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Prints from glass plates

by | Jul 23, 2017 | Chrishall Archive Group (CAG) | 2 comments

glass slides and box

I have had such a fun morning.  A little while ago I was handed a box of glass plates which had been found many, many years ago when a local house was being cleared.  These were glass plate negatives of photographs and contained pictures of family groups as well as individuals, people in a carriage and family pets such as horses and dogs.  They are lovely pictures and I admired them as I held them up to the window to see the pictures from the light.

How to get copies of those pictures that I could use though?  This morning messing around with screens and cameras and some starter guidance from the web of course, we came up with the following and I was delighted with the results.

Now I’m sure this can be improved upon but I decided to record what we had done here so that it might be useful in future and also for anyone who is facing the same temptations of glass slides and no prints!

glass slide printsEquipment we used:

  • ipad
  • android phone
  • ipad frame – (in this case the Belkin tablet stage)
  • photo editing software



  1. On the ipad go to Settings and Accessibility.  Set the screen to ‘inverted colours’ and ‘greyscale’.  Since the glass slides are like negatives, this will show the prints how they would be printed out.  Pictures will ‘revert’ to negative when you take them from the ipad to another computer as this is just for viewing but it does give you an initial preview of how they will look.
  2. Set the phone to have a white background.  This is going to provide the lightbox type source of light needed to light up the slide.  We did this by just taking a picture of a white screen on the phone and using that as a background.
  3. Place the phone on the base of your frame or stage under the ipad that is going to take the photos.
  4. Place the glass slide on the phone.
  5. Take photo!
  6. You can then edit the photographs in your favourite photo editing software, remembering to invert the colours again.

I was so impressed at the quality of picture this simple process provided.  It was wonderful to see these photographs almost bouncing back to life as you invert the colours from the negative.  And because you are using the camera on the ipad – or an iphone would work equally well – you can zoom in to great detail.

These old photographers with their glass plates really knew how to take a high quality photograph!

hamlet house photo from glass plate


  1. Gordon Ridgewell

    Why didn’t you just scan them and invert.

    • Rosemarie Gant

      Because I read that glass slides don’t scan well on a flat bed scanner and I was concerned about any damage I might do by putting them in the scanner – although they do seem pretty robust and I’m sure in retrospect they would have been fine. But laying them on a phone screen for a few seconds seemed better. I don’t know. Have you scanned glass slides on a flat bed?


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