Effective Ways of Converting Negatives to Digital

Negatives are essentially the original documentation of your photos. In fact, they are generally of higher image quality as compared to the prints, especially if the prints were made several years ago. That is why it is recommended to convert negatives to digital, rather than scanning the prints if you want superior image quality.

Nearly everything in life today can be accessed in a digital format, except for your negatives and old photos. If you have some damaged prints, an easy way of restoring them is by converting the negatives to digital and then printing them out once more if you need the hard copies.

Generally, by converting the negatives into digital format you will always have then at your fingertips whether you want to post online, e-mail or print.

There are many ways of scanning photo negatives as shown below. Let us look at them starting with the most costly ways to the cheapest method.

It is also not surprising that the following list also goes down from the most convenient method to the least convenient.

Pay for Expert Service

There are several professional companies that specialize in scanning and processing photo negatives, slides and photos. You can simply mail all your negatives then have the experts do all the scanning work.

They will then send you back the digital photos using the preferred medium, whether online storage or DVDs.


  • Your negatives will be handled by experienced professionals
  • Better and more consistent image quality
  • More options available including downscaling for online usage and slideshow movies among others
  • It is convenient since you just mail your negatives in a box and wait to receive photos directly on your computer


  • The image quality at certain companies might not be sufficient for professional photographers
  • The cost is significantly higher, especially since you can buy a decent scanner for a similar price and then scan plenty of negatives, as well as photos and documents

Buy a Negative Scanner

The best solution for those who have numerous photo negatives to scan is to purchase a dedicated slide scanner. There are several options available and most are easy to use.

Even though they are largely designed to be used for scanning slides, they usually have a tray with the width size of a photo negative. The scanner pulls the negatives through its tray and then reproduces every image.

You can easily adjust the photo settings to optimize your results.


  • These dedicated negative scanners are simple plug-and-play devices
  • It is an effortless and quick way of scanning more negatives simultaneously
  • Great solution for beginners


  • To achieve better image quality you will need a more expensive slide scanner
  • These scanners also lack versatility since they cannot scan documents or photos with them

Use Your Regular Flatbed Scanner

All-in-one printers are also a good solution for converting negatives to digital since they also include a flatbed scanner. You can use that same printer for making copies, printing and also scanning.

If you are especially concerned about ensuring high quality or you already own a printer, consider buying a premium flatbed scanner.

Whichever option you decided to use in getting your scanner, you will have a device that can scan both documents and photos. However, this is the least convenient method of converting your negatives as it involves some DIY work.

You need to create a transparency adapter using a small piece of paper to help reflect light back to your negatives in order to produce a scanned image.


  • Great value and minimal clutter
  • Versatile solution since it can be used with other documents and photos
  • Produces high resolution images, especially when scanning at a high DPI


  • Can be very inconvenient since the scanning application supports one negative frame at a time
  • Requires more patience and time to complete scanning numerous images
  • Significantly lower quality as compared to paying a professional

Tips for Successfully Scanning Negatives into Digital

Place a blank white piece of paper behind each negative when using a traditional flatbed scanner. This helps ensure a cleaner image as particles like ink and dust can stick onto the top cover of your scanner. Additionally, also make sure you have wiped your scanner and the negatives you want to scan.

Test your options and settings on the scanner and then make sure you use the same settings in every image. You will get more consistent results, instead of changing settings every time you scan another photo negative. It also makes the scanning work go a lot faster.

Always scan at a bigger size and higher resolution when dealing with negatives. You can downscale later on based on your needs.

The main reason for this is that it provides excellent image quality, rather than pixelating your pictures by trying to make them bigger.

With regards to choosing a good scanner to transform negatives into digital, the main feature to consider is the DPI. Ideally, you want a scanner with a significantly higher resolution. Furthermore, do not overlook what kind of software comes bundled with your scanner.

Look for versatile software that has handy options like scanning directly to PDF format.

Some post-processing work will likely be needed to fine-tune your scanned negatives. You might be tempted to use free online editing software, but it is advisable to go with trusted programs like Photoshop.

These dedicated photo development tools will generally have a broader range of editing options and therefore allow you to do more with your photos.


Scanning negatives to digital takes is a good step to take to preserve old photos. It also means easier access to old photos without needing to squint your eyes at negatives anymore.

Once you scan the negatives and invert the colors, you will find that they have clearer and better details than the old photos. Additionally, you may even get to see more detail if the edges of the old photos had been cropped out in order to fit the print size.

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