Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scanning old film negatives

Among the thousands of photos I have been scanning for the past few years, I have accumulated a large number of negatives. Those of you who are a little older may recall that when you took your black and white film to be developed, you received not only prints from your film, but also the negatives. The negatives in my collection date back into the early 1900s. Up until now, I had no way to get a high quality scan from these negatives, some of which are large from view cameras used at the time they were made. Except for those made after the advent of 35mm cameras, none of the old negatives are a standard size.

Fortunately, technology has advanced to the point where a high quality scan of these odd sized negatives is possible. Although some of the subjects in the negatives are mundane, many of the photos are priceless and the only record of the events depicted. One huge pile of negatives came from my great grandmother, who was a professional photographer.

Above, is a scanned image of one of the negatives. I have decided to publish a lot of the older negatives and photos on my Walking Arizona blog.

In deciding how to scan these images, we did a lot of research online. We have had very good results for years from my Epson scanner. Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner is an example of the the more recent kind. However, we have also had excellent results with Canon scanners. Canon CanoScan 8800F Color Film/Negative/Photo Scanner (2168B002)
After considerable review, we decided on the Canon 8800F. I am very pleased with the quality as well as the speed of this scanner. The scanner allows you to scan both in reflective mode and transmitted light mode. I have found the transmitted light mode to be somewhat cranky. Since the quality of some of my negatives is very poor. The scanner cannot detect some of the pictures and sometimes splits one picture into two. However, by working with the position of the negative on the scanning bed, I have solved most of those problems.

Once the scans are made, the scanning software will sometimes convert the image to a positive. There does not seem to be any consistency in this conversion and some of the images come up as negative after the scan. However, this is no problem since I can invert the images in Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Photoshop CS5 . If Photoshop is out of your price range, you can also try Photoshop Elements Adobe Photoshop & Premiere Elements 8   Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.

Here's what the photo looks like converted in Photoshop:


  1. Perfect timing! I've been contemplating getting the Canon 8800F. Glad to know about the little quirks. Hope to get mine this week.

    So who's the cute kid!!

  2. Hi guys
    Very nice information for photo scanning software.I have been scanning for the past few years.