How to Scan a Negative on a Flatbed Scanner?

There are many old negatives that we would like to digitize for storage, sharing, and management.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to high-end scanners for developing negatives. If you do not have an expensive slide scanner, you can still scan old negatives with a flatbed scanner.

This article talks about how to use a flatbed scanner to scan negatives.

What are the Negatives?

Photographs were taken with analog cameras years before digital cameras were invented, and many of us still have those cameras today.

Negative film is used in these cameras to capture images. Transparent plastic is used to make the film. Where the subject is lightest, the negative of the film is black, and where it is darkest, it is clear.

In these, the light and dark areas of the image are restored to their original shades in order to create a photograph. One negative can be used to make several final prints.

negative film

What are the Specific Scanners for Scanning Negatives?

It is possible to scan negatives into digital photographs using a flatbed scanner, but the specific scanners used are slide scanners.

A slide scanner is a special type of scanner designed specifically to digitize old negatives, slides, or photographs.

flatbed scanner for negative

High-resolution scanners are usually able to scan images with more color depth and are equipped with various software tools to correct and enhance images for better results and greater color contrast.

It might not seem affordable for many of us to purchase a special scanner just to scan documents.

There are two reasons why you may not want to buy a slide scanner: First, they’re costly; second, you probably already have a flatbed scanner for document scanning, so buying another seemed a waste of money, especially if you only have a few negatives to scan.

Scanning Negatives with an Advanced Flatbed Scanner

There are several choices available like the Epson V500 or V600 series if you wish to purchase a new multi-tasking scanner.

Check out the Epson Perfection V370 if you are on a budget.

Although these scanners are flatbed scanners, they have been designed for your photographic needs as well.

purchase a new multi-tasking scanner

Negatives, old films, and slides can be scanned into sharp and clear images using these scanners because they have all the useful scanning options. On the other hand, you can also use these scanners to scan paper documents.

In other words, if you intend to buy a scanner but do not wish to buy a slide scanner specifically for some old negatives, these are good options.

Scanning Negatives with Regular Scanner

You can scan your negatives with a scanner you already have at home for scanning your basic scanning needs.

You cannot just throw them on the glass panel of your flatbed scanner. You need to take certain precautions to get the best results.

Here’s how we can do it:

Are Old Flatbed Scanners Good for Scanning Negatives?

No, that’s the simple answer.

However, if you can do that, then yes.

Let’s see how we can do it.

In most slide scanners or scanners that can scan negatives, the negatives are illuminated from behind by a light.

Normally, flatbed scanners lack a light source behind the negatives, so you’ll need a scanner that can provide this.

Transparency adapters are required for these scanners. Using a few tricks and tips, you can still scan your negatives using an old and inexpensive scanner without purchasing a special transparency adapter.

How to Scan Negatives Using a Flatbed Scanner:

Step 1:

To scan a negative, cut it from the strip. Clean the negative with a micro-fiber cloth to remove dust and fingerprints.

Step 2:

Align the negative squarely with the sides of the scanner and place it in the center of the scanning bed. Simply place the 8-1/2 x 11 paper over the negative without moving it.

Step 3:

In order to scan an image, you need to “project” the image from the negative. This is done by shining a lamp through the negative.

Switch on the lamp and place it 4 to 6 inches from the paper with the negative underneath, while keeping the lid open (or removing it altogether if possible).

Step 4:

After you have launched your scanning software, click “Scan” or “Preview.” When the software has completed the initial scan, crop the image so that only the image from the negative is visible.

Once the scan is complete, click “Scan” again; if necessary, crop again. Select JPEG or GIF as the file format.

Step 5:

It is necessary to convert a negative to a positive if you want to print the image as a photo. Open the image in the image editor. To turn the image into a positive, click “Positive Exposure” or “Invert Image” in one of the menus. Then, click “Save.”

Some Tips for Scanning Negatives

Below are some tips for scanning negatives with a flatbed scanner.

  1. If the negative has any creases, don’t try to straighten them. You may scratch the negative and lose some image detail.
  2. Scan the images and store them in a cloud service. You can organize family photos into folders with tags to view the photos of the same person, place, or event.
  3. Depending on what you plan to do with these photos, choose the resolution and format. TIFFs with a resolution of 600 dpi are perfect for enlargements. You can share 200 dpi JPEG files online if you only intend to share them online.


You can preserve your old negatives and photos permanently by digitizing them.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford these expensive scanners, you can use your regular flatbed scanner with excellent results, even if you don’t have a special scanner for this purpose.

You should consider getting a flatbed scanner that can scan negatives right out of the box if you do not yet own one.

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