The Guide to B&W Film Development: Part 5 – How to Digitise your Negatives

Welcome to Part 5 of my Guide to B&W Film Development.

Finally.. almost there.. in fact I would say it is already a success as you dont have to scan your own negatives if you dont want too. So far we have covered what you need to get started, what you need to prepare to develop and then developing the film itself. This extra part is basically to cover how to get your negatives archived and on your own computer at a decent price. If you are going to do a high res print and you arent satisfied with the scanning results, I would suggest getting a print shop or a photo shop doing a high res scan for you.. it is very cheap and a great way for you to get the size/resolution you need to print.

This wont take very long and I have taken quite a few shots for this part of the guide. I should say straight up that you must wait for your negatives to be completely dry before you start the scanning process. It is easy to jump the gun just to see your photos but you will regret this later! Negative storage methods vary or you might want to store your negatives differently but ill just explain how I have mine. I have a 3 ring binder that I keep plastic negative sheets in to store my negatives (you can use any old binder, but I bought the sheets from Vanbar). They are stored in rows of 6, and I have the pages labelled with the camera used, the film type and the date processed. This I found was the easiest way for me to keep track of what I have .. so far. Obviously as my film collection grows I will have to change this and most likely store negatives by film type, camera type or year. You have a few options in terms of scanning.. you can go to a high end solution straight up.. which is a dedicated film scanner with a variety of products on the market by brands such as Plustek, Prime and Inca. You then have the flatbed solution which has offerings by Epson and Canon which have film negative holders which you insert into the flatbed scanner.

I use a Canon 8800F flat bed scanner (as above)which is capable of scanning both 35mm negatives and 120 film. Another handy item to have next to your scanner for the process is a Rocket Blower (see below) to blow dust out of the scanner and off the negatives as it will show up when scanning. As you can see with the shot below, I have already cut the negatives I developed in Part 4. I simply start from the beginning of the roll and cut the negative after every 6 photos. Make sure you use a small pair of scissors with a flat cutting blade so you can precisely cut between the negatives as you only have 1 – 2mm to work with.

The process is very easy. Once you have cut your negatives you open the flatbed and insert the negative holder you need (in this case 35mm). You then pinch the sides of the two plastic holders to release the top section which holds the negative down onto the holder.

There are guides that show you which way to insert the negatives but you can always rotate/flip the scans afterwards if they go in the wrong way. The easiest way I remember is that the glossy side of the negative faces down and the negative will always try to curl upwards (towards you). Once you slide them into the clips at the end, slowly lower the top part of the holder into they clip in place and hold the negative firmly.

And then.. you are done. Close the lid, launch the scanning software you decide to use (I simply use Canoscan Tool) and scan away! Once you are done you can then import into your favourite management software and touch up, watermark or fix any blemishes you might want to fix. I generally do everything in Lightroom and export for uploading onto Flickr or onto my website/blog.

Pretty easy eh? It is a lengthy process with 9600dpi scans of my negatives taking around 10mins per photo, but it is easy to archive whilst doing other things around the house! Just be careful when handling your negatives and always try to put them back in your sleeves after you are done.

So I suppose this is where you want to see shots that I developed making this guide? Well ok.. just a few. I was actually testing a roll of the Lucky SHD100 in my newly acquired Nikon F3 with Nikon 55mm Micro 2.8 Ai lens. It is a great camera and the lens is amazing with a very short minimum focus distance. The depth of field is so so so very shallow though which makes it super difficult with film! I think ill need some practice with it on my D90/D700 before I tackle more rolls with it. You will see some scratches and some dust and marks on the scans.. I may clean and rescan but then the camera is a little dirty too… I think it is all part of the charm (and I certainly am no expert yet!).

And there we have it. My first guide for this blog.. and my first photography guide in general. I hope you have liked it. I will put up a summary post I think in a few days with any extra tips I think that can help with the process. I would love some feedback and if you have anything you would like to add, or you would like to contribute to my tips post then please feel free to leave a comment or email me at

I appreciate you following the blog and I hope the guide is very helpful to you. Film is a wonderful part of photography and I hope to inspire some other photographers to give it a try i the future. With the enthusiasm I see being shown towards film by new and existing photographers, I am a firm believer that indeed Film is not dead!

Till next time..


  • Great guide Jack! I’ll see how I go with this film thing and may get into developing my own stuff one day.

    June 4, 2011
  • Thank you Sam! 🙂 I hope you do give it a try when funds permit.. its the initial setup but once you got it down its a breeze.

    Hoping to shoot a lot of portraits/fashion and beauty with film but just struggling to actually find the subject matter lol!



    June 18, 2011
  • Real nice style and design and fantastic articles, hardly anything else we require :D.

    November 16, 2011

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