How To Scan Polaroid Negatives

Lately I’ve really enjoyed scanning the Fujifilm FP-3000B instant film negatives from my various Polaroid Land Cameras. Depending on the subject, the gritty and dated look really adds a nice look and feel to my images. One of my favorite images is of the abandoned farmhouse in Bancroft, Idaho. You can read one of the earlier posts on the Polaroid Big Swinger used to create the photo.

Scanning the film (positive) image is really simple. With a good quality flatbed scanner, and some minor contrast adjustments in Adobe Photoshop, the image looks good. Peeling away the film from the negative moments after the shot is taken is really where the creative experience begins. After removing the film from the negative, what remains is the emulsion and paper. A unique look can be achieved by wiping away the emulsion with a finger, fingernail, paper towel or a tissue. Applying more pressure to the emulsion on the edges of the negative will remove portions of the photo. Leaving blobs of emulsion in some spots will dry and create hard crusty edges. After it’s decided how much or little of the emulsion and paper to leave on the negative, it’s important to let the negative sit and dry in a dust-free environment. Or if the super gritty look is desired, let the negative collect some dust and debris. For the farmhouse image, I let the negative sit in the trunk of the car until I arrived home. Most of the image had dried, some of the paper portions remained stuck to the negative, and it likely collected some dust from the ride home. I let the negative sit for 24 hours, ensuring it was dry, and then scanned it. In Adobe Photoshop, I rotated the image horizontally, inverted the image, and then adjusted levels and contrast. After the photo looked the way I wanted, I cropped and sharpened. Back in 2011, Michael Raso, from the Film Photography Project created this YouTube video about scanning negatives. There really is no wrong or right way to do this. No two negatives will ever look the same.

Click on the images below. First, look at the scanned film. Then compare it to the scanned negative. It’s almost an entirely different photo. No Photoshop crazy-gimmicky-plug-in required to create the intense analog look.  


5 thoughts on “How To Scan Polaroid Negatives

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! How do you scan Polaroid pack film negatives on that scanner? I don’t want to lose any borders of the negative…and can’t figure out which scanner will do the job (that’s not super pricey). Any details on the process you use would be much appreciated.


      2. Oh and I’m using Fp-100c, so it’s a bleached/washed negative that I’m trying to scan. Unfortunately I threw away my other negatives from different film types before seeing your your post/link to Michael’s video 😦
        Not sure if the process is the same for fp100c actual negative or if that needs to be scanned as film/in a holder or something- or if I can just lay it on the bed and scan like a photo/adjust levels afterward?


      3. I’ve not scanned bleached color negatives. It shouldn’t matter what scanner is used. It’s just a matter of know the scanning software, or Photoshop.


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