If you’re anything like my family, you have an incredible collection of slides that you just took down from the attic that probably looks a lot like this:

When’s the last time you opened up a box, put the projection screen up and sat there with the projector looking at your past? That’s right: Never.

It’s time you changed that. How, you ask? If you’ve found this post, you’ve probably already stumbled upon sites like scancafe.com or scanmyphotos.com and thought you could afford it until, of course, you realize the pricing is per slide not box. Unwilling to disk out a few hundred or unwilling to ship your valuable photos across seas, you looked elsewhere.

You then stumbled onto Amazon and looked for slide copier extensions that look like they have somewhat positive reviews. Realizing that’s the slowest process humanely possible, you ventured off to some other DIY sites claiming they scan slides quickly using an old slide projector and a DSLR on the cheap like this one: babryce.com/slidedigitizer.html or this: scantips.com/projectorslidecopier.pdf

That’s it! You’ve struck gold! But how are you actually going to do it? You’re not some well versed projector technician. Well, i’m going to attempt to help you scan thousands of crystal clear slides without breaking the bank (using these two sites as a baseline.)

To get started, you’re going to need a  DSLR (Or a nice digital camera), some macro filters, and an old slide projector. If you’re using a DSLR, you can also use a professional macro lens (If you can afford one) but they’re not exactly required for what we’re doing. So unless you plan on using these lenses for other purposes as well, it’s a complete waste of money considering you can get macro filters for under $20 on eBay: Here.

Now, Some will tell you that these filters are “inferior.” Because the are. In order to avoid focus issues and a black ring around the edge of your picture, you have to be zoomed in and straight in front of the picture. The good news? That’s EXACTLY what you need to scan slides. So unless you’re unhappy with these cheap filters, I wouldn’t recommend breaking the bank for a good macro lens just yet.

For the projector, you can either use your own vintage family projector (NOT recommended considering you have to break apart the projector to create your contraption) or you can simply buy one on eBay for cheap. I didn’t have the Kodak reels, so I had to buy a projector that supported RotoTrays. Just be aware of that – I originally bought the wrong type of projector out of stupidity and I’d hate to see someone make the same mistake!

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I wish I could be more specific, but honestly, all you need to do is remove the lenses in front of the actual slide. Besides, every projector is a little different. Find any screws and unscrew them. Make sure there are no wires that you’re going to rip when opening the case. Once it’s exposed, do whatever it takes to get the lenses in front of the slide out. Each projector model varies, but feel free to comment with pictures if you need help! In the above photo, I show how my setup works. Notice how the slide has nothing in front of it altering the image. I do not use the projector lamp, as it’s much too hot and didn’t provide a white background. Instead, I used a cut of white photo paper and another small white lamp I had to illuminate the slide. Make sure it’s facing away from you – otherwise, it might create a lens flare on your camera. Essentially, all you’re creating is an automatic slide changer. Good luck and feel free to comment if you need any help!

I suppose it’s only fair that I share some of my favorite scans to prove that this concept works, and works well:

Written by James Brako-McComb

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