Before I buy a proper film scanner...


It’s a mouthful I know but I couldn’t come up with a better name!

Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cardboard box
- Tape (regular scotch tape, to keep the negatives in place and packing tape to tape the box together)
- box cutter
- scissors
- blank sheet of computer paper/white paper
- sharpie
- digital camera (DSLR works best)

1. tape the box together but leave either the top or bottom open. (just like i have mine)
2. lay a piece of negative on the short side of the box and trace a medium sized window. this will allow you to see the negative through the inside of the box and light the negative from behind.
3. DiRECTLY opposite from the film window, use a sharpie to trace around the circumference of your lens.
4. CAREFULLY use a box cutter to cut out the hole.
5. next, cut out a piece of white paper slightly bigger than the film window. this will act as a diffuser to light the negative. because of you just shine a flash light at your negative, your film is partially lit up.
6. use a small scotch tape to tape the negative to the window and then tape the white piece of paper behind it. (see picture as a reference)
7. either set the box on a table or on the floor next to the wall and position your camera in the lens hole.
8. depending on the zoom of your lens, you should see have a clear shot of the negative.
9. last thing to do is save the digital photos and iNVERT the color in Photoshop or any photo editing program.
*if your budget doesn’t include the expensive Adobe Photostop CS3, go to and click on “Pixlr Editor.”*

Here are my “scans” of the photos I took with my Sprocket Rocket.
mind you, as this is just an inexpensive way to digitalize your film, the results may not be as clear as you want. but what Lomographer cares about clarity, right? (:

Credits: itsdebraanne

Just keep saving for that perfect film scanner and enjoy!

written by itsdebraanne on 2011-05-13 #gear #tutorials #tutorial #scanning #tipster


  1. maxwellmaxen
    maxwellmaxen ·

    actually, i car about clarity, and the iphone is by far not strong enough. get at least a proper flash for this.
    by the way, i think i saw a very similar tipster about two months ago, that stated the exact same idea but with radio triggered flashes

  2. mythguy9
    mythguy9 ·

    Was that a colour negative? Do we need stronger light for colour negative than for B&W negative?

  3. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    @mythguy9 yes it was regular color negative film (not color slide). and yes, you might need a stronger light than an iPhone light. like I said @maxwellmaxen...this was experimental and cheap. most of the tipsters here are even more so.

  4. maxwellmaxen
    maxwellmaxen ·

    dont get me wrong! i love that idea and would be searching all the required stuff to build one if i hadnt a scanner.
    and i also like the writing, makes it look very easy, mine wouldnt look that nice :D

  5. raeko
    raeko ·

    Umm.. Want to know my secret? I make my LCD monitor completely white (make a white image and fullscreen it in photoshop). Then you just put the negative in front of it and peg it to something and take a photo with your DSLR.. Easy as pie.. and you can do it at 4am if you want too.

  6. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    If you own a regular scanner not made for film (come on, we all have one somewhere!) you can make a transparency light by getting any desktop lamp with a shade and just flip it up and stand it upside down on your scanner with the film under it, you could go further to increase the quality by building a proper light box. All you need is a constant light source, that's all an film scanner does differently. You can hold them up to your iphone screen or laptop etc but you will see the pixel outlines quite clearly and it looks pretty poor.

  7. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    To add to that you could just tape the film to a window on a very bright day and take a photo with a dSLR, but I can't say I've tried it as I don't own a digital camera.

  8. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    understood @maxwellmaxen! (:
    @raeko 4am? I shall try that. Last time I did it midday...not very successful.
    thanks @nick_a_tron! I've tried the tape-to-a-window thing, but the color inversions and balances is where i'm stuck. Lol. any suggestions? poor shots:

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