How to Scan Slides

Updated on July 30, 2012

Although you can get dedicated slide scanners, many modern flatbed scanners, for example, the Canon CanoScan 5600F which I use, come with an attachment for scanning 35mm slides.

I was delighted to discover my new scanner would let me scan slides, but I nearly wept with frustration trying to follow the instructions telling me how to do it. After much trial and error I got it sussed and hope these instructions will help make the process easier to understand if you want to have a go yourself.

Canon CS5600F Color Image Scanner (2925B002)
Canon CS5600F Color Image Scanner (2925B002)
This is the scanner I use and I've been generally pleased with it so far.

How Long Does it Take to Scan Slides?

With a CanoScan 5600F, In total, including loading and unloading the slides on to the scanner, it takes 5 minutes to scan 4 slides.

To scan an ordinary film’s worth of 24 slides you need to allow yourself half an hour. And if you’ve got boxes and boxes of slides – your winter evenings are going to be filled for months and possibly years to come!

canon slide scanner attachment
canon slide scanner attachment | Source

Scanning Slides with a Canon

  • First find your slide scanning attachment - you may have to scrabble around in the bottom of the box for it. I didn't notice mine when I got the scanner out of the box to start with.
  • Unclip the middle bit and set it aside. (You can use this bit for scanning negative film.)

position the scanner attachment
position the scanner attachment | Source
  • Lift the scanner lid and slot the attachment in to place on the glass plate between the two notches.

remove the white reflector screen
remove the white reflector screen | Source
  • Remove the white screen underneath the lid - It won't scan the slides with this in place.

scanner with slides in place
scanner with slides in place | Source
  • Place your slides as pictured with the narrower edges parallel to the narrower end on the scanner. The CanoScan 5600F scanning attachment has room for 4 slides at once.

select scan and import photos and documents
select scan and import photos and documents | Source
  • On your computer go to devices and printers and select the scanner.
  • Select Image scan
  • Select scan and import
  • Click on photos/documents

tick 'use scanner driver'
tick 'use scanner driver' | Source
  • Tick use the scanner driver and click on open scanner driver.

scanner preview
scanner preview | Source
  • There are various settings which you can play around with, but for starters, leave them as they are and click preview. This will show you what the slides are and you can choose whether to scan them or not.
  • Tick all the ones you want to scan and press scan. This is the time consuming bit. It takes around 3 minutes to scan four slides once you press scan. You may want to do this whilst watching TV, reading a book or cataloguing your CD collection!

select 'retouch and save'
select 'retouch and save' | Source
  • When Scanning is done it gives you the option to retouch and save the images or scan more. For safety’s sake, click 'save the images'.
  • On the next screen if you want to scan more click on scan.

Photos saved in MP Navigator EX
Photos saved in MP Navigator EX | Source
  • Once you’ve scanned all you want click retouch and save and then select exit.
  • All of the images you have scanned should be ticked by default. You now need to click on save in the bottom left of the screen, which means your slides are now saved on your computer. The default setting saves them in the pictures file on your computer in a folder called MP Navigator EX under today’s date.
  • If you want to append the approximate date you took the picture to the file name you will find the date that the slides were processed on the front of your slides.

I use a cleaning cloth from a pair of glasses to clean my scanner bed and flick surface dust from slides.

Common Problems with Scanned Slides

Unfortunately slides do deteriorate over time when kept in ordinary household conditions.

When you open the saved files you will see how well or badly your slides have kept over time. You may find you want to do some airbrushing to remove marks or to adjust some of the scanner settings, for example, if the picture has faded.

If your house is anything like mine, you will also discover mysterious hairs have appeared - sometimes these are on the scanner screen, sometimes they are on the slide - they can be removed with a lint free soft cloth.

In the pictures below you can see when I first scanned the slide (P1) there was a huge hair and a smaller one (circled). Believe it or not, the huge hair (which clearly came from a stray woolly mammoth) wasn't obvious with the naked eye looking at the slide.

I gently wiped the slide on both sides with a dry lint free cloth. Then I re-scanned it (P2). This showed I had successfully removed the larger hair and moved the smaller one (circled).

Rather than scan for a third time I opted to airbrush the small hair out (P3).

I can safely say that having spent hours scanning and then messing around with airbrushing marks and hairs, I am thoroughly converted to the joys of digital cameras, but it is a real pleasure getting the old slides scanned and having easy access to pictures that I hardly ever looked through due to the hassle of setting up the slide projector.

Hairs on Slides

Annoying stray hair and smaller one in circle (p1)
Annoying stray hair and smaller one in circle (p1) | Source
Hair removed with lint free cloth. Smaller one still circled (p2)
Hair removed with lint free cloth. Smaller one still circled (p2) | Source
stray hair has been airbrushed out (p3)
stray hair has been airbrushed out (p3) | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • CarolynLaCroix profile image

      Carolyn LaCroix 

      2 years ago from MA

      Interesting. I had no idea you could scan slides. I have a ton of them. I will have to check out my scanner to see if it can do this.

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Melovy - I hope you find it is a slide scanning attachment. I hadn't noticed mine had one when I bought it. You might find the long Scottish winter evenings aren't long enough if you have loads of slides!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Hmm, this is interesting. We recently bought a Canon scanner- not the same model as your as ours is also a printer. It had a bit that we couldn't figure out its purpose so maybe it's for slides. And I have a few of them. Could this be my winter evenings sewn up?

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Moonlake - it really is worth a go and quite rewarding to have easier access to the memories captured in the slides.

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      Very interesting hub. My scanner has an attachment for scanning 35mm slides. I need to try it sometime it's just one of those things I haven't got to yet. Thanks for all the information. Voted Up on your hub.

    • Nettlemere profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Molmin - Spirit the cat is purring with contentment at the compliment!

      whatsyourwhy - I appreciate your comment and am reassured that you think this will help people from your experience.

      Robie, Summerberrie, Allie, Moviemaster and HousebuyersUS, thank you very much for reading, commenting and voting. It's so good to know that the steps make sense when read by others!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very useful and detailed information, an excellent hub thank you and voted up

    • alliemacb profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Really useful hub and with the detail given and images shown, it would be hardto go wrong. Voted up and useful

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks nettlemare for all the detailed information. Voted up and useful!

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      7 years ago from Ohio

      Very useful info, and I love how you showed all the steps with photos, it helps a lot. :)

    • whatsyourwhy profile image


      7 years ago from The Wilderness

      Very well done. I work in retail and if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me about this I would have a good nest egg.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Really great informative hub with excellent instructions and techniques such as removing marks and airbrushing. What a handsome pussycat!


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