Give Your Old Slides and Photos a Make-Over: Digitize Them!

Winter 2007 CSANews Issue 65  |  Posted date : May 22, 2008.Back to list

It’s time to do something productive with the old shoe box collecting dust in the bottom of your closet. You know – the one containing the 529 slides from your trip to Europe in 1971. And the stacks of dog-eared photos from decades long past. With all of the recent advances in technology, there’s no need for these images to lay dormant anymore.

As you well know, photos and slides deteriorate over time. Depending on storage, they often become bent, scratched, faded and mouldy. And they get lost, too. Now imagine having all of your beloved images on your home computer, a far more secure location than your damp basement or dusty attic. And imagine being able to curl up on the couch in front of the TV, reminiscing over a slide show of all of your favourite old photos. Think of what a wonderful gift it would be to offer your family and friends a DVD of shared photo memories. The technology to transfer your old slides and photos into digital format is at your fingertips. It’s just a matter of getting the creative motivation to embark on such a nostalgic journey!

You must first decide which images you want to convert into digital format. It can become a costly endeavour so, if you have 2,000 slides, you may want to pick and choose the best images. You can take your slides and/or photos to a local photo store for conversion. The conversion service involves scanning your old images to a CD, DVD or print format, depending on what you want. Many stores, such as Japan Camera and Black’s Photography, will use photo correction methods to enhance the images. Keep in mind that some stores are more expensive than others. Black’s Photography will scan slides for $1.79 per slide for 100 or fewer. For more than 100 slides, the price drops to $1.39. As mentioned before, this process can become quite costly, especially if you have 2,000 slides. Do the math and you’ll see the very, very hefty price that you’ll pay to recapture old memories in digital format! However, if you’re only looking to convert a small batch of images, it’s both cost- and time-efficient to have a photo lab do the job for you. If you’re looking to spruce things up a bit, some stores offer enhanced digital mediums, such as slide show DVDs (with or without music). Just remember to be a comparison shopper and get the best quality output for the price that you’re willing to pay.

If you have a 20-foot stack of slides, or if you trust yourself more than a photo lab, you can undertake the photo conversion process on your own. Just be prepared to dedicate the time and the money needed for this type of project. To convert your images into digital format on your own, you will need a photo scanner. If you’re not up to date with scanner technology, talk to as many techno-savvy people as possible and surf the Internet to educate yourself. You will find that scanner prices and capabilities are wide-ranging. Again, you need to determine how much time and money you want to put into your photo project. If you’re willing to pay upwards of $1,000, you can purchase a heavy-duty film slide scanner that will scan 50 slides at a time. However, most people will opt for a less-expensive scanner (and understandably so!). HP photo scanners start at $100 CDN and these scanners have the capability to scan 35mm slides and negatives (although without the slide feeder, you cannot scan 50 slides at once). Keep in mind that you normally get what you pay for. When shopping for your scanner, tell the salesperson exactly what you’re looking for, i.e. to use the scanner for converting old photos and slides. Don’t be swayed into buying an extravagant scanner which you really don’t feel that you need. It might be a good idea to bring a support person along (read: someone who knows about scanners). Remember that the scanner must be compatible with your operating system, and that you will need a compatible port for connecting the scanner. If your computer is less than five years old, you needn't worry about any compatibility issues.

Once you’ve made the purchase, you can start scanning. Most scanners come equipped with simple photo-editing software, which will allow you to make some minor adjustments to your photos (i.e. photo size, brightness/contrast, etc.). For more enhanced edits, you may want to purchase photo-editing software. At, you can read about the top three photo-editing software packages. Photoshop Elements won the gold review, and it costs approximately $100. Again, the decision to buy extra software depends on the time and money that you’re willing to spend on your project.

Once your images have been scanned and edited, the creative possibilities are almost endless. If your computer has a CD or DVD burner (most new computers do), you can create a digital photo library on discs (which have a much longer shelf life than slides and photos). You can e-mail your images to friends and family, or upload them to the web. You can have your images printed onto postcards, greeting cards, T-shirts, coffee mugs and calendars.
So blow the dust off of that box of slides and remove the photos from their ailing albums. Your old images are ready for an exciting new life in a digital world.

Some purchase options to consider:
Plustek Opticfilm 7200 Film Scanner    $231.99
HP Scanjet Photo Scanner    $249.95
Canon Canoscan 4400F    $ 88.99

Public libraries often have digital equipment available for public use. The Toronto Reference Library offers this service and also has technicians available to assist you with your project for a nominal fee of $10.00 per hour.