Scanning 35mm photo slides and negatives: tips, hints, and ideas from HP


Choose a photo scanner that handles slides and negatives


If you're just getting started scanning photo negatives and slides, the first thing to know is that you need a photo scanner with built-in negative and slide scanning ability -- you can't just lay a slide or negative down on the glass and scan! A scanner designed to handle documents usually won't offer this feature.   



HP offers photo scanners that are perfect for scanning slides and negatives, as well as editing and improving your photos as you scan.


HP photo scanners are standalone scanners designed with photographs in mind. An HP Scanjet photo scanner gives you maximum speed and image quality, and you can choose a model that lets you scan several slides and negatives at a time. See the scanner comparison chart to see the slide and negative features of HP photo scanners.


Some HP Photosmart All-In-One printers come with slide and negative scanning capability. For example, the HP Photosmart 7180 All-in-One printer scans slides and negatives with the built-in adapter. A Photosmart All-in-One scans and prints high-quality photo prints as well as making copies and handling ordinary print jobs on office paper.


This Photo scanner buying guide will help you assess the various features and choose the best photo scanner for your needs.


Use the right file resolution when scanning slides or negatives    


Image resolution is measured in dpi (dots per inch); the higher the dpi, the larger the file. Always keep in mind the tradeoff between file size and quality.


Because a slide or negative image is so small, you'll want to maintain maximum resolution so that the image can be enlarged as needed later. Make sure you're scanning at a high resolution (2400 dpi is recommended) when scanning either photo slides or negatives that you wish to enlarge later.


If you're considering enlarging your scanned image from its original size, then a general rule of thumb is to double the dpi with every doubling in size.


Example: To produce a crisp 4" x 6" print from a 4" x 6" scan, set your dpi to 300 dpi (recommended). To produce an 8.5" x 11" print from a 4" x 6" scan, set your dpi to twice that, or 600 dpi, and so on.


The ideal file format and output type    


When scanning slides or negatives choose the settings that achieve the highest quality:


File format: Of all the available file formats (TIFF, JPEG, BMP, and GIF), TIFFs are ideal for archiving and editing photos and images where quality counts. Unlike JPEGs, TIFFs can be edited and resaved without compression loss, meaning quality stays high. The downside is the size: TIFF files are extremely large and take up a lot of storage space.


Output type: The HP Scanning software defaults to the output type that is best suited to what you are scanning (in most cases, that will be Millions of colors). This output type is perfect for color photos with a lot of shading. Grayscale is recommended for black and white images, and it results in smaller file sizes. You might want to skip grayscale and select millions of colors, however, even when working with black and white film and negatives. This preserves the best image quality for future work and output. You can always revert to black and white or sepia later on using HP Photosmart Essential or other photo editing software.


A word about storage space    


If you're going to be doing a lot of scanning and plan to save images as high-res TIFFs with millions of possible colors, take a moment and do a little math. Say you scan one slide and select 300 dpi for the resolution (not recommended), then change the output size to 8"x10". You'll you wind up with a 17 MB file that takes about two minutes to scan. You may not get the level of detail you want, though -- it depends what you want to use the enlarged image for. At the same file size, you could also create a 4" x 6" TIFF with a resolution of 2400 dpi.


The point is -- file sizes can add up quickly once you start scanning, editing, and archiving slides and negatives. If you have a lot of scanning to do, note the size of a typical scan and multiply that by the number of items you plan to scan -- this will keep you from running out of storage space in the middle of a project!


You can offload files to CDs, DVDs, an external hard drive or an HP Personal media drive.


Editing scanned slides and negatives     


HP All-in-Ones and photo scanners offer you the ability to edit your photos in the scanner software in preview mode. Depending on your scanner's features, you might be able to restore color, remove dust and scratches, or sharpen your photo. Your image preview will change to reflect your adjustments, so you can decide if you like them or not.


Depending on the condition of your original slide or negative, and what you want to use it for, you can use the settings on your scanner or All-in-One, your scanning software, or HP Photosmart Essential to make further changes to your photo or restore old photos. For example:


Crop to remove flawed areas and improve composition


Remove red-eye


Use Auto Correct to restore faded color or perform dust and scratch removal


Resize your photo to standard or custom sizes


Adjust brightness and contrast


Apply Adaptive lighting to bring out highlights in dark areas


Print, protect, and share your photos    


Once you've collected some good scans of your favorite photo negatives and slides, it's time to start thinking about how to share them.



Print your newly scanned photos using HP Premium Plus photo paper for photos that will last for generations.1


Use your edited photo as the basis for free, one-of-a-kind photo projects at the HP Activity Center: cards, calendars, album pages, frames, iron-ons, labels, stationery, photo recipe cards, and much more!


Upload your photo to Snapfish for free storing and sharing, then shop the Snapfish store for creative ways to transform your photo into wonderful photo gifts and keepsakes. Showcase your memorabilia by creating a Snapfish photo book. It's easy and fun to create beautiful keepsake books, as well as share individual pictures or entire albums with friends and family.


1 Based on Wilhelm Imagine Research, Inc., light fade testing under glass (as of January 2005) on HP Premium Plus Photo Paper. For more information on additional permanence testing factors, visit


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