Better negative scan results

Photo Negative Scanner uses the phone camera for scanning. So simply having a better phone camera will yield better results, however with any phone camera there is still much you can do to improve the results of your scans.


The most important part is to have a good backlight. A good backlight should be even, that is without texture or distortions. It is best with white light with a high CRI as this brings out more natural colors when viewing your negatives. Below we list a couple of ways to achieve this:

  • Use a tablet or computer screen and have it show a white screen. One easy way to do this is to open your browser and type in about:blank. This will make your browser show a white screen. The light from a normal LCD screen does not have a high CRI but it should be sufficient in most cases.
  • Use natural light. Place a white piece of paper in your window sill and let it reflect the light of the sun. This way you will get a good CRI, but unfortunately the texture from the paper will also be reflected.
  • Use a dedicated light box / light panel or photo light. If you need a solid solution that gives you the best conditions for using Photo Negative Scanner, then you should make or buy a setup with photo lights or a light box. These are often expensive but easy to work with - even when it is raining outside.

Different types of backlight demonstrated

We have made a video to demonstrate what to expect from different types of backlight. We test out:

  • An ordinary LED light panel
  • A fluorescent lights light panel
  • Office lamp light reflected from a piece of paper
  • Photo Negative Scanner built in Light Box mode
  • Sunlight

Keep the phone still

Try to keep the phone and the negative still while capturing images of negatives. This sounds obvious, but is not always easy to do when you are using one hand for the negative and the other for the phoen. A tripod that works with your phone is a easy and cheap way to get stable images. If you don’t have one then try supporting both your hands or arms i.e. by resting them on a table. This can help remove a lot of the small vibrations that can lead to blurry images.

Keep the negative in focus

It can be tempting to move the negative as close to the camera lens as possible to get a larger image but all cameras have a minimum focus distance. For most phone cameras the minimum focus distance is around 10 centimeters. If you move the camera closer than this, then your image will become blurry. Try to move the negative further away from the camera - even though the final picture will be smaller you should get a higher quality image as a result.

If the minimum focus distance of your phone is too far to get a decent image then consider using a compatible macro lens. This will reduce the minimum focus distance allowing you to get closer to your photo negative without it getting blurry.

Adjusting the white balance

If the image on the screen has a blue or a red tint, you can use the temperature tool in the app to adjust the white balance. Look especially at the black, gray and white colors to see if the white balance needs changing.

Correct calibration

It is important to do a correct calibration, which is quite simple. Just make sure that the white box shown on the screen (often referred to as the crosshair) includes as much of a picture as possible without including any of the border, background or backlighting. To get even better results try to calibrate with the image on the film strip that contains the most dynamic colors and lighting. Whenever you have a good calibration press the lock icon to make sure that you do not accidentally recalibrate.

Take a look at this video to see how to calibrate:

By: Tobias Alrøe