Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning
Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

Film Slide Scanning at Home

In embarking on the journey of scanning my cherished film slides[1] from the 1980s and 1990s, I found myself immersed in a home scanning project that transcended mere digitisation or slides to digital. My task was not just about converting some old images; it was a poignant exploration of nostalgia and a commitment to preserving the essence of bygone eras. My project was born out of a profound appreciation for the tangible memories that I’d captured on a variety of Kodachrome and Fuji film slides—pieces of my personal history frozen in time.

And of course, finding a digital slide scanning service or scanner to scan pictures at a reasonable cost was not going to work for me! So why not utilise the equipment I had at my disposal?

Nostalgia serves as the guiding force, propelling me to unlock those old stories behind each slide and share them with the digital age. These slides, once vibrant relics of family gatherings, vacations, and everyday moments, now faced the risk of fading away. The intrinsic value of these memories fuelled my desire to breathe new life into them through digital preservation[2]. As technology advances, it becomes our responsibility to bridge the gap between the analog past and the digital future, ensuring that the richness of our personal stories endure for generations to come.

NOTE: I’ve only included the Egypt photos from 1994 in this blog as many of the others contain friends & family members.

Analogue to Digital Preparation

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

In the preliminary stages of my film slide scanning project, meticulous preparation became the cornerstone of achieving optimal results. Gathering the old film slides marked the commencement of this nostalgic task. Delving into forgotten boxes and albums, I unearthed a treasure trove of moments captured on Kodachrome and Fuji slides during my vibrant 1980s and 1990s.

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

Cleaning the slides became an essential prelude to the scanning process, a delicate dance to remove dust and debris that had settled over the years. Armed with soft brushes and lint-free cloths, each slide underwent a gentle restoration, ensuring that the images would emerge in their full splendor.

The creation of a dedicated workspace emerged as a crucial aspect of this undertaking. Setting the stage for scanning required a careful orchestration of tools and equipment. A well-lit, controlled environment was curated to minimise external interferences, ensuring the clarity and fidelity of the digitised images. With slides neatly organised and a workspace optimised for precision, the stage was set for the transformative journey from analog to digital, where the past would meet the future through the lens of a camera and the glow of a light source.

Slide Scanning Equipment

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

In my pursuit of transforming my vintage film slides into digital treasures, the choice of equipment played a pivotal role in capturing the essence of each moment frozen in time. The backbone of this project was my trusty Canon 5DSR camera, a formidable tool known for its high-resolution capabilities. This camera served as the gateway to preserving the vivid colours and intricate details inherent in Kodachrome and Fuji slides from the 1980s.

Complementing the Canon 5DSR was the Sigma 105 Macro Lens, a versatile lens that excels in capturing fine details and reproducing the rich tones present in the film slides. The lens’s macro capabilities allowed for an intimate exploration of each slide, ensuring that no nuance was lost during the digitisation process.

Stability and precision were paramount, hence the integration of a tripod setup. Inverting the camera onto a tripod provided the necessary stability for prolonged scanning sessions, minimising the risk of motion blur and ensuring consistently sharp images. The tripod also allowed for greater control over composition, an essential factor when working with diverse subjects and framing.

The choice of a light source is often underestimated but proved to be a critical component in this scanning venture. Repurposing an old sketch pad as the primary light source offered a diffuse and even lighting across the slides. Placed at the ideal distance, this improvised light source eliminated harsh shadows and reflections, providing a consistent glow that enhanced the overall quality of the digitised images. The ares where light from the sketchpad overflowed was later covered with black card to ensure no light leaks or reflections occurred.

Innovatively, the slides were lifted slightly above the light source using a small cardboard box. This elevation facilitated the manipulation of light and angles, resulting in a more dynamic and visually pleasing composition. With the Canon 5DSR, Sigma 105 Macro Lens, tripod setup, and a repurposed sketch pad as the guiding ensemble, the equipment synergy laid the groundwork for a meticulous and successful journey from analog to digital, capturing the essence of a bygone era.

Camera Setup

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

The camera setup for this film slide scanning project was a delicate orchestration of stability and precision. Inverting the Canon 5DSR onto a tripod became the foundational step, ensuring that the camera remained steadfast throughout the scanning process. This orientation not only provided stability but also allowed for easier manipulation of the slides and unhindered access to the light source.

With the camera poised and stable, the next crucial aspect was fine-tuning the settings for optimal results. A careful balance between aperture and shutter speed was sought to capture the intricate details and vibrant colours inherent in Kodachrome and Fuji slides from the 1980s.

