How to Scan Negative Film

Photography is a versatile field which calls for more than just general knowledge one might have acquired in school. Your experience may come in hand, especially dealing with both past and current technologies.

In your line of duty, you have probably accumulated lots of negatives, and have kept them in the darkest corner of your office since you don’t know what to do with them. Bring your negative films back to life by scanning them.

Whether you have years of experience in shooting film or you are just a newbie, it is important to equip yourself with the knowledge of how to scan negative film. The good news is that this information doesn’t require complex knowledge or sophisticated machines.

All you need is a flatbed scanner and you will get the best scan beyond your imagination. With this guideline you will be able to scan negative film with much ease and the products will be beyond your imagination.


Before embarking on the process of scanning your film, there are some precautions that you need to consider. First, ensure that the glass flatbed scanner is crystal clear devoid of any dust particles. Use a blower to clean as a manual procedure may fail to get rid of some dust. While loading the film, be careful not to touch the image.

Another thing that you should look into is the settings of the scanner driver. Ensure that the settings on the driver give you full access to all the important options available. Also, check the film holder, and from this, you will know how to position the film properly.

Start with the scanner

Once you have selected your preferred scanner and it is running, the first step that you should take is to choose a medium. On the Document Type option, select Film and then Choose negative scanning option as this will initiate the process of negative scanning.

Press the preview button from which you will be able to see the image that you want to scan. Draw a box or an outline around the exact image, and you will have an option of zooming in so as to have a better view of it.

When dealing with color images, try to set very high bit depth as this will guarantee you a better and high-quality image. Doing this will also make your picture more accurate.

Refine your selection

The second step involves refining the selected area. It involves bringing the area into laser-focus so as to get the best out of it. Parts that are outside the highlighted zone are ignored. The histogram needs to be accurate since it is based on the selected area. Refining your selection will give you an accurate and brighter image. It will make the colors to be sharper than before.

Rectify the errors

This step involves correcting or rectifying your histogram. There will probably various aspects of the image that have not impressed you so you have to correct them and at the same time you don’t want to leave out crucial data about the image.  To correct the histogram, click on the histogram button and for each channel and drag the triangles outwards so that they are at the edge of the data.

Uncheck all the adjustment checkboxes and after that, choose your resolution. Focus on the output resolution, then scan the biggest file on your computer as this will create a master scan. The scanner allows for a maximum of 9600 dpi, and your negative film will take this value at its actual value. Resizing this file for print will give you a much better value.

Open the file in a photo editor

Open the scanned file in a photo editing software such as Photoshop. Clear the dust and spots that may have accumulated on the film using dust removal software that is in your photo editor. Create a new layer then rename it, Dust. Remove all the color casts from the file using Curves Adjustment Layer. Note that all the corrections should happen on the master file.

Resizing and sharpening

The final step involves resizing your image depending on your needs. Save the file with any name then resize it. Sharpen it so that it looks 100% perfect. This process involves merging your background layer with the dust layer.

After that go to Filter option and choose Sharpen action. Under this option, choose Smart Sharpen. While sharpening a negative film, ignore the grain and then remember to set the radius higher than the amount.

Check the top 5 photo scanners to help you with your purchase.

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