How to scan film negatives and slides faster – without a scanner

This is a guest post by our photographer Simon Meisinger aka smeisinger. Simon is a freelance graphic designer, web developer and photographer based in Graz. In this blog post he tells us how you can scan your film negatives and slides faster using your DSLR camera.

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Photo ID 145556 by smeisinger – to the photo

Scanning photos is annoying. It takes a lot of time and scanners always do what they want. Eventually I was so annoyed, that I thought to myself: Why not photograph the film negatives with a DSLR camera? I found a couple of blog posts online by people who had the same idea and who built their own tools.

My solution

After checking out a few how-tos, I came up with my own solution: a drain pipe with a slide frame attached at the front and a mounting thread that fits the lens of the camera at the back. The lightening comes from the internal camera flash, reflected by a white wall.

The quality is as good as a regular scan but the main advantage is: it is super fast. And if film negatives are scanned incorrectly, it’s your own fault and you can’t blame it on the stupid scanner.

You can built the whole setup in less than an hour. Which may sound a bit long, but that’s also roughly the time you need to scan a whole film with a fast scanner. So you make up the time real quick once you’ve got your tool ready.

As a side note for the lazy and the less manually talented among us: You can also buy such a tool, it’s called “slide duplicator”.

Material

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Not in the photo: pincers, cutter knife, file

drain pipe (approx. EUR 1,–)

In this case, I used a pipe with a diameter of 50mm. A 52 mm lens filter thread fits perfectly onto the back end.

UV filter (approx. EUR 10,–)

Just use the cheapest one you can get. We’ll remove the glass anyway.

Superglue (approx. EUR 10,–)

You probably have superglue at home anyhow. If not, just get some. It’s like duct tape. It’s always good to have some at your disposal.

Slide frames

If you have framed slides, maybe you could spare one of the less good ones and release it from the frame. Otherwise ask at a photo store if they have frames in reasonable amounts. I bought a package of 100. (Just drop me an e-mail and I’ll send you some.)

Slide frames are pretty fragile and they could break when we treat them with a file later. So better get a couple, just in case.

Tools

If you don’t have all the tools, don’t worry. I once used a bread knife instead of a saw, concrete floor instead of sand paper and a triangle ruler instead of a folding rule. You’ll have to go to the hardware store anyway to get a drain pipe, so why not get some tools too. ;-)

Measuring, sawing, filing

Mindestfokusdistanz = mininum focal length. Attention: Measure the minimum focal length starting from the symbol on your camera that looks like a crossed out 0 (not from the end of your lens).

First of all you have to know how close your lens can focus. If it doesn’t say, just google it. We measure approximately this distance and cut off the drain pipe. Don’t crop right at the mark, leave a little margin, we’ll need that later.

Our cropped drain pipe

If you’re not a super pro in sawing, your cut won’t be straight (like mine). We can now use the margin we left and file it down.

One time, I didn’t have a file, so I abraded the cut surface on a concrete floor. Almost like MacGyver. ;)

The water level app on my iPhone says: even enough

The UV filter

Now we glue the UV filter to the pipe. But first, we have to get rid of the glass so that no dirt can accumulate in the pipe (which would be super hard to remove). We do this with a hammer:

I had to straighten the ring after I accidentally hit it with the hammer. Wouldn’t recommend it. ;)

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Attach the (hopefully intact) ring to the back end of the pipe, put something heavy on top and let it dry for a few minutes.

The slide frame

slide frame

This is how the frame looks like when we’re done

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First, we open the frame at the left and right side so that we can pull the film through later. I used pincers and pinched the frame on both sides.

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The inner area of a slide frame is smaller than a 35mm slide or film negative. If we really want to get the whole picture, we have to file it larger.

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The remaining small edges on the frame can be removed with a cutter knife.

When we are done with the frame, we glue it to the front of our pipe and that’s it!

We’re done! (with the building part)

Done! This is how our self made slide duplicator looks like]

Done! This is how our self made slide duplicator looks like

Let the slide frame dry a little longer and then you’re ready to do your first tests. If the film doesn’t go through nicely yet, just file the frame a little more or use the cutter knife to get rid of the remaining edges.

“Scanning”

After I removed dust and stains on the negatives as good as possible, I thread it into the frame and take a photo picture by picture.

The lightening comes from the internal flash of my camera, which is evenly reflected by a white wall. ISO is set to the lowest value possible and the aperture settings lie between f/5.6 und f/11, as most lenses produce the best results in this range.

If you photograph color negatives, you should definitely set your camera to RAW format, because you have to do a white balance later.

