If you have old printed photos from pre-digital times, wouldn’t it be great if you could transfer them to the computer or store them online as digital snaps. You can with Google PhotoScan.

People of a certain age have old paper-based photo albums containing lots of photos. Anyone that was taking photos before the early 2000s will have albums containing dozens and possibly hundreds of photographs.

You might have printed photos, but even if you don’t, your parents certainly will. They might have photographs going back decades. With no backups! A flood, fire, or even just old age will ruin them.

Your old photos should be scanned and stored on the computer and preferably online, privately of course, although you can share them if you want to.

Transfer your photos

The obvious way to to transfer printed photos to the computer and store digital copies is to use a scanner. There are stand-alone scanners, but you are more likely to have an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier.

Scanning in photos using a scanner or all-in-one is slow and tedious. You might be able to scan two, three or four at once, but then you would have to use a photo editor to slice them up into individual photos afterwards. You would also need to upload them if you want them online too.

Google PhotoScan aims to reduce the time and effort of scanning in your old printed photos by using your phone’s camera to take photos.

Photos of photos are often not very good, but PhotoScan cleverly avoids problems like light glare on glossy prints, photos at an angle, and photos not perfectly flat.

It takes a few seconds for each photo, but the result is a digital photo with very even lighting, no glare, and quite good colour. You can do better with a flatbed scanner and Photoshop, but it would take 10 times longer and who has the time?

I used the app to scan in some 20 year old photos taken on even older cameras in bad lighting and the results are quite good. The originals were far from perfect and PhotoScan did better than expected.

1 Frame the photo

Start the app, position the photo in the camera so it fills most of the screen, and then press the button. You don’t need to perfectly position it.

Scan photos with PhotoScan on Android


2 Capture the dots

Four white dots or circles appear on the photo and you must move the phone to position the circle over each dot in turn. A dot disappears when the camera is in the right position and when you have done all four, the scanned photo is saved.

Scan photos with PhotoScan on Android


3 Crop and rotate

PhotoScan does a very good job of straightening photos, cropping the background out, and straightening it. There is an option to rotate and crop images if they were not the right way up when they were scanned, but there is often no need and PhotoScan mostly gets it right automatically.

Scan photos with PhotoScan on Android


4 Save your photos

After scanning in several photos you can switch to the Google Photos app and they are all uploaded and stored online in your albums.

Scan photos with PhotoScan on Android


Don’t let the screenshots put you off. I used some dodgy photos from 20 or 30 years ago and the originals aren’t that good, but that’s how photos were unless you were a professional photographer with seriously expensive kit.

The photos may be bad, but the memories are priceless. Scan them in with PhotoScan and rediscover old photographs.

Title: PhotoScan (Google Play Store)
Developer: Google
Price: Free
Android: 5.0 and up
Verdict: Easier and faster than a scanner. Reasonably good results.