The aperture setting played a pivotal role in determining the depth of field. A choice of F8 was made, striking a balance between a sufficiently wide aperture for light gathering and a narrow enough aperture for a deeper depth of field. This ensured that the entire slide, even with micro varying elevations, remained sharply in focus, preserving the nuances of each frame.

Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

Acknowledging the dynamic lighting conditions of the film slides, a variable shutter speed approach was adopted. Different slides often demanded different exposure times to account for variations in brightness and colour saturation. This adaptability allowed for the nuanced capture of details, even in slides with diverse content and lighting scenarios.

The meticulous adjustment of these settings became a dance between technical precision and creative expression. It was not merely a mechanical process but an artful calibration, a delicate balance to ensure that the digital renditions mirrored the vibrancy and authenticity of the original film slides. In this symphony of camera setup, stability, and nuanced settings, each click of the shutter became a step closer to preserving the visual tapestry of a bygone era.


Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning

Lighting emerged as a critical facet in the meticulous process of scanning film slides from the 1980, where the ingenuity lay in repurposing an old sketch pad as the primary light source. This unconventional choice proved transformative as it provided a soft and diffuse illumination, mitigating harsh shadows and reflections that could compromise image quality.

The sketch pad, positioned beneath the elevated slides, became a canvas of light, ensuring an even glow across the frames. This diffusion played a pivotal role in capturing the subtle details and vibrant colour characteristic of Kodachrome and Fuji film slides, creating a faithful digital representation of the analog originals.

Experimentation became key in optimising the lighting conditions. Adjusting the distance and intensity of the light source allowed for a nuanced approach to each slide. Fine-tuning these variables enabled a delicate balance, revealing the intricate textures while preserving the overall tonal richness of the images. In this dance with light, the sketch pad transformed into an indispensable tool, casting a luminous backdrop that breathed life into the nostalgic visuals, ultimately defining the character of each digitised frame.

Scanning Process

The scanning process unfolded with a meticulous approach, marrying technical precision with artistic composition to ensure the faithful digitisation of my cherished film slides. Elevating the slides above the light source, a small block emerged as a crucial tool, facilitating a dynamic interplay of light and angles. Placing the slides atop this minute pedestal not only allowed for varied perspectives but also simplified the photographing process, granting unobstructed access to each frame.

Strategic positioning of the slides across the block became a deliberate act. Careful consideration was given to the arrangement, with an eye on achieving a harmonious composition. Each slide, a capsule of memories, was framed with intent, capturing the essence of the moment frozen in time. The elevation facilitated not only a play of light but also added a dimensionality to the compositions, enriching the visual narrative.

The actual act of capturing images involved a fusion of technical prowess and an artist’s discerning eye. The Canon 5DSR, equipped with the Sigma 105 Macro Lens and not forgetting the cable release, became a conduit for translating analog treasures into digital counterparts. Attention to composition meant considering the interplay of colours, textures, and focal points. It was a dance between the aperture setting at F8, chosen for its depth of field, and variable shutter speeds tailored to the nuances of each slide’s lighting conditions.

Every click of the shutter was imbued with the responsibility of preserving a moment’s legacy. The scanning process was not merely a mechanical reproduction but an interpretive act, capturing the spirit of the slides in pixels. It was an homage to the past, where the elevation of slides and careful composition became conduits for bridging the temporal gap, creating a visual symphony that harmonised the analog and digital realms.

Challenges and Solutions

A. Dealing with Variations in Slide Condition

Embarking on the scanning journey revealed an array of challenges stemming from the diverse conditions of the vintage film slides. Over the years, these slides had weathered different environments, resulting in variations in colour3 degradation, scratches, and dust accumulation. Addressing these concerns required a delicate touch and a nuanced approach.

HOW LONG DO KODACHROME SLIDES LAST? Article about the long-lasting effects of Kodachrome slides, worth a read!

To tackle the variations in slide condition, a comprehensive cleaning regiment was implemented before each scan. Soft brushes and lint-free cloths were employed to gently remove accumulated dust, while careful handling minimised the risk of scratches. This meticulous preparation ensured that the digitisation process was not hindered by the artifacts of time, allowing the true essence of each image to shine through.

B. Adjusting Camera Settings for Different Film Types (Kodachrome vs. Fuji)

The mix of Kodachrome4 and Fuji film slides introduced another layer of complexity. Each film type carried its unique colour profile and characteristics, demanding thoughtful adjustments in camera settings to capture their distinct qualities accurately.

