How Can I Transfer Film Negatives to a CD?


Perhaps you have boxes of photos and negatives piling up and a shortage of storage space, or maybe you would like to create digital slide shows from the family archives. Whatever the reason, transferring your film negatives to digital format for use on a CD is now within the bounds of consumer technology. If you are looking for the highest quality, it's best to take the negatives to a professional for scanning. For everyday use, you can do it at home provided you have a scanner (or a photo editing program) that can convert a negative image.

Preparing Negatives

Check the instruction manual of you scanner to see if it is capable of transferring negatives. If so, most scanners provide a flat plate that will hold the negatives so you can lay them in the proper place on the flatbed of the scanner. If not, you will need to do this in your photo editing program. Clean the negatives and flatbed with canned air to remove any dust or particles.

Scanning Negatives

If you plan on doing any photo editing, it's usually better to import the images directly into the program. Do this by selecting import from the proper menu of you photo editing program, which should open the scanner interface window. Scan the images at the highest resolution possible, without exceeding your scanner's actual maximum. The resolution refers to the dpi (dots per inch) that will be read from your negative. The higher the number the higher the resolution, and the higher quality image. This is especially important if you intend to make any enlargements of your final image, for instance an 8 x 10 inch photograph. Check to see what the highest true resolution of your scanner is and use it. The actual resolution may differ from the maximum resolution, as many scanners will interpolate higher resolution images than the scanner can read. For example, if the highest actual resolution of your scanner is 3200 dpi (which is quite good for this purpose), your scanner may have a maximum resolution of 9600 dpi, meaning the software in your scanner is guessing at what those extra pixels should be. This is not helpful for getting a good quality picture; stick with the actual resolution. In the scanner interface window, make sure as well that you have selected film negative as your source, and if the negative is black and white, select grayscale. For output, you can pick the final resulting picture you want (if you want to print directly an 4 x 6 inch photograph, for instance) or leave it as actual size. If there is an option for cleaning up specks and spots you may want to use it, in case there are pockmarks or other damage to the negative (keep in mind you may not be able to see problems in negative without a magnifying glass).

Photo Editing Negatives

Adjust for level and color balance, and convert to a positive image, if necessary, using your photo editing program. When you have the images you want from the negatives in digital form, import them into a slide show program and burn to a CD, or just put them into a folder and burn the folder to CD, if you are storing them.

Who Can Help

Keywords: scanning negatives, putting negatives on CD, scanning images

About this Author

Ted Martin has been writing professionally since 1999. He has worked for both corporate and private clients, and his work has appeared in the "New Mexican" and the SJ Community newsletter. Martin holds a Masters of Art in liberal arts from St. John's University

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