Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do you have any old slides that you want to scan? Here is my cheap and easy way to do it at home.

A couple months ago, we had a family friend who got ahold of some really old family photos. She came over and asked me if there was any way that I could convert her old slides to digital images. Since I do not own a slide scanner, I was about to tell her that there was nothing I could do, that was until I came up with a plan B.

I was holding one of her slides up to a light to see the image, when I came up with an idea.

I knew that I needed to backlight the slide to see the image, and I also knew that if I could get in close enough, I could capture a digital image of the slide. In order to get a good solid backlight, Here is what I came up with:

I turned on my desktop computer and launched Microsoft Word. I then opened a blank document so that I would have a large white light behind my slides.

I tried shooting some images of an old slide and quickly realized that I needed a better way to keep everything in focus.

I set up one of my Joby Gorilla Pods and a Manfrotto clamp to hold the slides.

I then mounted my Canon 5D Mark IV camera with the Canon 100mm macro lens on my Gitzo tripod. I moved the camera so that it was right up to the slide and then manually focused the lens to get a good sharp image. I set the camera to a 2 second timer mode (so that I would not shake the camera at all), and fired a shot of each slide. (Note: you do not need an expensive tripod or camera to do this, but a decent macro lens sure helps.)

One by one, I would take a photo and then replace the slide with another one. This worked so well that I ended up going deep into my closet and finding old slides that my father had taken back in the 1950s and 1960s. I wanted to convert all these too!

Here are a couple of things I learned in the process.

* Do not put the slide too close to your monitor, as the pixels will show up behind the slide image.
* It is best to have a clip or something to hold the slides in exactly the same position. this saves you having to reposition the lens before capturing each photo.
* It is set up the camera to capture all the slide in the sideways position. If the image was in portrait mode, it was easier to capture it sideways (instead of rotating the camera each time) and then rotate it later in Photo Mechanic or Photoshop.

So...what did slides did I convert? See for yourself. And yes, that is little ole me in the photos below.

(Notice that even then I must have been into photography, as I am holding a box from a roll of Kodak film.)

Oh - and don't forget the other advantage to scanning old slides. You can clean them up and correct them.

For instance, here is a slide that I found of my father and brother when Dave was a newborn.

As you can see, the white balance is way off and there are lots of scratches and dirt on the slide. I adjusted the white balance in Adobe Camera Raw to warm it up. I know for sure that my dad did not have blue skin.

Then I straightened the image and cropped the border out.

But I still had a really dirty image to clean up.

I used the healing brush to remove all the larger marks on my father face and background. I then created a separate layer and ran the "Dust & Scratches" filter in Photoshop to remove a lot of the dirt from his shirt and the wall paper in the background. Ta da! I have a nice image for myself and my family to remember my father by.

And just for the fun of it, I decided to do a little more retouching. I removed the harsh shadow to the left of my father, fixed his tie, and removed the chimney sticking out of the top of his head. I know, I know...I just changed history, but even though this is not what I would share with others, it was fun to do anyways.

I hope that this inspires all of you to get that old box of slides out of the closet and start converting them to digital images for you and your family.

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Patty said...

That's so cool! Unfortunately all I have to work with are film negatives. Would this process with in a similar manner? Or shall I wait for another blog to cover it in detail? 😉

Art said...

Jeff, that is nothing short of genius. Forget the tripod and clip to hold the slide, and forget the fancy camera. Right after reading your article, I headed to the basement and made a T-stand out of a 1"x2" and cut a notch in the top to hold the slide. Then I took my Samsung Galaxy S8 and put it on a tripod. Literally 15 minutes after reading your blog, I have my first picture from a 44 year old slide and it was perfect! Thanks for sharing!

Bruce said...

Should work. Just invert the colors in photoshop during post.

danielkehoe said...

Once again you use the KISS philosophy to it's best use to get excellent results.

GreggS said...

Thanks for the great idea, Jeff. I have a ton of slides from my old film days. I purchased a converter earlier this year, but have not been happy with the results. I'll have to give this a try.

MEL said...

Great hack Jeff, that is brilliant! Thanks for the article describing all of your steps. I'm headed to my garage to find some slides!

Phillip said...

I had about 6k slides my Dad shot over the years* and about 2k of my own to scan. I had an old Sawyer projector and 16, loaded, 100 slot carousels. The projector light socket was burnt toast so I pulled that out and installed a 48 cell led light panel** I bought off of ebay for $2.50US. I pulled the lens from the projector, installed my 50mm macro lens on my dslr, shoved it in the projectors orifice, hooked up my remote and clicked away. One click to advance the slide tray and one to take the photo.
They didn't all come out perfect, but at least I was able to go through all of them, with reasonable speed, and pick out the ones I wanted to duplicate with clarity.
*This was in addition to the 13 apple boxes full of family photos I was tasked with scanning for the family.
**I powered the light panel via an old 12v ATV battery.

Vincent said...

I did this 6 yaers ago and called it "DIY dia copy, the simple way".
look at : said...

Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome.

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Ken said...

Great hack, although my flatbed scanner has a slide attachment that was pretty easy, too. I came across hundreds of color slides my dad took in the 40s and 50s, and they turned out beautifully. Scanned at 1200 dpi.

One thing about old slides (if stored correctly), they seem to turn out better than any print from the same period.

Anonymous said...

Great Job !!!

1. Very Clever
2. Very Kind of you to Share

Great Job indeed !!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a nice way to take an old photographs and slide it in the computer.

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