How to Scan Slides

Preserving old slides on a hard drive or cloud storage is an excellent way of keeping them safe. Old slides usually contain precious memories of people, event and important life milestones. It is actually never too early to start looking for ways to preserve your old-fashioned analog photos.

If you want to learn how to scan slides, read on here below for further information.

Everyone enjoys looking at a good photo, but over time, images have significantly migrated from their tradition paper format to the screen. This has been largely driven by the popularity and use of portable electronic devices like tablets and mobile phones.

Consequently, physical photo albums have now become quite rare as many people now prefer saving their photos in digital formats.

In this ongoing rush to digitize most aspects of our lives, you will likely discover that slides will require a lot more resourcefulness. You cannot simply place a few slides on a scanner and then retrieve the long-forgotten family members and events. The reason this is not possible is due to the behavior of the light during scanning.

In order to scan an image onto a computer, a scanner reflects light onto the subject and then captures the detail. In the case of slides, you have to ensure that the slides are illuminated from behind in order to scan the negatives or slides properly. So, it takes a bit more ingenuity to scan slides using a regular flatbed scanner, but it is an achievable task.

Most consumer electronics manufacturers have realized that there is a high demand for slide scanners. Generally, these products are quite expensive, especially for what may just be a single use scenario.

Luckily, one of the cheapest alternatives that you can use to convert your slides to digital photos is simply using a regular scanner.

The Process of Scanning Slides

By using a simple DIY cardboard adapter, you can accurately scan your slides. The adapter helps to capture light from your scanner and then reflects it behind the slides.

As soon as you have made your cardboard adapter, you can easily scan the slides as if they were ordinary documents.

Make a backlighting adapter

Fortunately, making the adapter for scanning your slides is very straightforward. There are plenty of online templates showing the best designs and you can choose the one that you are most comfortable with.

Next, simply print out the design on paper and then proceed to cut and fold where instructed. Finally, once you assemble the adapter, it should look like a pyramid with a hollow opening at the base where the slides will be inserted for scanning.

Clean up

A very crucial step in how to scan slides is cleaning up both the slides and the scanner bed. This will be of great help during postproduction, as you will not have to deal with lots of image correction.

Ultimately, it will give you better image results if both the slide and scanner bed are free of any visible marks and dirt.

Secure the slides

Once you have cleaned away the dust on your slides, you can now move on to securing it carefully to your scanner. A simple way of doing this is by using the sticky side of a post-it note or anything similar that you can access easily.

The key here is to create a solid frame on which to secure your slides to keep them in place during the scanning process.

Scanning the slides

After securing the slides onto your scanner, take the backlighting adapter that you created and place it on top of the slides. Make sure that the slide to be scanned is in the middle of the backlighting adapter for better results.

Additionally, consider leaving the scanner cover wide open to make the process easier to manage, particular when scanning numerous slides.

Take a quick preview scan to check whether the slide is visible. If you notice uneven brightness in the preview, take a light material like tissue paper and place it between the adapter and slide. This will help in light diffusion and give you better results. Remember to always scan at the highest resolution to cover as much detail as possible.

A common term that you will come across when searching for ways to scan slides is Digital ICE technology. This is a crucial piece of scanner technology that comes in newer products and is nearly like magic.

It eliminates scratches and dust from your digital image, which saves you the effort and time needed to clean your image using Photoshop. So, make sure you have enabled Digital ICE on your scanner when scanning slides.

Repairing the scanned image

In most instances, you will require some extra editing work to make your slides look better. Luckily, numerous applications available can repair such photos and produce good results.

You can invert the colors, adjust the contrast and brightness, as well as carry out other image processing tasks. This way you can remove any tears or blemishes from the photos.


The main vulnerable point of this whole process scanning slides explained here is cleaning. The microscopic dust specs literally become like huge asteroids once scanned at a high dpi. The new scanners that use Digital ICE and are able to eliminate this problem are great to have.

However, there are cases Digital ICE actually cuts off important detail from your slides. During such cases, you can clean the slide and then edit the image later in Photoshop or GIMP to fix any anomalies.

In conclusion, learning how to scan slides does not have to be an expensive matter. Provided that you own a decent flatbed scanner and you are ready to put in a bit of work, you can ensure those old photos will be enjoyed for many years to come.

You may even get similar or better results like those who use slide scanners, and for a much cheaper price.

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