Converting old photographic images to digital formats that can be easily shared is a time-consuming process. It is also potentially expensive if you rely on photographic shops to carry out the conversion.
The same is true of photographic slides. What, exactly, can you do with old photo slides? Is it possible to scan them, or should you just take a photo of photographic slides to share online?
In fact, there are several things you can do to digitize old slides. Here are five ways you can convert old photo slides into image files you can print or share.
Clean Up Your Slides
Before you start scanning your slides, however, take a moment to check them. Any dust and dirt that has collected on them will also be scanned. Consequently, it’s wise to clean the slides first rather than spend ages in your image editor touching up the scan.
All you’ll need for this is:
- Standard microfiber cloth (anti-static optional)
- Pure alcohol cleaner or Naphtha
Avoid water-based chemicals. Cleaning should take place in a well-ventilated area. It’s also wise to have a test slide—perhaps of a poor shot that you don’t want—to ensure the cleaning method is effective. If not, there’s always Photoshop for cleaning up old snaps.
To clean, simply wipe the cloth in a straight line across the slide. No unnecessary pressure is required.
With your slides cleaned up, you’ll be ready to start scanning!
1. How to Scan Slides With a Flatbed Scanner
Perhaps the most obvious tool for scanning a photographic slide is, well, a scanner. Unfortunately, you can’t just stick your slide on the flatbed and press scan. The results will almost certainly be unsatisfactory.
This is because the scanner features a thin beam of light that will only light a portion of the slide.
To fix this, use a diffuser to ensure an even spread of light which will enable a quality capture of the slide.
Diffusers can be bought online, but you can also make your own. Follow the steps in our guide to capturing your old slides with a flatbed scanner and you’ll be scanning your slides with good results within 30 minutes.
2. Use A Slide Projector
Perhaps the most obvious method of digitising slides is to employ a slide projector. It doesn’t have to be brand new—you might pick up an old model on eBay—but it does have to be able to project a clear image of the slide.
For the best results, black out windows, switch off lights and snap the projected image with a digital camera.
You may also be able to get your hands on an old converter box. These were used many years ago for converting cine film to video, or slides to SLR, and are still useful. All you need to do is project the slide into the box and photograph the reflected image.
These devices can be found at flea markets and on eBay quite cheaply. Various brands were available—search for “cinelink” to get started.
3. DSLR Slide Duplicator Mount
If you’re passionate about photography, you probably own a DSLR. Slide duplicators can be mounted on DSLR cameras to photograph old slides. Be sure to select a device that matches your camera brand.
These are typically replacement lenses, or lens-mounted devices that come with a slot to place slides. Once focused, the devices are the perfect size to get a full, high-definition copy of the image. The slide slot is opaque plastic to diffuse the light source.
You don’t necessarily even need to take a photo with this solution. If your DSLR has a video out feed, it is possible to use the device as a slide viewer through your computer or digital TV.
Slide scanning mounts for DSLR cameras can be purchased from well-known photographic retailers. You should also find one on Amazon.
4. Use a Dedicated Slide Scanner
You may have tried the suggestions above and decided that what you really need is some dedicated hardware. Various slide scanner devices are available—some are even capable of scanning slides and photographic negatives. It’s a smart idea to opt for hardware from reputable photographic brands rather than cheaper alternatives. The KODAK Mini Digital Slide Scanner is a smart solution.
The process is simple: insert the slide, press a button, and the slide is scanned. An image of the results is displayed, while the scan is saved to an SD card or sent via USB to your PC.
Seem too expensive? Cheaper alternatives are available—but maybe all you need is your iPhone…
5. Scan Slides With an iPhone or Android Device and an App
Incredibly, all you really need to scan an old slide is an iPhone or Android. But like snapping images of old photos, the default camera app isn’t suitable.
Rather, you’ll need an app that is optimised for photographing slides (or negatives or transparencies) and a suitable light source.
All this app requires is a light source (such as a daylit window, or the dedicated web page) and a relatively steady hand. Once snapped, the frame can be cropped out of the image leaving just the original slide to share online.
Steady hand not an option? Don’t worry. This compact smartphone slide scanner features a battery powered backlight and is compatible with most phones.
Now You Know How to Digitize Slides!
While you might not want to throw the slides away, digitizing them so that they are easily shared with friends and family is a great way to find previously unseen photos. You might even include them in some family tree research.
Not sure how to share your pictures? You might share online to social networks like Facebook, store in a cloud drive, or simply copy to USB.