DIY Film Digitizer / Scanner


Do not have a film scanner? You can make one for yourself using just a shoe box, everything you need is LESS THAN $5!!! Believe it : )

I got this idea somewhere on the web, and the main materials are just few pieces of paper, small piece of cardboard, some stationary, and… a SHOE BOX, which you were thinking to find a not-too-lazy weekend to throw it away.

Materials needed :
- Shoe Box
- White Papers
- Black Cardboard
- Knife
- Glue
- Ruler & Pencil

To make it works, you will also need :
- A Flash Gun that can be remotely triggered
- Digital Camera

Ready, here we go :)

Step 1 – Draw the film frame size that you want to scan on one side of the shoe box with pencil (the near-square side, not the long rectangle side), and cut it out with knife, making a small film size ‘window’ on the box.

Step 1 – Covered all area inside the shoe box with white paper. Just use normal A4 white papers, cut it into small pieces that fit the inside of the shoe box and glue it on is good enough.

Step 3 – Measure the top size of your flash gun, draw it on the middle of the shoe box’s top cover. Cut it out making another ‘window’ on top of the box cover for the flash.

Step 4 – Cut the black cardboard into a long bar, stick it right below the ‘film window’ (this is for the film to ‘slide’ on it for scanning). Then, make another 2 pieces of small black cardboard and stick it on the left and right side of the ‘film window’, stick it on top of the long slider cardboard (this act as film feeder to hold the film during scanning).

Tadaa…. that’s it!

How to use :
First insert your film roll into the feeder, it will sits nicely on the long cardboard. Slide your film to the frame that you wanna scan to the middle of the ‘film window’.
Insert your remote flash gun into the ‘flash window’ on top of the shoe box.
Now you are ready to digitize!
Just use your digital camera to properly focus the film surface, and snap it.
The flash will trigger inside the box and you can see your film been ‘lighted up’ from the back.
Its now in negative, so you know very well whats the next, just import it to your PC and invert it using picture developing software like Photoshop or Lightroom.

I had tried it out, and its WORK!
Here are some of my film digitized using this shoe box digitizer…

Extra Tips :
- Measure your 35mm film including the sprocket holes, this will allow you to include the sprocket holes in the picture!
- This method works well for medium format films too! Just cut another bigger ‘film window’ for medium format like 120. Cut it on the opposite side of the shoe box, now you can scan 2 different film format in 1 shoe box : )
- If the flash light inside the shoe box is too strong, you can add something inside the box to block the flash and defuse the light, eg: tissue paper, white paper… etc
- Precisely focus the surface of the film is very important in order to get sharp image.

Enjoy : )

written by watttan on 2011-04-11 in #gear #tipster #scanning #shoebox-flash #top-tipster-techniques #requested-post #negative #sprocket-holes #tutorial #film #digital #scanner #digitize #scan #diy #invert #digitizer


  1. lighttomysoul
    lighttomysoul ·

    and here I went to another city for a scanner, when I all I needed was a shoebox ;) nah, i don't have a dig cam or flash so it's all cool

  2. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    Not a bad idea, I might try it ...<:) Thanks for sharing...

  3. rgezelle
    rgezelle ·

    can you change to the right color from the negs using any free programs? if so im totally doing this :D

  4. nadinadu
    nadinadu ·

    cool! i am so gonna try this! i cant seem to find any photolab that will develop my sprocket holes, so maybe this will work!?

  5. disasterarea
    disasterarea ·

    great results

  6. watttan
    watttan ·

    Thanks for all the comments, it will totally works!
    but the color will be a little bit off, u can easily tune it in PS when u do the invert.
    enjoy :)

  7. hidings
    hidings ·


  8. shoujoai
    shoujoai ·

    Cool! If I hadn't already a scanner I'd do it!
    @rgezelle: try gimp, it's a nice software and I always use it instead of photoshop

  9. rgezelle
    rgezelle ·

    @shoujoai: thanks!!

  10. matthannigan
    matthannigan ·

    That works surprisingly well, especially with the bw 120 shot. Good work!

  11. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    Hello! (:
    I did the same thing with a small cardboard box but my pictures didn't turn out as good as yours did. if you have the time, could you read my blog and maybe tell me what I can do to make it better? thanks!…

  12. watttan
    watttan ·

    Hi friend,
    I read your blog, and i think i know whats wrong there.
    you use iphone's led flash which is not strong enough to evenly light up the negative, i use dslr flash gun which work very well, but u need a flash gun with remote trigger function or hotshoe extension wire.
    and i also notice that u try to defuse the light by adding paper on the negative?
    if your light source is not very strong u don't need to defuse, for my flash gun i can digitize without adding papers, but i purposely tune up the power of the flash and add few pieces of paper to make the light source more 'even'.

    Thanks :)

  13. stratski
    stratski ·

    Cool! This works a lot better than my method of sticking up a negative in front of a white computer screen (e.g. a blank word file) and taking a picture of it. Too bad I don't have a remotely triggered flash gun. I'm going to see if I can't hack my digital canon to respond to a flash light...

  14. watttan
    watttan ·

    maybe can try to use other light sources, eg. a strong torch light or studio light :)

  15. laurafish
    laurafish ·

    YESSS! did it. :)

  16. laurafish
    laurafish ·

    oh yeah, remote fire is convenient, but not needed. just set your shutter to 1-2 seconds and press the test button on you flash while your shutter is open. :D (best to do it in dim/dark place)

  17. watttan
    watttan ·

    Hi @laurafish
    yeah thats a good idea, do that in dark room or tune up f/ value to avoid over expose :)

  18. lisabegusch
    lisabegusch ·

    Great thanks! I will try ths for sure! :)

  19. lisabegusch
    lisabegusch ·

    Great thanks! I will try ths for sure! :)

  20. cehall422
    cehall422 ·

    i just got my first roll from my sprocket rocket scanned and the place i did it at couldnt get the sprocket holes. so this will be my next project. im so happy to find this!

  21. manfrom1992
    manfrom1992 ·

    i dont have a flash gun. is there any other light sorce that will do just fine. i tried a light bulb but it makes my color negative look super blue when i invert em. but it seems to work fine with black and white. this is a great idea by the way!

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