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How to digitize your old film photos



I'm a big fan of movie photography, but one problem is that physical photos are hard to share. Everyone now uses Instagram or Facebook. Luckily, it is relatively easy – though not necessarily cheap – to digitize film photos. So, whether you've found a box of old photos in your parents' basement that you want to put online, or if you just shot a 35mm film roll last week, here's what you get:

There are two types of movie photos: develops photo prints and the original transparencies or negatives. Photo prints are easier and cheaper to digitize, but the negatives give better results. If you have both, what you do is up to you.

If you have the photos

When you get the prints, things are really easy. You can just take a photo with your phone if you want, but let's take a look at the better options.

Using Your Scanner

Most modern scanners can do more than just scan photos. A good one will probably have a special photo-scan mode. You may need to do some small color adjustments or cut away an edge, but it's easy and reliable, though not necessarily a fast option.

If you're using your scanner, it's best to add all the photos to a catalog app, such as Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom. They make sure that all files remain sorted, and you can use them to make the necessary color adjustments.

Use Google Photoscan

Google's Photoscan app, available for iOS and Android, is one of their lesser-known projects. The camera on your smartphone is used to scan and digitize photos by taking a series of pictures to avoid glare and then combine them. Here is a photo I scanned with it today.

Photoscan is a clever app that can eliminate glare effects well and be used very quickly. Unfortunately, I found out that my pictures – especially skin tones – were washed out a bit too much. I think it's more for older, faded images than for the brand new prints I worked with.

If you only want to scan a handful of photos to upload to social media, this is the way.

Call the Professionals

Scanning and correcting a large box of photos can be very time-consuming. If you have a lot of images to scan and want to make sure they get it right, it's best to turn to a professional service. There are numerous online offers, and prices usually range between $ 0.20 and $ 0.40 per photo. This depends on how many images are to be scanned, what quality you need and whether they should be color corrected.

However, before going online, I would recommend checking to see if your local camera shop offers photo scanners. Photography is one of the things that still makes sense to go local. The shops are staffed with experts who are almost always ready to help and give advice. You'll be able to recommend exactly what your photos need, even if it costs a little more.

If you have negatives or slides

With film negatives or slides, things are not as simple as easy Run them through your document scanner. The advantage is that when digitizing your images, you will most likely get better quality than scanning the original photos.

Get a Negative Scanner

If you have many slides or negative for scanning, the most cost effective solution is buying a negative scanner. While the color may not be the best, the Jumbl 22MP film and slide scanner costs only $ 80. When it's more important to put photos online than make them look perfect, this is a great option. You could also use a high-quality document and photo scanner that can scan negatives and slides such as the Epson Perfection V600 ($ 190).

Go with the Professionals

As with photo-printing, this is the best option. If you have a huge collection that you want to digitize, it's probably for professionals. Expect to pay between approximately $ 0.30 and $ 1.50 per image, depending on the format of the photos, the quality you need and how many you have. The volume discounts are not to be faulted.

As always, I would recommend that you look around your local camera shop before using an online service. The staff there can advise you on the best course of action.


Photos only worsen over time. If you have a large collection of old photos, the sooner you digitize and secure them, the sooner they will be ruined by time or abuse.


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