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Thursday, December 13, 2018

How to Digitize Your Old Film Photos

I’m a big fan of film photography, but one problem is that physical photos are hard to share. Everyone uses Instagram or Facebook now. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple—though not necessarily cheap—to digitize film photos. So, whether you’ve found a box of old photos in your parent’s basement you want to put online, or you just shot a roll of 35mm film last week, here’s what to do.

Film photos come in two forms: developed photo prints and the original slides or negatives. Photo prints are easier, and cheaper, to digitize but you’ll get better results with the negatives. If you’ve got both, which you go with is up to you.

If You’ve Got the Photos

If you’ve got the photo prints, then things are really simple. You can just take a photo with your phone if you want—but let’s look at the better options.

Use Your Scanner

Most modern scanners are more than capable of scanning photos. A good one will probably have a dedicated photo scanning mode. You might need to make some small color adjustments or crop away any border, but it’s easy and reliable, if not necessarily a quick option.

If you do go with your scanner, the best thing to do is add all the photos to a catalog app like Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom. They’ll keep them all sorted, and you can also use them to make whatever color fixes are needed.

Use Google Photoscan

Google’s Photoscan app, available for iOS and Android, is one of their lesser-known projects. It uses your smartphone’s camera to scan and digitize photos by taking a series of images to eliminate glare and then combining them. Here’s a photo I scanned with it today.

Photoscan is a clever app that removes glare well and is pretty quick to use. Unfortunately, I found it washed out my images—especially skin tones—a bit too much. I think it’s designed for use with older, faded images, rather than the brand new prints with which I was working.

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