Scanners Articles

How To Scan Negatives Using A Flatbed Scanner (Easy Guide)

How to Scan Negatives Using a Flatbed Scanner

We all have old negatives that we would love to digitize so that they are easy to store, share, and manage.

But not all of us have those high-end slide scanners for developing negatives. The good news is that flatbed scanners are comparable to slide scanners for scanning old negatives.

This article is designed to educate you all about how to scan negatives using a flatbed scanner.

film negatives

Years behind when the digital cameras were not invented, analog cameras were used to take photographs, and many of us still have those cameras.

These cameras use a negative film to capture images on them. The negative film is made of transparent plastic. The film’s negative is black where the subject was lightest and clear where the subject is darkest.

These are made for reversing the image into photographs by restoring the light and dark areas into their original tones. A single negative film can be used to generate many final prints.

Related: Best 8mm Film Scanners Reviewed

What scanners Can Be Used for scanning negatives?

Though a flatbed scanner can be used to scan negatives into digital photographs but the specific scanners used for this purpose are slide scanner.

The slide type scanners are special scanners that are used exclusively for scanning old negatives, slides, or photographs.

These are usually high-resolution scanners, with better color depth and equipped with different software for image correction and enhancement for giving excellent results with better color contrast.

Though buying a special scanner just for the sake of scanning documents may not seem a very affordable option for many of us.

First, slide scanners are expensive, second you may already have a flatbed scanner for your usual document scanning and buying another seems like a waste of money especially if you have a small volume of negatives to scan.

Scanning Negatives Using an Advanced Flatbed Scanner

Epson Perfection V370

Flatbed Scanners like Epson Perfection V370 are affordable and great for slides among other documents

If you intend to buy a new scanner that is multi-tasking then certainly there are options available like Epson V500 or V600 series.

If you are on a budget, you can even check out the Epson Perfection V370.

These scanners are flatbed scanners but are specifically designed to cater your photographic needs as well.

They are equipped with all the useful options for scanning your negatives, old films, or slides into sharp and crisp images. On the other hand, these scanners are useful for scanning your usual documents and papers as well.

So these are the good options if you intend to buy a scanner but do not want to purchase a slide scanner exclusively for some old negatives.

Scanning Negatives Using A Regular Scanner

Even if you already have a scanner at home for catering your basic scanning needs, you can make use of it for scanning your negatives as well.

However, just throwing them on the glass panel of your flatbed scanner won’t do. You need to be careful of certain things for better results.

Let’s see how it is possible:

Are old flatbed scanners good for scanning negatives?

The simple answer is no. But technically, the answer is yes. Let’s see how.

Most of the slide scanners or the scanner that allow negatives to be scanned use a light to illuminate the negatives from behind for capturing the image.

You need a light that comes from behind the negatives, and your usual flatbed scanner may not have that.

For these scanners, you need to purchase a separate transparency adapter. You may not want to buy a special transparency adapter for your old and inexpensive scanner but don’t worry you can still scan your negatives with few tricks and tips.

How to Scan Negatives Using a Flatbed Scanner

If you already own an older flatbed scanner, you can still scan negatives. Here is how to scan negatives using a flatbed scanner that you already own.

Part One – Scanning

Use a scissor to cut the film strips into individual frame images. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe off the dust on the surface of negatives.

  1. 1
    Place the negative on the center of the glass panel of your flatbed scanner.
  2. 2
    For scanning negatives, you don’t need to put down the lid so either keep it opened or remove it completely if it is removable.
  3. 3
    Position a lamp light over your negative (for providing the light from behind) and place the light over 4-6 inches above the glass panel.
  4. 4
    Launch your scanner’s start option for previewing or scanning and let it process.
  5. 5
    Use the crop option of the scanner so that only the framed negative area is visible.
  6. 6
    Save the image into your computer as GIF or JPEG file.

Part Two – Editing

That is not all there is to scanning negatives.

The next part is to edit the image and adjust its colors and tweak it a little bit from here and there for a perfect result.

You can do that with different software like Adobe Photoshop.

The scanners like Epson 500 or above use ICE technology in their scanners for fixing, restoring, or editing images.

You can make use of it or any other free software in your computer for adjusting the color contrasts, removing dust or other particles, or for editing images so that the scanned images are sharper and close to reality.

Some Useful tips for Scanning Negatives

Here are some general tips on how to scan negatives using a flatbed scanner.

  1. 1
    Don’t try to straighten the creases on the negative, if they have any. You may scratch them, and some image detail can be lost.
  2. 2
    Store the scanned images into any cloud service. Some allow you to save family photographs into folders with tags for easily viewing the pictures of same person, event, or place.
  3. 3
    Choose the resolution and format of photo according to what you plan to do with these photos. 600 dpi resolution and a TIFF format is ideal for creating enlargements. If all you want to do is to share online then simply 200 dpi JPEG files would do just fine.


Digitizing the photos and your old negatives is an excellent way to preserve them permanently.

You can make use of specialized scanners for this purpose depending on your need, profession, or purpose., But even if you can’t afford these expensive scanners, you can make use of your regular flatbed scanner, and with few considerations, the results are simply too good.

If you do not own a flatbed scanner yet, it is worth getting a flatbed scanner that has the ability to scan negatives out of the box.

Related: Flatbed Vs Sheetfed Scanners Compared