How to Convert Negatives into Digital Photos

As the world of photography goes digital, many people are faced with trying to save hundreds or thousands of 35 mm negatives from the days of film cameras. One way to preserve precious memories is to digitize the negatives and store the images on a computer or recordable CD. Instantly, old photos gain new life, and can be emailed to family and friends or assembled into a digital slide show for screening on a computer or home theater.

Attach the negative adapter to your scanner or use a dedicated film scanner, which will produce the best results but can be expensive. Dedicated film scanners are available at photography shops and electronic stores, starting at around $100.

Clean the negative, if necessary, with a lint-free cloth and insert into the scanner's negative adapter.

Decide how you are going to use the converted images. This will help you determine the best scanning resolution. Use 600 dpi (dots per inch) for photos you plan to email. Set the resolution on your scanner to at least 1,200 dpi to print a 4-inch-by-6-inch photo and at least 2,000 dpi for prints 8 inches by 10 inches and larger. Be aware that the higher the dpi, the more storage space will be needed on your computer's hard drive, so consider burning the images to a CD after converting the negatives to digital.

Follow the scanner's software instructions to scan and digitize your negatives. Save all the converted images in a file and store them under you're My Photos folder.

Adjust the contrast, color, size and other image qualities using Adobe Photoshop or other editing software. It is best to adjust picture quality after the scan, not during the scan.

Store your negatives in protective plastic sleeves and keep them in three-ring binders or plastic boxes with tight-fitting lids.

Things You'll Need

  • Photo negatives
  • Personal computer or Mac installed with photo-editing software
  • Digital scanner or dedicated film scanner
  • Lint-free cloth


  • Use only a lint-free cloth, slightly moistened if necessary, to clean your negatives. Don't use household cleaners, rubbing alcohol or any other chemical on photo negatives.