How to use your iPhone to view old film negatives

If you have a box full of film negatives of old photographs, here is a neat trick from Petapixel to view them as positives, using just your iPhone or iPad!














Use your iPhone or iPad as a film negatives viewer

Do you have boxes or envelopes full of negative film strips lying at home? You might be curious what they contain, or maybe like to select and print a few photos from them.

What do you normally do in this situation? Hold the film against a window or another light source, then try to figure out what those images are? Here is a much better way to do it, and it’s really easy!

What will you need?

You will need a light source to uniformly illuminate the negatives from behind. “Uniformly” is important, so unless you are into photography gear and have a proper lightbox, you need a more commonplace alternative. Well, your computer screen will do the job splendidly. If you have an iPhone as well as an iPad, you could also use the iPad screen to back-light the negatives.

You will also need an iPhone, which will serve as the photo viewer.

What else is there to know?

This method will let you preview your film negatives easily, but it’s not suitable for scanning negatives. The resolution won’t be good enough.

How to go about it?

First, make yourself a lightbox. If using a laptop, open a program like Microsoft Word on to a blank white screen. If using iPad, download one of the many free lightbox apps, and launch it to display a blank white screen. Place your negative strip on it. If the screen isn’t bright enough, increase the brightness to maximum.

Second, set up the iPhone or iPad that you want to use as viewer. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Invert colors. It will now display all colors inverted. This might be a bit startling, but don’t worry – this is what you need to view film negatives.

On the viewer device, launch Pic Scanner Gold and go to Scanner screen. Or launch Pic Scanner classic (which opens directly on camera screen). Hold the device above the illuminated film strip, tap to focus, and there you are! You will see the positives of your photographs. You may “scan” them, too, but as we said before, resolution won’t be great – and they won’t be auto-cropped. But it’s an easy and much better way to view film negatives than holding them against light.

The pictures look bluish?

This is because the white balance is a bit off when you invert color negatives. To remedy this, select Monochrome in Settings > General > Accessibility. The display will now be B&W, but you’ll still be able to see the photos a lot better.

When done, remember to return the accessibility option changes to their original settings.

For more details, see this Petapixel article and video.

If you don’t have our scanner apps, you can get Pic Scanner Gold here, and Pic Scanner Classic here.

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