Try this viral, simple tip for converting 35mm film with a smartphone

a film strip with a picture of a city in it.

Recently, one photographer explained on TikTok how she easily manages to scan reams of 35mm film negatives with her phone.

Many of us, photographers or not, still have many old 35mm photographic film negatives lying around that we’d like to transfer over to digital.

Doing this through special devices or by hiring a third-party service can just be tedious, but this photo trick is a neat workaround.

Video producer and photographer, Ksenia Bakalo recently shared a TikTok clip in which she explains her process.

Before beginning the smartphone-based scanning process Bakalo first has the film developed through traditional chemical means. The following doesn’t work with unprocessed film rolls (so please don’t open any you have up and expose them to light!)

Once she has her negative, the rest is easy enough: What Bakalo does is take a photo of each negative frame from a developed film roll and then load the image to her Lightroom app right inside the phone.

a woman sitting in front of a computer monitor.

With this done, she then uses the curve feature in the Adobe Lightroom app to scan the negative and rapidly convert it into a positive image in color or black and white.

According to Bakalo, “To convert the negative of a photo into a positive, all you need is the curves feature in Adobe Lightroom,”

a person holding a film strip with a picture of a woman on it. a film strip with a picture of a woman on it.

It’s really that simple and doesn’t even require a laptop, though you could perform the same process with the Lightroom software on your PC if you prefer the more extensive interface.

Bakalo also explains something that makes this simple technique useful for both black and white and color photos,

“To make the colors in the photo correct, you need to drag the lower left end of the curve to the upper left corner and the upper right end to the lower right corner. If you do everything right, the photo will become colored.”

The TikTok video she posted has already amassed over 27 million views, more than 2 million likes and thousands of comments for its practical simplicity.

Its popularity applies especially because the technique doesn’t even require a special high-end phone of any kind. Most smartphone models, Android or iOS, can handle it just fine.

In the comments for the video and in other posts by different photographers, other methods for scanning film into digital positive images have also been suggested.

One photographer mentioned using the app Filmbox to do something similar, and another talked about working with an “invert filter”. These are available online as free photo color inversion tools.

Image credits: Ksenia Bakalo

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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