Are you hesitant to hand over the testament of your entire life to a complete stranger? Or do you have extremely old negatives from the 1950s or even earlier, not of the standard size of 35mm? Afraid it will dent your pocket if you give them to a fancy, specialized, negative-film-to-digital-image conversion service?
Worry not! If you would rather convert your negatives to a digital format by yourself at home, you can do so easily without even having to invest in a scanner, but
only if you are willing to spare more than just a weekend. Here is a guide to the most cost-effective way to convert your negatives.What You Need
- The film of negatives that you wish to convert
- A good digital camera which supports photography in macro mode
- An attachable focus lens (optional)
- A tripod stand
- A mechanism to provide backlight (for e.g., a light box)
- Cardboard paper
- Black paint
- A good pair of scissors
- A picture editing software (for e.g., Photoshop)
- A LOT of time and patience.
The first step is to a make a black cardboard frame. This helps to cut out the camera flare, and saves you the effort of adjusting exposure in the final image using photo editing software later.
• Cut out two neat 'L'-shaped cards of any suitable dimension from the cardboard. ☛
• Paint them completely in black, and allow the paint to dry.
These cards can now be used to frame each negative image while you photograph them. Since the frame does not have fixed dimensions, it can be used with negatives of any size.☛
If you do not have a light box (the kind used for slides), then, you can also use the window of your study as a backdrop preferably on a bright day with the sky, blue as ever. However, having to mount negatives on a vertical surface will prove to be tricky than a horizontal one, as with the light box.☛
Adjust the tripod in such a way that you will be able to take a clear shot of the negative. This part will be easier if you are mounting the negatives on a vertical surface. If you are using a light box, and your tripod does not allow you to get the right angle for the shot, you could prop up the light box to a slight angle and adjust the tripod such that you can line up the camera to that angle.☛
Place a negative film on the mechanism for backlight, and ensure that it is held in position. At this point, a flat surface would prove to be conducive as compared to the window, which will require you to fasten the ends of the negative film somehow so that its position is secure. ☛
Place the black frame around the first image in the negative film. Again, make sure its position is secure.☛
Place your camera on the tripod, and adjust the tripod's location and angle so that you get a comfortable shot.☛
Use your camera's macro setting while clicking the picture. You can use an extendable lens for extra focus, if you own one. Make sure that the image of your negative is absolutely clear in your camera's viewfinder.☛
Use the timer while clicking the photo to completely eliminate vibration/jerks/instability.☛
Once you figure out the position of the camera, its settings, and the exact spot at which your negatives must be placed, it is easy to click a proper picture of each image in it. Then, all you have to do is change the image that has been framed for photography.☛
Once you have clicked pictures of every image on every negative film (or when your digital camera runs out of memory), you can transfer those pictures to your laptop.☛
Open Photoshop or whichever photo editing software you prefer. You can download GIMP
― a free, open source photo editing software which is a handy tool.☛
Open each image and invert its color. In some cases, you may need to adjust exposure or give the photographs an additional touchup.
It may seem like a painstakingly slow process. However, as you proceed, you will be able to pick up speed, as all you have to do is change the position of the film. The advantage of carrying out the conversion of photos by yourself is that you are in complete control. You can even sort your images into appropriate folders, something that a third person scanning your images will not be able to do.