One of the greatest things a person can inherit is old family pictures. What if you inherit old negatives?
It took me 30 years to finally figure out how to create photos from old negatives. I’ll teach you how to do it, too.
Grandma’s Old Box of Goodies
My grandma passed away when I was nine years old. She had very few possessions. After she died, my dad received a small box of photos and letters that she had kept. Mixed in with the pictures and letters were packets of old photo negatives. The images on the negatives didn’t appear to go with any of the photos already in the box.
Thankfully my dad gave the box to me. He must have known I’d be the one to treasure everything inside the box!
Many years ago the easiest way to get pictures from old photo negatives was to send them to a professional photography shop and have them make prints for you. Technology has now made it very easy to DIY photos and old negatives.
DIY and the Snapseed App
There are several different ways to easily do this at home. Recently I learned how to use an app called Snapseed. Snapseed makes it easy to create photographs from the old negatives — in a matter of minutes.
Last year I organized the pictures and letters that were in the old box that used to belong to my grandma. Recently, I tackled the project of making photos from the negatives. If you follow the steps I outline here, you’ll soon be able to easily create photos from old negatives, too.
STEPS to Create Photos from Old Negatives
To GET STARTED you’ll need:
1. A bright, background light source. I use (and really like) the tracing light box from Litenergy. You can order the same one that I use, here. VERY affordable.
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2. Your phone camera
Instructions: How to Create Photos from Old Negatives
- Make sure you have the Snapseed app added to your phone or device.
- Put a photo negative on the light box. Use the brightest setting.
- Take a picture of the negative – as straight and level as you can. Keep your phone or device as close as possible to the negative without blurring the picture.
- Find the image you just photographed on your device and open it in the Snapseed app.
- Within Snapseed, go to Tools.
- Select Curves.
- At the bottom click the round, circular icon (NOT the almond, eye-shaped icon)
- If your film negative is BLACK & WHITE, select Luminance.
- You will see a diagonal line across the image which starts in the lower left corner and ascends to the upper right corner.
- Grab the lower left end of the line (small circle) and drag it straight up to the upper left and leave it there. Next grab the end of the line (another small circle) in the upper right corner and drag it straight down to the bottom right corner. Your black and white image should have magically turned from a negative image to a positive image! Click the check mark at bottom right to accept your edits.
- If your film negative is COLOR, you’ll need to select each color separately (red dot, blue dot, green dot) and repeat the method described in step 10 for each of those three colors. (Drag lower left dot to upper left corner and leave it there. Next drag the upper right dot to lower right corner and leave it there.)
- You have now made your negative into a positive IMAGE. Hit the check mark in the lower right corner to accept the edits.
- Play around with the other editing tools in this app. Sharpen, brighten, add contrast, crop. There are also many advanced edits to use. Pre-set edits are listed in the Looks tab.
- After editing, save and export your image.
The steps I’ve shared here show one method of how you can create photos from old negatives. No doubt, there are other ways. And, it’s good for all of your other photo editing projects. The Snapseed app is one I use all the time and I highly recommend that you try it out.
Rescuing and Sharing Photos from Old Negatives
I shared the photos I created from my grandma’s photo negatives on my private family Facebook page. If you’d like to start your own family genealogy page – it’s easy! You’ll find the steps to Create Your Family Facebook Group here.
Many of my cousins said they hadn’t seen these photos. It feels like a BIG WIN as a family genealogist to be able to RESCUE things and SHARE them with family who really appreciate it. You may find a photo treasure that has been waiting to be discovered!
I hope you find success with creating photos from old negatives. Sign up for my email newsletter and send me a message to leave me feedback!