What happens in time lapse here, didn’t take more than 5 minutes in real time. 5 minutes for a whole film. It’s so fast, you make up for the time you invested in building the tool in no time. :-)

Digital editing

The “Scan”, directly from the camera

The “scan”, directly from the camera

We still need a few minutes. This is how the unedited output from the camera looks like. If it was a slide, we would already have a normal photo in front of us now. But in this example, I used a color negative.

Next, we do a white balance to the area around the photo (because this matches saturated black) and then invert the colors to get a positive (I do all that using Adobe Lightroom).

Already looks like a photo

Already looks like a photo

After we cropped all the stuff around the photo, we adjust contrast and exposure and adapt the colors when necessary.

Click on the photo to see it in full resolution

Click on the photo to see it in full resolution

And we have a real photo. :-)

Conclusion

It might sound a bit complicated at the beginning, but if you get the hang of it, you save so much time and hassle. I haven’t said “I can’t come tonight, I have to scan photos” ever since.

If you still feel unsure about the digital part, just download the RAW file of the photo above and try to do a white balance and invert the colors.

FAQ

But I don’t have a DSLR camera.

Get one! You can buy a DSLR for about EUR 350,–. A decent scanner costs you at least EUR 200,–. Plus, you can do a lot more with a DSLR than just scanning.

I don’t have a macro lens.

Don’t worry. I started with a Canon 35/2.0 and an old EOS 5D (12 megapixel). A kit lens is enough. But: the macro, the better.

Invert colors? White balance?

With my scanning method, you need to have basic knowledge in photo editing. But don’t worry, it’s not that complicated. Just watch (or read) a couple of tutorials on how to invert colors and white balance.

I can’t get my scans sharp enough.

You definitely have to work with the autofocus of your camera. We are dealing with fractions of millimeters here, neither your eyes, nor your fingers are that precise.

However, I’ve made the experience with my old system camera that the autofocus was not precise enough. My solution to that was to crop the pipe to exactly the minimum focal distance and always focus as clos as possible.

You should also choose a middle aperture value, that’s where most lenses are the sharpest (between f/5.6 and f/11).

My photos are either too bright or too dark

Check every photo at the beginning for deep black or brilliant white, that should work in most cases. If not, adjust exposure compensation of your camera.

But the scans from my scanner looks good instantly!

True. Because your scanner decides how a photo should look like and doesn’t show you how the negative really looks like. With this method you get what’s really in the negative. If it’s too dark or too bright, you can adjust that yourself. At the same time, details in shadows and light remain.

This means, that you almost always have to do some editing, but also that you retain full control.

Stock photography inspiration: Springtime

Spring is nearly here

Berlin in winter, oh, it’s a tough job. On long, grey and cold winter days we wish for the sun, for just a little sunshine. Sometimes we are lucky and dreaming of springtime isn’t that unrealistic. It’s such a pleasure to imagine the first ice cream, the smell of freshly mowed grass, walking barefoot,… we are really looking forward to it!

But before that we would like to share our spring feelings with 4 inspiring stock photo collections with refreshing spring photos. Enjoy!

Photocase Lightbox #1: spring awakening

Finally, one day in the end of February or March we start to smell spring in the air. This day is like a gift – long cold winter days are over and we are heading towards a sunny, green season. Who wants to join us?

To the lightbox “spring awakening”

Photocase Lightbox #2: spring flowers

When the crocuses come through the blanket of snow or the first snowflakes find their way through the fresh green grass! Having managed the grey winter days (here in Berlin, we know what we are talking about when it comes to grey winter days) the beautiful blaze of colours is reward enough.

To the lightbox “spring flowers”

Photocase Lightbox #3: spring fever

Did you already notice it? When the temperatures climb, the sun shines bright and the nature dazzles us with a fresh green, our hormones start having a party. Life is so amazingly beautiful, isn’t it?

To the lightbox “spring fever”

Photocase Lightbox #4: gardening time

Pulling up weeds, sowing seedlings or turning over the soil for the vegetable patches – those who love gardening are getting tingly in the fingers. So grab your spade and enjoy …

To the lightbox “gardening time”

Design Sneak Peek part 2 – the new main page

In October, we gave you a look behind the Photocase curtain in our Design Sneak Peek part 1 and revealed a design draft for our new photo browser and lightbox system (read all about it here). Today, we want to give you a glance at our new start page! We developed not only a new design but also a totally new concept, which is all about inspiration.

