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How to Convert Old Photos to Digital

Buying a digital camera doesn't mean your old prints, slides, or negatives are obsolete. You can easily convert them with a scanner to bring them into the 21st century.


  • Step 1: Organize your photos Before scanning, organize your photos – and slides and negatives, if you have them – into logical groups. This will make renaming and labeling them much easier later on.
  • Step 2: Clean your photos Using a soft photography or makeup brush, gently clean your photos. Any dirt or smudges will be visible in your scans.
  • Step 3: Clean the scanner Using isopropyl, or another cleaning agent that won't leave residue or streaks, and a lint-free cloth, wipe any dust, smudges, and fingerprints off the scanner's glass bed.
  • TIP: Turn on the scanner's light to reveal any overlooked smudges, fingerprints, or dirt.
  • Step 4: Select your DPI based on your image use For images you intend to print, a DPI (or dots per inch) of 300 is recommended. Slides or negatives need a DPI of at least 2,400. For use on the Web, a DPI of 72 is acceptable.
  • Step 5: Scan your old photos Using the software that came with your scanner, scan each photo into your computer.
  • Step 6: Rename your digital scans Your scans will likely have numerical names that tell you nothing about the content of the scanned image. Rename each file.
  • Step 7: Edit your images Using photo- editing software, view each image, cropping out bits you don't want, straightening slightly crooked images, and using color correction where necessary.
  • Step 8: Backup your images Photo library software makes organizing and viewing photos on the computer simple, but you should also burn your scanned photos to a CD, DVD, or an external hard drive for safekeeping. You can typically save about 1,200 images on a CD and close to 7,000 on a DVD when you save them as JPG files.
  • FACT: You can get a scanner the size of a ballpoint pen, meant for scanning single lines of text.

You Will Need

  • Photos
  • slides
  • or negatives
  • A computer
  • A flatbed scanner with attachments for slides and negatives
  • A soft photography or makeup brush
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Photo editing software

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