Do you have any old slides that you want to scan? Here is my cheap and easy way to do it at home

Oct 23, 2017

Jeff Cable

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Do you have any old slides that you want to scan? Here is my cheap and easy way to do it at home

Oct 23, 2017

Jeff Cable

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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A couple months ago, we had a family friend who got a hold of some really old family photos. She came over and asked me if there was any way that I could convert her old slides to digital images. Since I do not own a slide scanner, I was about to tell her that there was nothing I could do, that was until I came up with a plan B.

I was holding one of her slides up to a light to see the image, when I came up with an idea.

I knew that I needed to backlight the slide to see the image, and I also knew that if I could get in close enough, I could capture a digital image of the slide. In order to get a good solid backlight, Here is what I came up with

I turned on my desktop computer and launched Microsoft Word. I then opened a blank document so that I would have a large white light behind my slides.

I tried shooting some images of an old slide and quickly realized that I needed a better way to keep everything in focus.

I set up one of my Joby Gorilla Pods and a Manfrotto clamp to hold the slides.

I then mounted my Canon 5D Mark IV camera with the Canon 100mm macro lens on my Gitzo tripod. I moved the camera so that it was right up to the slide and then manually focused the lens to get a good sharp image. I set the camera to a 2 second timer mode (so that I would not shake the camera at all), and fired a shot of each slide. (Note: you do not need an expensive tripod or camera to do this, but a decent macro lens sure helps.)

One by one, I would take a photo and then replace the slide with another one. This worked so well that I ended up going deep into my closet and finding old slides that my father had taken back in the 1950s and 1960s. I wanted to convert all these too!

Here are a couple of things I learned in the process.

  • Do not put the slide too close to your monitor, as the pixels will show up behind the slide image.
  • It is best to have a clip or something to hold the slides in exactly the same position. this saves you having to reposition the lens before capturing each photo.
  • It is set up the camera to capture all the slide in the sideways position. If the image was in portrait mode, it was easier to capture it sideways (instead of rotating the camera each time) and then rotate it later in Photo Mechanic or Photoshop.

So…what did slides did I convert? See for yourself. And yes, that is little ole me in the photos below.

(Notice that even then I must have been into photography, as I am holding a box from a roll of Kodak film.)
Old Slide Restoration

Oh – and don’t forget the other advantage to scanning old slides. You can clean them up and correct them.

For instance, here is a slide that I found of my father and brother when Dave was a newborn.

As you can see, the white balance is way off and there are lots of scratches and dirt on the slide. I adjusted the white balance in Adobe Camera Raw to warm it up. I know for sure that my dad did not have blue skin.

Then I straightened the image and cropped the border out.

But I still had a really dirty image to clean up.

I used the healing brush to remove all the larger marks on my father face and background. I then created a separate layer and ran the “Dust & Scratches” filter in Photoshop to remove a lot of the dirt from his shirt and the wall paper in the background. Ta da! I have a nice image for myself and my family to remember my father by.

And just for the fun of it, I decided to do a little more retouching. I removed the harsh shadow to the left of my father, fixed his tie, and removed the chimney sticking out of the top of his head. I know, I know…I just changed history, but even though this is not what I would share with others, it was fun to do anyways.

I hope that this inspires all of you to get that old box of slides out of the closet and start converting them to digital images for you and your family.

About the Author

Jeff Cable is a world renowned, five-time Olympic photographer having covered Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi and Rio. He is one of the most sought after presenters and educators in the photography space. You can find out more about Jeff on his website, follow his adventures on his blog, or reach out to him through Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission

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20 responses to “Do you have any old slides that you want to scan? Here is my cheap and easy way to do it at home”

    1. digiman Avatar
      digiman

      haha you’re better off just getting them professionally digitised with a company like http://www.supaphoto.com

  1. Alan Amos Avatar
    Alan Amos

    Cheap and easy method…
    Uses £4000 of camera and lens

    1. Jordan Stanhope Dean Avatar
      Jordan Stanhope Dean

      That he already has, therefore it’s free.

  2. Ian Gwaltney Avatar
    Ian Gwaltney

    I put a flash inside of a shoe box and put a clear cd case on top with white paper behind it. Worked great.

  3. Clement RENAUT Avatar
    Clement RENAUT

    I’m doing it with a tablet but I have a “pixel” on the final picture.

  4. Tamás Székffy Avatar
    Tamás Székffy

    No, please, no.

  5. John Axl Avatar
    John Axl

    Great job. I Will try this at home. Thanks

  6. Laurent Roy Avatar
    Laurent Roy

    Way less work with a scanner…

    1. CAugustin Avatar
      CAugustin

      Not always. The setup needs some time, but just shooting the slides is much faster than with a scanner. Cleanup can be a problem with ICE too, so this would level the playing field even more. And then there’s cost – if you have a digital camera with lots of megapixels, this is the least expensive way.

  7. Craig Fouché Avatar
    Craig Fouché

    Dion

  8. Lloyd Brown Avatar
    Lloyd Brown

    Clean the slides with film cleaner first. Save a lot of retouching in Photoshop.

    1. Jenny Lens Avatar
      Jenny Lens

      Sometimes the slide is pitted. So what appears to be dirt are scratches and pits. Sometimes from improper developing by lab. Sometimes cos of bad handling slides. I know, I scan lots of my slides. Cleaning isn’t the answer in all situations, sadly.

  9. Geniene Prater Avatar
    Geniene Prater

    good idea, I have scanned thousands of slides and negatives using a Kaiser slide scanner, and I managed to also find an adapter to enable me to scan the 110 films. This would be good for the old 120 negatives as well

  10. Ken Sanford Avatar
    Ken Sanford

    What can I use to hold the slide in place? Ken Sanford kaerophil@gmail.com

  11. Robert Fahey Avatar
    Robert Fahey

    I shot these 35mm slides using my iPhone. I put a round tap-light on my dining room chair, slid it under my glass dining room table, put a Quaker oatmeal lid on the table as a diffuser and then put the slides on that lid. https://burlingtonretro.com/2018/02/27/the-original-shoppes-at-simonds-park/

    1. Rhonda Elkins Avatar
      Rhonda Elkins

      Wow good idea I’m gonna try this too

  12. Alan Avatar
    Alan

    T
    hank you Jeff. I have about 4000 slide and hundreds of photos (including my early box Browne B&W stuff) and youhave saved me so much time and/or money. :-) :-)

  13. Joy Avatar
    Joy

    Quick fix for the pixel problem if you don’t have a tripod is a piece of tracing paper. Then you can use a window as well!

  14. Lady Luna Avatar
    Lady Luna

    Does it matter the focal length of the lens used? If I have a macro lens of a shorter focal length than 100mm on a crop sensor would that make a difference? If I wanted to use a non-macro lens on a crop sensor would you have any suggestions? I have 18-55 kit (does have macro I believe) an 85mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.8.