How to Scan and Convert your Negatives at Home (using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop)

Are you tired of your old film negatives sitting in a drawer, collecting dust? Do you want to preserve those precious memories and bring them into the digital age? Look no further! In this blog, we will guide you through the process of scanning and converting your negatives at home using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. With the advancements in technology, it has become easier than ever to transform your old negatives into high-quality digital images. Whether you are a photography enthusiast or simply wanting to preserve your family’s history, this step-by-step guide will help you breathe new life into those forgotten photographs.

How to Scan and Convert your Negatives at Home (using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop)


In part one of this series, I introduced you to the film cameras I’m using, the film stock I’ve chosen, and the lighting setups and backgrounds I use to get different looks. In part two, I showed you how I developed those negatives at home using a Paterson tank and various chemicals. Now, in today’s video, I will show you how I scan those negatives and turn them into high-res digital files using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Tools for Scanning Negatives

There are various tools you can use to capture negatives and turn them into digital files. I choose to use my camera, but you can also use a flatbed scanner or negative scanners themselves. The good ones can be quite expensive, so if you already have a camera, it can be a cost-effective option. I personally found that using my flatbed scanner at home didn’t provide good enough resolution for small negatives, so I switched to using my Sony a7 III, a 24-megapixel full-frame camera.

To capture the negatives, I use a second-hand Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, which allows me to fill the frame with each negative and capture it at the full 24 megapixels. I use the Sigma MC 11 Adapter to mount the Canon-fit lens on my Sony camera. It’s important to set the lens to manual focus to dial in the focus manually for better results.

Setting up the Scanning Process

To start scanning your negatives, you’ll need a light table where you can place the negatives. I use an affordable light pad from a Chinese company that I purchased on Amazon. It’s USB-powered and has a smooth surface that doesn’t show pixels or result in light flaring. I also use a piece of glass from a picture frame to block out some of the light around the negative and improve contrast.

A blower is essential to remove dust from the negatives and the glass surface. You want to ensure that there is no dust on the negative as it will need to be removed during post-processing. Additionally, a sturdy tripod is recommended, preferably one that allows you to shoot vertically and horizontally, providing flexibility and stability during scanning.

Before starting the scanning process, it’s crucial to clean the surfaces properly to ensure the highest quality results. I use window cleaner on the light pad and glass surface, wiping them down with a newspaper to remove any residue. Ensuring a clean surface from the beginning will save time during the editing process.

Scanning the Negatives

Once all the tools and surfaces are prepared, you can attach the camera to the tripod and connect the light pad. Adjust the camera’s position so that the negative fills the frame on the LCD screen. You will need to fine-tune the focus when the negative is in place.

Make sure that your camera sensor is parallel to the surface you’re shooting on to avoid focus issues. Use a spirit level if necessary to ensure a perfect alignment. Set your camera to an aperture of f/8, an ISO of around 800, and adjust the shutter speed to correctly expose the negative. Remember that the light pad may not provide very bright lighting, so you may need to compensate with a slower shutter speed.

When handling the negatives, be sure to hold them by the edges to avoid touching the emulsion. Gently slide the negative into place underneath the glass surface. Then, take a photo of the negative using your camera and move on to the next one.

Importing and Editing in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop

After capturing all the negatives, it’s time to import them into Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop for further editing. Connect your camera or memory card to your computer and use the software to import the images.

Once imported, you can use various tools and adjustments to optimize the images. This includes adjusting exposure, contrast, color balance, and removing dust or scratches using the healing brush or clone stamp. Experiment with different settings to achieve the desired look for your scanned negatives.


Scanning and converting your negatives at home can be a rewarding process that allows you to preserve and digitize your film photographs. By using the right tools, setting up proper lighting, and utilizing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, you can achieve high-quality scans and finalize them to your liking. Remember to handle the negatives with care, clean your surfaces, and experiment with different editing techniques for the best results.

FAQ – How to Scan and Convert your Negatives at Home (using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop)

Frequently Asked Questions – How to Scan and Convert your Negatives at Home

1. What do I need to scan negatives at home?

To scan negatives at home, you will need a film scanner, a computer, and software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

2. How do I select the right film scanner?

When choosing a film scanner, consider factors like scanning resolution, compatibility with your computer, and the type of negatives it can handle (e.g., 35mm, medium format). Research different models and read reviews to make an informed decision.

3. How do I prepare my negatives for scanning?

Ensure your negatives are clean and dust-free. Use antistatic brushes or compressed air to remove any debris. Handling negatives with clean, lint-free gloves can also help avoid smudges or fingerprints on the film surface.

4. What scanning settings should I use?

Start with the scanner’s recommended settings for your type of negatives. Adjustments may include selecting the right film type, setting the appropriate resolution (usually 300-2400 dpi), and choosing color correction options if needed.

5. How do I scan the negatives using Adobe Lightroom?

In Adobe Lightroom, go to the “Import” module and select your film scanner as the import source. Choose the desired scanning settings, including file format (e.g., TIFF, JPEG). Follow the software’s step-by-step instructions to complete the scanning process.

6. Can I use Adobe Photoshop to scan negatives?

No, Adobe Photoshop does not have a built-in feature for directly scanning negatives. It is primarily used for post-processing and editing images. You will need a dedicated film scanner and software like Lightroom for the scanning process.

7. How should I store my scanned negatives?

After scanning, store your negatives in archival-quality sleeves or negative sheets to protect them from dust, scratches, and light damage. Keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

8. What post-processing steps should I follow in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop?

After scanning, you can import your scanned negatives into Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop for further editing. Adjustments may include color correction, exposure, contrast, sharpening, and removing any imperfections. Experiment with different editing techniques to achieve your desired results.

9. Can I use other software for scanning and conversion?

Yes, there are various software options available for scanning and converting negatives, such as VueScan, SilverFast, or Epson Scan. Each software may have its unique features and compatibility with different scanners. Research and choose the one that suits your needs best.

10. What should I do if I’m facing difficulties or getting unsatisfactory results?

If you encounter any issues or are not satisfied with the results, consult online resources, forums, or tutorials specific to your software and scanner model. They can provide troubleshooting tips, advanced techniques, or recommendations for improving your scanning and conversion process.

I hope you find useful my article How to Scan and Convert your Negatives at Home (using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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