As numbers from our data analyses showed, many of our visitors searching for photos explore Photocase using the photo browser, the explore page and photographer’s profiles, but without actually using the search option. At the same time, our stock photography inspiration blog posts, articles and photographer’s portraits are very popular. So we decided to bring all this inspirational content together, right on the Photocase main page.

Alongside our themed photo collections and photographer’s portraits, we plan to offer editorials on design tips and visual trends. This way, we want to make it easier for our visitors to find the right photos on recurring topics like Easter, Christmas or summer, plus provide new photographic ideas as well as photo material on current topics.

Go to http://new-photocase-homepage.webflow.com/ to see the current state of our work. The preview site is still in German (sorry about that), but we thought it would be nice to share it with you anyways to give you an impression of where we are heading. Please note: What you can see there is not a finished website, but a model for testing layout and features. Click on the teaser “Valentinstag”, to see a layout of an article with 4 photo collections. Check out a single photo collection by clicking on the teaser “Toleranz” or click the teaser “katdoubleve” for an example of a photographer’s portrait.

So what do you think? We’re looking forward to reading your opinions in the comments. Thanks! :)

Photocase look back at 2014 and outlook into 2015

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A photo by Pazzzaa (To the photo)

Green smoothies, Pharell hats and selfie sticks – all sooo 2014. ;) Is it already too late for a look back on 2014? Nah, right? Here’s a little review of Photocase’s last year.

Top seller 2014 (published in 2014)

Which photos were sold the most in 2014? Here’s our top 12 (of all photos that were published 2014):

Photographers from left to right: denhans, suze, Susann Städter, sör alex, Judywie, flo-flash, zach, pip, suze, van dalay, sajola, Mr. Nico

Top search terms 2014

What were the keywords users searched for the most in 2014?

Christmas – An all time search term classic
Family – Family matters, obviously
Party – Party time, excellent!
Business – Not in the top 3 but an extreme relevant search term
Soccer – Gooooaaaal! 2014 was the year of the soccer world cup in Brazil

Who published the most photos in 2014?

The number of great photos on Photocase is growing every day. Who of our photographers was the most diligent?

C/L (803 photos)
Allegra47 (630 photos)
inkje (601 photos)
jala (507 photos)
time. (477 photos)

Who of our new photographers published the most photos?

We are very happy about all the new photographers, who joined Photocase in 2014. These 5 made the steepest starts in terms of photo releases.

VICUSCHKA (350)
marieanne (136)
beornbjorn (126)
Augenblick… (93)
urfurf (85)

The best is yet to come – A lookout into 2015

What’s coming up in 2015? We are currently in the final phase of a rework of our website. The main focus is to offer our users more inspiration in form of themed photo collections, photographer portraits and editorials. We started last year with a series of inspirational blogpost including curated lightboxes on our blog, that we published on a regular basis. This year, we will bring together photo collections, portraits and articles on the Photocase main page for a full inspirational fix. In a fresher and more modern look.

We’d also like to announce some changes to the team. Anne will be moving to California for new adventures and leaves the team. For all support-related questions, Sara is the old and the new go-to-person. If you want to work with us in 2015 in our Berlin office, check out our current job posting (in German) for a position in customer relations.

We know we’re a little late on the happy new year’s party, but we’d like to wish you a very happy and inspiring 2015!

Love is in the air!
Stock photography inspiration: Valentine’s

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Love. It’s all around us and often quite complicated. Love is such a beautiful mess, like someone once so perfectly put it. With Valentine’s Day being just around the corner, we put together 4 lightboxes with a lot of love for you.

Photocase Lightbox #1: All you need is love

It’s like the Beatles said: “All you need is love.” Love is good for everyone! Put on the rose-colored glasses and love the world around you a little more. Here’s a lovely lightbox to start.

To the lightbox “All you need is love”

Photocase Lightbox #2: It takes two to kiss

What else can we say? More kissing and cuddling in this lightbox. Smoochies!

To the lightbox “It takes two to kiss”

Photocase Lightbox #3: Old love doesn’t rust

… and they lived happily ever after. Is there really a recipe for love lasting for ever ever and ever ever? And would anyone even want that? Sometimes it does seem to work, like theses lovely couples show.

To the lightbox “Old love doesn’t rust”

Photocase Lightbox #4: Lovesickness/Anti-Valentine’s

Love can hurt. Real bad. When nothing makes sense any more, the world is grey and the heart is broken, Valentine’s is pretty much the last thing you want to think about. Here’s our Anti-Valentine’s lightbox. Tissue?

To the lightbox “Lovesickness/Anti-Valentine’s”