Smartphone Camera Tip: Viewing Old Negatives

By Maureen A. Taylor

I’m a relatively new smartphone user. While I was waiting for an upgrade, lots of folks got iPhones and other types of smartphones. A few months ago, I finally qualified and picked up a Samsung Galaxy.

Some attendees to last month’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show brought negatives with them for us to decipher. James Morley, of What’s That Picture showed me a neat trick with the camera function. If you find yourself facing a batch of negatives at a relative’s house and own a smart phone, try the following:

  • Select your camera app
  • Go to settings. On my phone it looks like a gear.
  • Select Effects
  • Select Negative

Point your camera at the negative and take a picture. It becomes a positive image. This was taken quickly and it works for identification purposes. It’s only a low-resolution picture. Although this isn’t a high quality picture worth printing, it’s a great way to preview those negatives.

editWDYTYA negative.jpg

My apologies to the woman who brought in this glass negative—I can’t find your name in my London notes. Thank you for letting me use your picture to illustrate this article.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album