and digitally clean up a slide. That does not mean you must use a pro shop, only that you account for the images importance to you vs. the cost of the scanning service.


      • Some companies will send your slides overseas to be scanned for a very inexpensive rate. Factor in the risk of loss and environmental exposure (dust, moisture, etc.) when evaluating.

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