Do you have old photos just lying around, perhaps rotting away? Digitizing them would be an ideal solution to keeping them safe for future viewing, but doing so is a very time-consuming chore. Luckily for you, there is a demand out there to make this an easier task, and when there is a strong demand, a solution follows shortly thereafter. That solution is Google’s PhotoScan app, a free app that allows you to scan photos quickly with your smartphone or tablet.
Now, you might be thinking that you have tried this before and all it does is take a photo of a photo. However, in this instance you would be wrong, sort of. With this app, your smartphone takes several photos (five, to be exact) and stitches them together to provide a very decent scanned photo. Now you can digitize photos on the wall, in a photo album, or in a frame (without having to remove the actual photo). I have already used it a few times in various settings, and I can say that I am very pleased with the fine folks at Google and their (free) product. It will get rid of glares (as long as you turn off the flash function – see below), something that is the scourge of photographing photos in picture frames.
Here are some screenshots from my attempt to scan a framed photo of my boy. The first photo is your first step. Once you have the photo lined up correctly and you have taken the initial photo (by touching the large white circle at the center bottom), a new screen appears with four white dots at or near the corners of your photo. Follow the directions (arrows) to place the thin-lined white circle over each solid white circle. After you match up all four, the app does its magic and presents you with the output, which you can touch up by rotating it or adjusting the corners. Lastly, you have the option to either save it to your camera roll or delete it.
Here’s another example: digitally scanning of my degree. I didn’t edit the second photo at all; I simply saved it once it completed its action. I had the flash on, as you can tell by the glare on the school’s seal. If I did it again, I would obviously turn off the flash.
Fair warning: this, of course, will not provide you as good a scan as would a flatbed scanner set at a very good resolution. But, this is a great beginning, and a possible stop-gap until someone comes up with something better (oh, it will happen).
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence