Dec 062011

There are slide scanners that you can buy that do a pretty good job.  But, how are you going to decide which of your old slides to scan?  You’ll probably need to project them and take a look before you can decide right?  Well, why not just snap a digital picture of the ones you want to keep as you project them?

The easy way to scan slides

Set up a Slide Show

You might even get out the popcorn and serve some wine to your family or friends while having one last slide show of your old slides. 

Jim being the projectionist
Jim being the projectionist

Here’s my camera on a tripod with a slide being projected.
Take a digital picture of a projected slide

This made it so easy and fun.  We watched several trays of slides and I just clicked the shutter every time there was a slide I wanted to keep.  I had to experiment with the settings a little, but not much.  Half of the time I even used my automatic point-and-shoot camera.  The biggest issue was being careful that the projected image was in focus before snapping the shutter.

Here is the resulting picture from the slide shown above:

Picture taken from a slide

With a couple clicks in Picasa after the fact, they come out pretty good. 

Here’s how an image looked just by snapping a photo of the projection screen.  Notice I didn’t even worry about capturing the vertical image.  I left the camera set up the same for every slide.
Slide before Picasa
Here’s the picture after a simple crop, straighten, and ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ in Picasa. 

Slide after Picasa

Would they have come out better if I used a slide scanner instead?  Maybe.  Certainly if I had them professionally scanned.  Meanwhile, if I had to wait till I decided which slides to scan, bought a scanner, and then went thru the scanning process – it might never get done.  This way, after a couple of evenings, I’m finished!  it was fun and free.  Now I have some precious pictures of my Mom’s travels from before digital cameras. This one is from her trek in Nepal in 1990.

Picture from slide - Mom in Nepal 1980

If you have slides – give it a shot!  What do you have to lose?

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

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  11 Responses to “The Easy Way to Scan Slides”

  1. Good job! I’ve seen a lot of DIY & advanced rigs to automate slide scanning, as I’m not just a long time Picasa user, but also founder of a slide scanning company. Your setup is a nice, simple, effective setup.

    For best quality, you’ll want to clean each slide, and line up the camera close enough to the projector that it won’t skew the picture. Also, you’ll want to take some “blank” picture in between each carousel to help organize the digital files later, esp. if you’re doing 1000’s.

    Even still, we find most people have thrown out the projectors long ago, & have slides packed outside carousels. So, we’re glad to help families get things converted by mail, & then they can organize their entire history in Picasa, just like I do 🙂

    • John, I took a look at … that looks like a great service, even scanning negatives in addition to prints and slides! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Terrific idea, I have thousands of slides I have wanted to organize and will now have to give this a try. Haven’t looked at them in many years, so this will be a perfect opportunity to, as you say, ” get out the popcorn.”

  3. Hi, I have a slide scanner but the images come out as negatives. is there a quick way to batch convert them to positives in Picasa please ? Thanks Dave (UK)

    • It would be best to find the setting on your scanner that is making them come out negative. You should be able to scan slides as positive. Picasa does not have an ‘invert’ feature but PhotoShop or it’s free alternative, Gimp, does.
      edit: Guess what?!? The very next day .. Dec 8, Picasa released version 3.9 and it *does* have an Invert colors feature.

  4. I have many slides the problem is finding a carosel to project the image
    Couldn’t you just tape the slide on lens and aim up to the sun and shoot?

  5. …is there a simple way to scan old B&W negatives without buying an expensive converter?

    • There is no simple way to scan B&W negatives, but the cheapest option is to get hold of a flatbed scanner that also has negative scanning capability. Canon and Epson make these. But it is quite time consuming with a fair bit of trial and error to get the settings right.

  6. Great idea….but sadly, our slide projector and screen went in the auction of all our household goods- and we still have trays and trays of slides. We do have an old scanner/printer/copier/fax machine that no longer prints, but the scanner works fine, so Tom has it set up in our shed at Palm Creek with an old laptop and goes out and scans slides whenever the mood strikes. Someday, they will all be copied :-))

    • Hey Mary,
      Whatever works! But – I’ll bet someone there has a projector you could borrow. Post a note on facebook, or up on a bulletin board at Palm Creek? Or maybe rent one from an A/V or party rental place. Or pick one up cheap at a Good Will.

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