How to convert 35 mm slides into digital images?

box full of 35mm slides
box full of 35mm slides

If you have a ton of 35mm slides lying around that you'd like to convert to digital photos the first thing you're going to need to do is get yourself a scanner that includes a slide and photo negative attachment.

Once you have the right scanner, getting the slides scanned is actually pretty simple, though it can be time-consuming if you have a lot of slides to get done.

The best way to tackle the task is to take it slow and get yourself organized. Separate your slides into piles of most important to least important. I also recommend being ruthless about bad photos --- don't bother scanning slides where the picture is out of focus (even if it is just a little) or the color is off, or the composition is bad.

Take this opportunity to go through your collection and find the best representations of moments from your life that you want to remember. Then put the rest of the slides back in the box and shove that box right back under your bed!

Scanning Negatives and Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives
Scanning Negatives and Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives

Many photographers will tell you that scanning photos is as much an art as it is a science. If you are preserving photos for their artistic value as well as the memories they recall, then you might want to read up on how to get the most out of your scanning equipment.


Finding the Right Scanner

There are lots of flatbed scanners that come with a built-in film adapter for scanning both slides and negatives. Canon, Epson and HP all make them and I don't think you can go wrong with any of these brands. Here are a couple of choices that you might want to consider.

Most of today's photo scanners will aso help you do some quick restoration work on your images. They won't take out any deep scratches, but if your negatives or slides have faded over time, the retouch feature can usually help bring the color back to life.

If you have any slides that have lots of dust on them, try using a can of compressed air to clean them off.

35mm Slides - Photo by
35mm Slides - Photo by

Photo Scanners

Canon 1306B002 CanoScan 4400F Color Image Scanner
Canon 1306B002 CanoScan 4400F Color Image Scanner

This Canon scanner is currently the #1 seller on Amazon, with lots of good reviews. It does a great job on slides and negatives and also works perfectly well as a document scanner. It can handle 4 slides at a time. Just make sure you update the driver software from the Canon website before you put this scanner to work.


Some multifunction or All-in-One Copiers and Printers will also allow you to scan slides. So if you already have one of these it may not be necessary to run out and get a brand new scanner. Take a look at the video above for a hint on where to find the hidden slide attachment in a Canon printer/copier.

Fixing your photos

You will probably find that your photos will need tweaking after you've scanned your slides. So getting some photo editing software is a good idea. While Photoshop is the idea solution, it can also be difficult to work with if you are not familiar with it. It almost does too much stuff!

There is a handful of serviceable photo editing suites available that will get the task down without bogging you down in tons of options and they won't empty your wallet completely. My favorites, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel's Paint Shop Pro, are both easy to work with and have plenty of features for making your photos stand-out without overwhelming you with options.

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Comments 9 comments

Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 7 years ago from India

very good informative page about converting to digital..

Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I have literally thousands of slides I need to convert over. The problem I have is the scanner I want is too costly in my opinion for someone who does not make a living selling their images. Yet I am too picky to go for a poor quality scan.

embitca profile image

embitca 7 years ago from Boston Author

I think that's one of the biggest issues with converting slides if you have tons of them, Dave. A regular scanner is too slow with only holding four slides per scan and the bulk scanners are far too expensive for the home user. The ION scanner is probably fine for just archival purposes, but if you are picky (like me) I doubt it would be good enough!

Erick Smart 7 years ago

I purchased a Nikon Coolscan V with the slide feeder off Ebay. I then used it to scan all my slides then resold it on Ebay. I ended up actually making a little money on the sale since they hold their value so well. It took a lot of shopping around to find one that was a deal for me and did not sound like a non-working model though.

kombizz profile image

kombizz 7 years ago from USA

For sure a very good dedicated film scanner does the job.

Beth100 profile image

Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

You've read my mind: I've been wondering how to convert my slides into digital! Thank you for this hub!!

aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

The slide scanners like the coolscan are easy to use, just push the slide in a press a button and wait. They can take a long time to scan each slide and it can be a daunting task to scan one rolls worth of slides, let a lone a pile of old slides.

If you have old slides that you want converted to digital and don't need/want to get a good slide scanner you may want to consider a Slide Scanning Service. Most of the companies that transfer film reels to video or dvd also offer slide scanning services. You drop off your shoe box full of slides and pick up a cd of the images in a week.

agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

I've just purchased a little scanner that looks something like a slide projector and does not take the time that a normal scanner takes to take your image. Works a treat although it only fits 3 slides at one time, it also will scan film strip.

Thanks for an informative Hub :-)

Larry Farlow profile image

Larry Farlow 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA, USA

Very nice hub and great information. I have several boxes of slides from a trip to Europe some 25 years ago that I've been wanting to get on disc. You've given me some ideas to run with!

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