4 ways to digitize 35mm slides

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4 ways to digitize 35mm slides
4 ways to digitize 35mm slides

Way back before digital photography was the norm, there were generally 2 methods of processing film or images: Prints and slides. The prints were developed on a sheet of photographic paper while the slides were small, transparent pieces of film in a cardboard frame or sandwich. With the advent of the scanner, prints made an easy transition to digital. Slides, on the other hand, are more troublesome and cannot be scanned as easily. We'll teach you how to overcome that limitation, digitize your slides, and bring your presentation into the 21st century.


Method 1 of 4: Method One: Professional

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 1
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 1

Step 1. Let your fingers do the work

Go to Google.com and search for “digitize slides.” You will find a number of establishments that will be more than happy to do the work for you. If you have many slides, the beauty of professional scanning is that they can do the job much faster and with much higher quality than you could, given their experience as they use professional scanners and software that are not affordable for the normal user.. These are some important points to consider:

  • Price. This can vary drastically, from $ 500 for 400 slides (or from € 0.19 per slide in Spain) to about $ 1000 for 250. Considering the cost of homemade alternatives - and consider how often you will present the slides in the future - these prices are reasonable.
  • Delivery. How quickly can you deliver the work? Some places will take a couple of weeks, others a couple of days, and the results may not be particularly exceptional. If you want better quality, you can wreak less havoc on your wallet by waiting.
  • Quality. Slide digitizing services can deliver high-quality scans that will look good even when printed on 8x10 paper. Choose your scan resolution at no less than 3,000 dpi and make sure they have the technology to reduce or eliminate dust spots, which is very important with old slides.

Method 2 of 4: Method Two: The Slide Scanner

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 2
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 2

Step 1. Do it yourself

While digitizing companies can give you better quality and do what would be a tedious task faster, there is some satisfaction in doing it yourself as well as other reasons:

  • It could be a chance to get rid of slides you should never have taken, like the accidental shot of your tennis shoes or that "artistic" image of a dog on a fire hydrant.
  • There may be images in your slide collection that you just don't want to share with strangers.
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 3
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 3

Step 2. Buy a slide scanner

In the consumables category, these can range from under $ 500 to over $ 2000 and generally investing more money will give you better quality and an easier workflow. Look for these features:

  • Speed. Some slide scanners require you to scan to your computer one at a time. If this takes 30 to 60 seconds per slide, in addition to naming and sorting, it can take a considerable amount of time to process a box with 400 slides. Prepare to sacrifice an entire weekend for this. Some of the best slide scanners will scan a slide in just seconds and save it to SD memory. When all of your slides are digitized, simply open the memory on your computer and take your photos.
  • Quality. Check the number of megapixels of the scanner you are interested in. They can vary from 5 to 9 megapixels. The bigger the better: The higher the number of megapixels, the bigger the impression you can make of your slide.
  • Compatibility. Make sure the scanner does not require special software, or if it does, that it can run with your computer's configuration. You don't want to sit in front of your Mac this weekend for a massive scanning session and find that your brand new scanner only works with Windows. That means you will most likely do yard work instead.

Method 3 of 4: Method Three: The Flatbed Scanner

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 4
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 4

Step 1. Use what you have

"OK," you say, "I have a scanner. Could I just put my slide in the scanner and do it that way? Sure you can, but the problem is that the slides are very small.

Look for an accessory adapter to allow you to mount your slides on the mounting bracket and scan using your conventional scanner. This will give you the opportunity to view and save easily if not quickly. If an adapter is not available, you can make one using some materials that you already have at home (for example, paper, tape, etc.). Scanning with a conventional scanner has certain limitations in lighting and resolution and generally will not give you an image of similar quality to that of a digital photograph or a professionally digitized slide

Method 4 of 4: Method Four: Take a Picture

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 5
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 5

Step 1. Take it again

Prepare your projector, screen and tripod and take a digital photograph of your image as it is displayed on screen. If your camera has manual focus, use it to adjust the distance for the sharpest image possible.

If your camera allows it, you can try taking the photo multiple times with slower or faster shooting times, a predefined f-stop, and then compose the image with imaging software such as Photoshop. The resolution will still be compromised but you will have a better dynamic range

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 6
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 6

Step 2. Use a slide projector

Use the zoom or use the macro function of your digital camera to take a photo of the illuminated background of the slide. Peripheral light present around the slide itself may need to be blocked. Take some cardboard or paper and position it so that only the image on the slide has visible light behind it. This process generally requires a tripod to obtain a sharp image.

Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 7
Digitally Scan 35mm Slides Step 7

Step 3. Use a booth

If your lens allows one-inch focus, use a stand to take a close-up of the slide. Capturing is quick with one click of the camera's shutter. You can test your camera for slides or negative copy.


  • Look for photography companies in your area. They generally have professional grade scanners available for rent and may offer “free weekends” if you rent on a Friday and return it “24 hours later” on Monday.
  • Keep in mind how invaluable your images are and who will be managing them. They could be lost or irreparably damaged without any liability on the part of the company.
  • Professional stores usually charge $ 50 to $ 100 per slide to digitally prepare, scan, and clean a slide. That does not mean that you should use a professional service, it is only so that you consider the importance of the images against the cost of the digitization service.
  • There are professional websites dedicated exclusively to the digitization of photographic supports. If you search and compare a little, you will find prices from € 0, 19 per slide with very good professional quality.


  • Some companies will send your slides elsewhere to be digitized at cheap rates. This is a risk factor as well as exposure to the environment (dust, humidity, etc.) when evaluating your possibilities.
  • Normal and semi-professional scanners never reach the full resolution listed in their specifications, there is a difference between the advertised resolution of the real one (in DPI or PPP) from 30% to 65%.

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