Flashlight Method: A Simple Way to Digitize Slides

   Many of us with an interest in genealogy become, by default, the family archivist. This can be a challenge, because as technology changes, we sometimes need to update our collections by converting items into other formats. Take the case of (photographic) slides, for instance. Many of us have acquired them from our families, but perhaps neither we nor the people we want to share them with have a slide projector to view them. And wouldn’t it be much nicer these days to be able to view them on a computer or tablet?

   Recently someone mentioned to me that she wanted to digitize slides. Although there are places that provide this service, many companies expect you to accept the idea that the slides might get lost or damaged in the process. She wondered if there was any way for her to digitize them herself. I had never tried doing this myself, but since I had a box of slides home, I decided to experiment.

   The first method I tried was to scan slides using a flatbed scanner. I found directions and tips on the Internet for doing this. I even made an origami-like box out of white paper, that was recommended to use as a light diffuser, and I tried three different scanners (although none had any special scanning features), but I was unhappy with all my results. I even attempted to adjust the resulting scanned images with computer software, but the results were unsatisfactory, and I decided it was better to look for a different method.

   Someone suggested I project the slides and then photograph them. This seemed like a good idea; unfortunately I had thrown out my slide projector years ago. The idea though led to the concept of just illuminating the slide from behind and taking a photograph of it. How could I do that? Well, I thought why not try just shining a light behind a slide (maybe with a piece of white paper behind the slide as a light diffuser) and then taking a picture of it. I tried what I will call my flashlight method of slide digitization, and though the results may not be perfect, I was pretty content with this technique. It produced a decent image, cost me nothing, and was easy and fast to do. Of course, I could probably get even better results if I built or purchased a light box, but at some point I need to stop myself from getting too carried away. Attached were the steps I took in digitizing some of my slides Flashlight Method: A Simple Way to Digitize Slides


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