Navigating the nuances between Kodachrome and Fuji involved a keen understanding of colour rendition. While Kodachrome tended to emphasise warm tones and deep contrasts, Fuji slides were recognised for their vibrant and cooler colour palette. Adapting to these differences, the camera settings, particularly the white balance and saturation levels, were fine-tuned for each film type. This nuanced approach not only preserved the authenticity of the original slides but also celebrated the unique visual signatures of Kodachrome and Fuji, ensuring that the digitised images mirrored the intended aesthetic.

C. Overcoming Potential Reflections and Glare

The reflective surfaces of the film slides posed an inevitable challenge during the scanning process, potentially introducing unwanted reflections and glare. These optical interferences could compromise the clarity and fidelity of the digital reproductions.

Mitigating reflections and glare required a strategic manipulation of the light source. The distance and intensity of the repurposed sketch pad were adjusted to create a diffuse and even illumination. Experimentation played a crucial role, as finding the right balance ensured that the light enhanced the details without causing distracting reflections. Additionally, the elevated positioning of the slides on the block helped minimise direct contact with the light source, reducing the risk of glare. This meticulous handling of lighting conditions became a dance between art and science, ensuring that the scanning process transcended technical barriers to deliver true-to-life digital renditions.


A. Evaluating the Scanned Images

The culmination of the scanning process yielded a trove of digitised images, each a testament to the meticulous efforts invested in preserving the essence of the images. Evaluating the scanned images revealed a rich tapestry of colours, textures, and emotions that had gracefully transitioned from analog to digital.

The careful cleaning, thoughtful adjustments in camera settings, and strategic handling of lighting conditions collectively contributed to the exceptional quality of the scanned images. Every imperfection, every nuance of the original film slides was faithfully preserved, creating a digital archive that resonated with the authenticity of the past.

B. Comparing the Quality of Kodachrome and Fuji Slides

A comparative analysis of the Kodachrome and Fuji slides shed light on the distinct visual signatures embedded in each film type. The warm, earthy tones of Kodachrome stood in contrast to the vibrant, cool palette of the Fuji slides. Both exhibited a unique charm, and the scanning process succeeded not only in capturing these differences but also in celebrating them.

The detailed examination highlighted the strengths of each film type, from Kodachrome’s ability to render timeless warmth to Fuji’s knack for vibrant colour saturation. The digital renditions stood as a testament to the enduring legacy of these film stocks and the meticulous effort invested in preserving their individual characteristics.

C. Reflecting on the Success of the Scanning Process

Reflecting on the success of the scanning process prompted a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia. The amalgamation of technological precision, creative intuition, and a deep appreciation for the past had culminated in a digital archive that breathed new life into decades-old memories.

The success lay not only in the technical fidelity of the scanned images but also in the emotional resonance they evoked. The project became a bridge across time, connecting the analog charm of the time to the digital canvas of the present. As the final pixels fell into place, the success of the scanning process echoed the importance of preserving personal histories, allowing the vibrant hues of yesteryears to endure in the pixels of the future.


A. Summary of the Scanning Journey

The scanning journey, embarked upon with a blend of nostalgia and technical precision, unfolded as a transformative odyssey through the visual tapestry of the 1980s and 1990s. From the meticulous preparation and equipment setup to overcoming challenges in the scanning process, the endeavor was a harmonious blend of art and technology. It transcended the mechanical act of digitisation, delving deep into the emotional reservoirs of cherished memories encapsulated in Kodachrome and Fuji film slides.

B. Importance of Preserving Old Memories through Digital Conversion

The significance of preserving old memories through digital conversion emerged as a poignant theme woven throughout the scanning journey. In an era where analog formats risk fading into obscurity, the act of breathing new life into these vintage slides became a testament to the enduring value of personal history. Digital conversion not only safeguards images from the perils of time but also grants accessibility, allowing the past to be revisited and shared across generations.

Preserving the visual heritage of bygone eras through digitisation ensures that the essence of family gatherings, vacations, and everyday moments remains vibrant and accessible. As technology advances, the responsibility to bridge the analog-digital gap becomes more pressing, highlighting the role of digital conversion as a custodian of cherished narratives.

C. Encouragement for Others to Embark on Similar Projects

The journey undertaken serves as an invitation to others to embark on similar projects. It is a call to action for individuals to delve into their attics, unearth forgotten film slides, and undertake the enriching process of preserving their unique histories. Beyond the realm of technology, it is a celebration of personal narratives and a recognition of the significance embedded in seemingly mundane moments.

Encouraging others to embark on similar projects is an acknowledgment that every family possesses a treasure trove of visual legacies waiting to be discovered and safeguarded. The act of scanning transcends a mere technical task; it becomes a collective effort to weave the threads of personal stories into the fabric of a digitised, enduring legacy.

