Suggested backlight sources for scanning film with DSLR

Diffuser, lots of options, three sheets of tracing paper might work. Whatever you use, make it out of focus. Set up for flash, there are lots of options. I took an old furniture cabinet, cut a hole in the top and shine the flash up from underneath, see photo. Another guy has a glass dining table, flash up from underneath. White plastic cooler material (called “Styrofoam” here" is a great diffuser; you can cut a hole in a cooler, shine the light into the cooler, cut another hole and place film holder over 2nd hole. Or cut up the material, use it to line a diffusion box.

Thank you so much for the detailed answer. I’m still new to this, and your answers and this forum have really helped me. I have one more question, but it’s not directly related to the current topic of this forum, so I apologize for that. If I use an old lens with a 1:2 ratio on an APS-C camera, do I really need an extension tube to achieve a 1:1 ratio on a macro lens?

This is confusing: 1:1 or 1x means the image on sensor is same SIZE as the subject, not that subject fills sensor. To fill the sensor in camera-scan of 35mm file, you want to be 0.67x or 1.5:1 or 2:3. With a legacy macro that only focuses to 1:2, you you won’t fill the sensor so you would waste some pixels. Not the worst thing, just crop. But better results by filling the sensor by adding an extension tube. The most comment extension tube (27.5mmm for the 55 Micro Nikko) gets you to 1x, more than you need. A shorter tube would also do the job.

Hello, I’m new here and Nate referred me to this forum. I have a Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter set and a Nikkor 60mm Macro lens for my D850. I’m needing a good light source. What would you guys recommend (hopefully something from Amazon as I have gift cards) ?


Is there an optimal exposure to get the best results?
I’m a newbie to film digitizing, Lightroom, and internet forums looking for guidance on exposure and conversion with NLP, before starting into production mode. After a month of reading I started to experiment shooting RAW using a Nikon D850 with a Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro lens and the ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter with a SB800 flash as light source. I shoot tethered at f8.0, 1/60th, adjusting the EV value to bracket exposure. From my reading, ETTR seems to be recommended, but how far to the right is too far? Or is better to create HDRs with multiple exposures to get max detail?

I have 15,000 to 20,000 negatives to convert, so I would like to do the best I can the first time. All negatives are concerts I shot from the late 70s till around 1990. Bright subject with a mostly dark background, most negative look thin. My goal is to to capture as much detail as I can from the film, hopefully good enough to print large.

I’ve done some experimenting, going overboard EV-1 to EV+3 in 1/3 stops. The histograms march to the right with each 1/3 stop increase. I can pull the images into Lightroom and follow basic NLP instructions to get a reasonable first result, but have no experience with NLP or Lightroom to judge the quality of my results or how much better they could be. I think the range -1/3 to + 2 2/3 seems to be extremes for my negatives, beyond that the histogram starts to bunch up on the edges. I can get somewhat usable results within this range but think that the slightly better results are in the range +1/3 to +1 2/3. I also did some bracketing using 1/2 stop increments.

My totally inexperienced opinion so far is this:

  1. Making HDRs adds significantly to the workflow, so unless the experts think I could get better result with HDRs in the future when I’ve learned more I’m going to start doing single shots.
  2. An EV +1.5 seems to give me good results that I can work with.

Seeking any advise you may have before I spend significant time on this project. I would post pictures if I knew how but I’m not far on the learning curve for forum skills. Spending my time on Lightroom and NLP.


I have found that doing an HDR of three images that are exposed at -1.5EV->0EV->+1.5EV seems to give me the best results, but as you do point out it does add a lot more work/time in terms of post-processing the images, and for most scans it doesn’t always have a massive benefit to the final image.

So I would recommend especially since have so many negatives, would be to pay (would be likely around $200-$300) a place to do lower quality scans of all your negatives, so you could preview which images you like and are worth keeping, then scan them yourself in high quality.

If you do have enough time you could scan all your negatives yourself, as if you were going to create an HDR but instead only convert one photo to preview the image, and if you like it you could then easily create an HDR of that scan.

It all depends on how much time you have, since scanning and converting 20,000 negatives will take a long time. I take around 5-10 minutes to blend an HDR in LR, convert the image, and tweak it to how I like it.