A few days ago, my boyfriend found some old 35mm negatives. I really wanted to see baby photos of him, so I was wondering: can I “scan” these films with just my DSLR and the stuff I had lying around? I’ve never done it before, neither with a proper scanner nor by improvising. So, I gave it a shot and after some DIY solutions, improvisation and lots of fun – I did it. I’ll share my process with you in this article. So, if you have some old negatives and some free time, take a look.
When I first got the idea, I just put the film on my tablet, found a white background and took a photo. I had a 35mm f/1.8 lens already on my DSLR and added a Raynox DCR-250 so I could get closer. I just wanted to see what it would look like.
I imported the photo to Lightroom, inverted the colors and did some minor editing. It’s not bad; I can see that he was a really cute baby. But there are pixels visible because of the tablet screen:
So, earlier today I decided to try and make the scanned photos look better. At least as good as I could with just the stuff lying around the house. I had an idea inspired by some of the awesome articles here on DIYP, and I got to work. Here’s what I gathered:
First, I draw the square shapes on the cardboard and cut them out to hold my films:
Then, I taped them together so I could slide the film in:
I used a clothes peg to hold the cardboard, and stuck it in the roll of Scotch tape. Total improvisation, but it turned out to be stable. I placed an old lamp behind the film (although a speedlight would do as well. I added a sheet of paper to diffuse the light. Some books to adjust the height of my weird film holder, and voila:
I used a Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens. I don’t own a macro lens, so I added the aforementioned Raynox DCR-250. Before sliding each film into the holder, I cleaned it from fingerprints. I also blew off the dust before taking the photos.
Here’s one of the photos straight out of camera:
After taking the photos, I imported them into Lightroom. I inverted the colors by inverting the curve and then corrected the colors and contrast.
Later on, I also edited some of the photos in Photoshop, trying to remove the stains and dust. Retouching is not really my area, but I did some quick fixes on the photos that had a lot of stains. Here are a few examples, only the third one has been retouched (badly) to remove some large stains.
There were also some reversal films, so I scanned those too. Here’s how they turned out:
Considering that I have no experience in scanning film and that this was merely an experiment, I’d say this isn’t too bad. Of course, you can achieve better results with an actual scanner. But if you’re looking for a $0 DIY way to do it, let this be an inspiration. If nothing else, the photos will at least make your parents and partner go “awww.” : )