by Angela Tague
Before digital cameras came along, color print negative film and slide film were the norm in photography. You may have several tidy little boxes or sheets of mounted 35 mm slides left over from your film cameras, which are now collecting dust in a basement or storage room. You don't need to dig up the slide projector to look at those old 35 mm slides anymore, though. Once the slides have been digitally converted with a scanner, they can be shared electronically or printed out. With slide and film scanners, anyone can scan their old 35 mm slides and share them with others. You'll need a 35 mm slide scanner connected to a computer with enough storage for a lot of digital images. Here are a few simple steps to help you start using your scanner to convert your slides.
Organize your 35 mm slides before scanning. Use a light-colored table or hold each 35 mm slide up to a bright window to get a quick look at its contents. Create a pile for each brand of slide film represented. This information will be printed on the film emulsion and possibly on the plastic or cardboard slide mount. Separate each of those piles by slide mount type (plastic, cardboard or un-mounted) and by orientation (vertical or horizontal). Organizing your slides into similar groupings will help later, when you start feeding them into the 35 mm slide scanner.
Clean your slides. Even when they have been stored in plastic sleeves or slide boxes, 35 mm slides can get dirty. Use a microfiber cloth soaked with liquid negative cleaner to clean both sides of the slides. The isopropyl-alcohol-based solution will remove dust and dry quickly. Use a dry microfiber cloth to gently rub off any large particles. Use a circular motion to reduce the chances of scratching.
Start feeding your slides into the 35 mm slide scanner. Computer scanning software makes this process easy. Once your 35 mm slide scanner and the scanner software are installed, read through the software menu to set the settings for what you're scanning.
Scan each of the piles of 35 mm slides you organized earlier. This way, you only need to adjust settings for each category of slides instead of every individual slide.
Some scanner programs will ask you to identify the type of film, orientation of the image, final output resolution and whether the slide is in color or not. Each scanner will label how the slide should be inserted. The emulsion side is dull. The opposite side is shiny. Plan to scan each slide one at a time.
If the slide scanner has a preview mode, use it to approve each 35 mm slide before you scan. Use the scanner editing menu to adjust density, color and size before performing the final scan. You can use the scanner's automatic settings, but you will have more control and accuracy if you adjust the scanner settings with each slide and preview the results.
Organize and store both digital and hard copies of your slides Don't throw your slides away after scanning them. It's always great to have the original copies in case your 35 mm slide scanner failed to properly record every slide or your slides got scanned backwards. It's also a good idea to store backup copies on rewriteable CDs or DVDs in case your hard drive holding the digital slide scans should fail.