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.
This is also true of photographic slides, and if you have an old collection or have come into possession of such images, you may well be wondering just how to convert them to that they can be cleaned up, printed perhaps or even shared on social networks.
We’ve come up with five methods for you to try, using devices and materials you may already have, or might be prepared to invest in.
Clean Up Your Slides
Before you start scanning your slides, remember that you may need to clean them first. Any dust and dirt that has collected on your slide will also be scanned, so it is best to clean up first rather than spend ages in your image editor cleaning-up the scanned slide (such as adjusting the white balance).
This is best achieved with a standard microfiber cloth or in some cases an anti-static microfiber cleaning cloth, both of which can be easily bought online or in photographic stores. Liquid film cleaners are generally advised against, but if you want to use this approach, do no use water-based chemicals, sticking instead to Naphtha or pure alcohol and applying the cleaner in a well-ventilated area – if possible, test your chosen cleaning method on an unwanted slide first to gauge its effectiveness.
With your slides cleaned up, you’ll be ready to start scanning!
Employ Your 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 (well you can, but the results will almost certainly be unsatisfactory).
Instead, you’ll need some sort of device that makes scanning the slide possible. Because of the speed of the scanning light and the size of the slide, you need some form of diffuser, which ensures an even spread if light, thereby enabling a quality capture of the slide.
So, where can you find one of these diffuser devices? Fortunately, we’ve already shown you right here on MakeUseOf, and following the steps in our guide to capturing your old slides with a flatbed scanner will have you scanning your slides with good results within 30 minutes.
Use A Slide Projector
Probably the most obvious method of digitising slides is to employ a slide projector. It doesn’t have to be brand new – it might be comparatively ancient, like mine! – but it does have to be able to project a clear image of the slide. Best results can be achieved by blacking out windows, switching off lights and using a digital camera to snap the projected image.
You may also be able to get your hands on an old compact converter box. This requires you to project the slide into one side, while a camera is used to capture the image, reflected to a 90 degree angle.
These devices can be found at flea markets and on eBay quite cheaply, and can also be used for capturing old 8mm and 16mm cine film.
Use a Dedicated Slide Scanner
You may have tried the suggestions above and decided that what you really need is some dedicated hardware. For around $100 you can get yourself a dedicated slide scanner, capable of scanning both slides and negatives and other suitably-sized transparencies.
Several types of slide scanners are on the market, such as this device that enables you to mount your smartphone as the scanner, as well as a range of slide and negatives scanners currently listed on Amazon, such as the one pictured above.
DSLR Slide Duplicator Mount
These lens-mounted devices can be attached to a DSLR and used to photograph slides. As you can imagine, this gives certain advantages for digital post-production on the device itself, and in some cases it is possible to blow-up and examine small sections of a slide.
You don’t even need to take a photo. 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.
Prices for some of these duplicators are quite high, but you should find an option to suit your budget on Amazon.
Turn Your iPad Into A White Screen & Take A Photo!
If splashing out on expensive hardware isn’t your idea of an effective way of digitising your slides, a team up between your iPad and iPhone could be the way forward for you.
There’s no reason why you should have to use Apple devices for this. Any smartphone with a large enough screen could be used as a light source, with a second, high-quality smartphone camera positioned to take the snap, digitising your slide. However if you are using an iPad be sure to enable Guided Access under Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access so you can disable touchscreen input and view your slides unhindered.
Keeping the second phone steady might be a challenge, so consider using a secure tripod or perhaps even a DIY cardboard photocopier, as explained previously on MakeUseOf.
Conclusion: Get Those Old Slides Freshened Up And Share Them!
While you might not want to throw the slides away, digitising 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.
Have you used any of these tools and methods to scan old slides? Do you plan to? Share your thoughts below.