Final Thoughts on Analogue to Digital

A. Personal Reflections on the Experience

The culmination of the scanning project elicits personal reflections that extend beyond the realm of technical achievements. It prompts introspection on the emotional resonance of the experience—of witnessing the revival of moments frozen in time. Each click of the shutter became a gateway to rediscovering the vibrant hues and subtle nuances of the past, echoing the sentiment that these memories are not just images but chapters of a living history.

The journey transcends the pixels and lenses, touching upon the emotional depth embedded in family narratives. It is a reminder that the value of these images extends beyond the visual; they encapsulate the essence of relationships, the warmth of shared experiences, and the threads that connect generations.

B. Future Plans for Archiving and Sharing the Digitised Images

Looking forward, the digitised images become more than just files on a computer; they represent a newfound responsibility to curate, archive, and share. The future holds promises of crafting albums that transcend physical boundaries, allowing the dissemination of memories across familial landscapes. These digitised images become conduits for storytelling, connecting generations separated by time and space.

Exploring avenues for archiving involves not only safeguarding the digital files but also considering formats and platforms that ensure accessibility for posterity. The prospect of sharing these digitised memories with family members, weaving them into occasions and conversations, adds an extra layer of richness to the preservation endeavor.

C. Acknowledging the Value of Preserving Personal History Through Technology

In the final reflections, there’s a profound acknowledgment of the value embedded in preserving personal history through technology. Beyond the lenses and cameras, it is a recognition that technology, when wielded with intent, becomes a bridge across time. The act of preserving analog memories in a digital realm transcends nostalgia; it is a declaration that the stories of the past are worth safeguarding, sharing, and cherishing in the evolving landscapes of the present and future.

As the digital archive becomes a repository of moments, it symbolises a symbiosis between the tangible past and the intangible future. It is an ode to the power of technology to weave the threads of personal history into the evolving tapestry of time, ensuring that the colours of the period continue to resonate vibrantly in the pixels of the digital age.

Don’t forget to check out my photo restoration services and Slides Scanned from the late 80s, Cornwall.


Q1: Why did you choose to embark on the journey of scanning your old film slides from the 1980s?

A: The decision to scan my old film slides from the 1980s/1990s stemmed from a profound sense of nostalgia and a desire to preserve the visual history encapsulated in those moments. The fading nature of analog formats and the advent of technology prompted me to bridge the gap between the past and the digital present.

Q2: What challenges did you face during the scanning process, and how did you overcome them?

A: Variations in slide condition, differing film types (Kodachrome vs. Fuji), and potential reflections and glare posed notable challenges. Meticulous cleaning, fine-tuning camera settings based on film types, and strategic manipulation of the light source were key solutions. These methods ensured the digitisation process captured the nuances of each slide accurately.

Q3: How did you approach adjusting camera settings for different film types like Kodachrome and Fuji?

A: Recognising the unique characteristics of Kodachrome and Fuji, I adapted camera settings for each film type. White balance and saturation levels were fine-tuned to reflect the warm tones of Kodachrome and the vibrant colours of Fuji, ensuring that the digital reproductions faithfully mirrored the original aesthetic. Although, to be fair, Photoshop and Lightroom also aided the restoration here as well.

Q4: What role did the light source play in the scanning process, and how did you manage potential reflections and glare?

A: The light source, a repurposed sketch pad, played a crucial role in creating a diffuse and even illumination for the slides. Experimentation with the distance and intensity of the light source was key to mitigating potential reflections and glare. The elevation of slides on a small ~4mm block also aided in minimising direct contact with the light, enhancing the overall quality of the images.

Q5: What do you hope to achieve by preserving these memories through digital conversion, and what are your future plans for the digitised images?

A: Preserving memories through digital conversion is a commitment to safeguarding personal history and ensuring accessibility across generations. The digitised images will serve as a foundation for future storytelling, with plans to create albums and share these visual legacies within the family. The overarching goal is to acknowledge the value of personal history and its enduring resonance through the lens of technology.


  1.  Raso, Michael (30 October 2021). “Negative Film vs Reversal (Positive) Film? What’s the Difference?”The Film Photography Project. Retrieved 13 August 2023. ↩︎
  2.  Towards a Theory of Digital Preservation. (2008). International Journal of Digital Curation Archived 2013-01-23 at the Wayback Machine ↩︎
  3.[dead link] shows examples of the severe yellowing eventually produced by this staining and briefly explains the cause. This was a problem with early Kodacolor prints. ↩︎
  4. ↩︎
Preserving the Past: A Journey into Film Slide Scanning



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