How To Transfer 35mm Slides to Digital Format

The fun 50s
The fun 50s | Source

I have been in the process of transferring about 2,000 35mm slides to digital format. The slides date from the early 1950’s to the early 1960s.

There are tips all over the internet about how to transfer all of your 35mm slides to digital. There are flatbed scanners with attachments, specialized scanners that only do film, attachments for your camera to use in the macro setting and the simple method of using a slide projector on a screen and using your camera to digitize. I have used both the flatbed and specialized scanners, but always go back to the slide projector method, as it is quick and easy.

Of course, this means lots of Photoshop work, as color balance is never perfect and most slides are scratched and dirty. For me, that is part of the fun of doing this - getting a bad slide to look reasonably acceptable. When you are doing 1,000 slides, it is much quicker than scanning.

After I get the slide onto my computer, I open it up in Photoshop and see how much work I have to do. I use either the clone tool to pick up clean areas and transfer them over, or use the blur tool, which is great for removing lots of dust on areas where you will not notice the blur. The automated dust removal filters in Photoshop have never worked well for me so I do not use them. Here is a link to a few tips on doing this.

Recently, I had to transfer slides that had turned red for some reason. I used the color balance tool, adding multiple passes of cyan and yellow, along with Vibrance, and the channels tool. I usually managed to get a decent picture out of a slide that would have otherwise been useless. The results are not perfect, but it breathes some new life into the picture.

I set up Actions to take care of color, contrast, and balance on slides that are similar. Others, I just do a minimal amount of work, as the slides were good to begin with. This all takes time, but is worth it to preserve family memories.


I did this for the slides that my parents took. Once color prints became popular, they stopped taking slides. The color and detail of the slides, shot on Kodachrome, are amazing. I wish they had taken more.

My family is well documented. I have hours of my kids laying on their back looking at the camera, or trying to figure out what those strange objects are hanging in front of them.The first steps, the first words, a tantrum or two, a fight between the two of them over a toy, and other silly moments are captured for future showing. Editing these down will be hard, as the kids are teens now, and I miss the little kids that they were, while at the same time embracing and getting to know the young adults they are becoming.

Improved via Photoshop
Improved via Photoshop | Source

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