Digitize Photos with a Smartphone
Updated: Jul 14, 2020
Why Scan Photos?
Family media are some of our most treasured possessions and are deteriorating with age, being damaged with poor storage (in unregulated attics, basements & garages), AND should be digitized. There are options to Do-It-Yourself... although movie film is a challenge — OR using a digitizing service, to ensure precious family memories are not lost.
SEE Preserve Old Family Media six part series : 1. Store & Digitize an overview for all family media; 2. Photos; 3. Paper; 4. Photo Film; 5. Movie Film; 6. Videos for specific details of each media type
The memories that our family photos hold are particularly precious and worth much more than the paper they are printed on. Creating digital copies of original physical photographs is the BEST WAY to preserve, organize, share and enjoy these priceless family treasures today... and pass on to future generations for prosperity tomorrow.
How to Scan Photos
As luck would have it..... while time-consuming our family photos can be easily digitized with readily available home equipment (scanner/printer/smartphone). Once scanned, old photos can be digitally re -stored; re-sized and any number of digital/printed copies can be made and shared. They can also be viewed on multiple devices; and uploaded to various internet locations — Social Media sites, cloud storage etc...
Use a Smartphone
Since hitting the market, smartphones have been broadening the scope of digital photography. With each new version, manufacturers have focused on improving the camera function in some way — better storage, image resolution and/or cool new image-enhancing features — to the point that we are now able to capture professional-like photographs with our smartphones.
So why not use a smartphone to scan and save old photos?.....
Well... where possible a scanner — dedicated photo scanners are best — is the BETTER way to digitize photos: better reproduction, resolution selection, more accurate color, no glare/shadow issues, ....
Still... using a smartphone is an easy and quick way to take a "picture." It is always with you and a good option for framed photos that can't be taken out.
But.... if you've ever tried to take a picture of a picture just using your phone’s camera app, you'll know how difficult it is to get a true reproduction in ambient light without shadows, distortion, and glare. Even getting the photo lined up properly can be tricky.
So... you guessed it..... there is a Photo Scan App for that!!!
1. Use a Photo Scan App
There are Photo Scan apps that can help to remove these features and guide you through the scanning process.
ONLY available either for iOS (Photo Scanner Plus, Pic Scanner) or Android (Photo Scanner, Old Photo Scanner)
Free — or need to be purchased — or require subscription
Document scanners that can also scan photos — Cam Scanner
Also photo editors PhotoScanner.PhotoEditor, Photo Scan, Photo Editor- Quisque
The most popular, available on either platform, are Photo Scan App by Photomyne and PhotoScan by Google Photos.
Google PhotoScan Photomyne Photo Scan App Initio Pic Scanner INTSIG CamScanner
2. Prepare Photos and Camera Lens
Regardless of which App you use, for best results, it is a good idea to clean both the photos and smartphone camera lens, so as not to include 'extra' unwanted features in the scans.
Remove any dust or dirt from your prints using a soft, lint-free (microfiber) cloth or a squirt of compressed air — Don't use paper towels or tissues... these leave debris and may even scratch the surface of your photos
If the prints are really dirty you can first use an alcohol-based cleaning wipe.
Use a microfiber cloth to clean the smartphone camera lens.
You can also use a little glass cleaner on a microfiber or alcohol-based cleaning wipe to get rid of smudges or other contaminants on the lens BUT then use a dry microfiber cloth to dry off any remaining moisture or residue .
3. Use Google PhotoScan
The FREE Google PhotoScan app is widely considered the front-runner in the App Stores.
The App employs Google's mega algorithms and neural net technologies to process multiple shot image layers to automatically detects the edges of photos, improve quality, reduce glare and correct distortion. The App has four separate interface screens:
The Scanning screen resembles a typical smartphone camera viewfinder
The Gallery screen shows saved scans
The Image screen — from where the image can be rotated/deleted/shared
The Adjust corners screen — from where the size & shape of the scan can adjusted.
The procedure to scan a photo is:
1. Open the App
Tap the Google PhotoScan App icon to open the Scanning screen. At the top of viewfinder you are prompted to "Position photo within frame"
At the bottom of the screen (left to right ) there are icons to:
Turn on/off Flash. Turning this on helps remove residual glare, shadows. If possible remove photos from album sleeves to reduce glare and for photos is in a glass frame be sure to turn on the flash.
Turn on/off Glare removal. If you turn this off you won't have to move your phone to scan but there will be no glare removal processing.
Shutter button to take picture, start/stop scan.
Small circular Thumbnail of most recent scan, tapping this opens Gallery screen.
2. Frame the Photo
To better frame the photo to be scanned, it should be:
on a flat surface (e.g. a table) or a wall ( e.g. a framed picture)
on a contrasting background, if possible, to help with edge detection
close enough for the photo to fill most of the viewfinder.
3. Scan the Photo
When the photo is positioned correctly in the viewfinder and the phone is held level over /in front of the image:
Tap the Shutter button
An empty white circle with a small arrow appears in the center of the photo with four white dots around the corners of the image.
Moving the phone towards one of the dots swivels the arrow in that direction.
Once over a dot, a blue line traces through the circle. When it reaches the starting point of the circle, the touched dot turns blue and disappears.
The arrow then swivels to point to another dot.
Keep the phone flat and physically move it (i.e. don't tilt it) to touch each circle one after the other.
Once all the dots disappear the scans are complete
The App then processes the captured images from the multiple angles and "stitches" their best qualities together into one complete photo thereby correcting perspective and eliminating glare. In the process, the app aligns the edges of the photo and the orientation to provide the scanned picture.
A green arrow appears on the screen when the process is complete.
4. Gallery Screen
Tapping the Thumbnail opens the Gallery screen. From here tap:
The top left back arrow to return to the Scanning screen
An image to 'open it' in the Image screen.
The 3 dots (top right) to toggle a Select, Send feedback & Help overlay at the bottom of the screen.
5. Image Screen
At the top of the screen (left to right):
The back arrow returns to the Gallery
The Save button launches the phones save/share interface with options to print/copy/save/share/edit etc.. through other Apps on your device.
The 3 dots toggles a Send feedback & Help overlay at the bottom of the screen.
At the bottom of the Image screen (left to right ) there are icons to:
Rotate the image - 90 degrees anti-clockwise with each tap
Open the Adjust corners screen (see below)
Delete the Image
6. Adjust Corners
The 'viewfinder' of the Adjust Corners screen shows the scanned image surrounded by the background and is framed by 4 white lines and corner dots:
Press and move the frame lines and corner circles to enlarge/crop/straighten the image.
When pressing the frame/dots a magnified circular view of the spot opens above the image to help with adjusting.
At the bottom of the Adjust Corners screen (left to right ) :
Tap RESET if not satisfied with tweaks
Tap DONE to save edited version of scan
The App (if it doesn't like your edits) may open a notice above the scan asking: Allow "PhotoScan" to modify this photo? With options to Modify or Don't Allow and the changes are saved.
Here are the results of the photo scanned (from left to right): just with a smartphone, a smartphone using Google PhotoScan and with a scanner (see Digitize Photos at home with a Scanner for more info ).
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Blog — to see more posts about Why and How -To preserve, organize, plan and present family media (there are a number in the works).
Resources — for external links, useful information, products, services... and more!
FAQ — this may answer some of the questions you have;
Services — to see the personalized guidance solutions that Digital Kreation offers.
The information presented in this Blog is an accumulation of my own experience and internet searches. I am not affiliated with any of the institutions, services or products that are mentioned.