How to Convert Photo Negatives to Digital Media

By TimBrookes
A roll of 35mm photographic film.
film image by timur1970 from

Since the rise in popularity of digital imaging, many have abandoned their old 35mm film cameras. Using a scanner, it is possible to convert all your old 35mm rolls of film into digital media. This provides the versatility and convenience of digital storage, editing and sharing methods and can give a new lease of life to old forgotten photographs.

Pay for Professional Service

Negatives on a light table.
120 slide film image by saied shahinkiya from

Take your negatives to a local photographic laboratory. Many will provide pictures on a CD as an extra to traditional processing and printing, and some will offer a direct film to digital service. Depending on your local facilities, photos are often available within the hour though some smaller processing labs may use a mail-order service to scan your negatives.

Online retailers, you images
Email LCD display image by Alex Yeung from

Mail your film to an Internet retailer. There are a number of on-line retailers including FotoBridge, Shutterfly and My Special Photos that offer services for digital conversion. Retailers will often receive your order, process the films and provide the pictures via email or in a web gallery. Internet retailers are convenient, but do not offer the one-hour service many local processing labs provide.

Bulk orders, discounted rates
cartridges image by Federico Romano from

Send your bulk orders in one package to an Internet retailer. If you have a lot of old film and would like to convert everything, the Internet can provide the perfect answer. Your photos will be sent to you as and when they are ready, and can be downloaded directly from the Internet without the need to leave the house or import from CDs. Bulk orders will receive discounts with many online orders so it is often cheaper to convert your entire collection with one order, rather than gradually.

Use a Dedicated Negative Scanner

Photographic negatives.
negative image by Cindy Haggerty from

Purchase a USB negative scanner. Dedicated scanners provide a way to quickly scan negatives to your PC from home and are suitable for home users who have extensive back catalogues of images.

A standard USB cable.
usb 4 image by Bosko Martinovic from

Install the required manufacturers drivers and software for your operating system and connect the USB scanner.

An uncut roll of processed film.
film negative image by photooiasson from

Ensure your scanner is configured for 35mm film. Many dedicated scanners are designed to scan slides as well as negatives, and often a negative tray must be fitted before film can be scanned. Consult your manufacturers documentation for specifics regarding your model.

A scanned negative.
negative image by charles taylor from

Feed your negatives into the scanner and scan the negatives. Manufacturers provide software for managing devices.

Once the scan is complete, you are able to save images to your hard drive and continue scanning more negatives.

Use an All-in-One Printer and Scanner/Flat-bed Scanner

a convenient way, negatives
save photo image by MATTHIEU FABISIAK from

Choose between a combined printer and scanner or dedicated flat-bed scanner, particularly if you already own a printer. The resolution of your scanner will dictate image quality, and it is measured in dots per inch (DPI). The higher the DPI, the larger the image and detail captured.

A standard USB cable.
usb image by Jaume Felipe from

Install drivers and software provided with your device and connect the scanner to your computer.

Scan your negatives using the software installed in Step 2. Once scanned, images can be saved as digital media.