Scan printed photos into the Photos app on your Apple Mac

Hardly anyone prints photographs these days, but you, or your parents, might have lots of old snapshots from years ago. How do you get them into the Photos app on your Mac?

Everyone has old printed photographs in the family and you might have ones taken yourself before mobile phones and even before digital cameras became popular. Our parents, grandparents and other relatives will also have boxes and albums full of old photo prints too.

All these old snaps should be digitised and stored in the Photos app on your Mac. There are several advantages of doing this:

  • Photos can easily be found when you want to view them.
  • Photos can be organised into albums.
  • Photos can be turned into slide shows.
  • Photos can be used as desktop backgrounds.
  • Photos can be repaired and enhanced.
  • Photos are backed up on the Mac and online.

To turn printed photos into digital ones requires a scanner. This could be a stand-alone model, but all-in-one devices that print, scan and copy are very popular these days and they will do the job too.

I have an old HP DeskJet 3050 all-in-one device that is wireless and does everything. Your printer/scanner will be a different model, but it will work the same way.

The device’s software could be used to scan in the photos, but instead the Image Capture app will be used. It is bundled with OS X and is in the Applications folder. (Look in the Applications/Utilities folder if it is not there.)

Put a photograph in the scanner.

Run the app and devices are displayed on the left. It does not look very exciting and is very grey, but go down to the bottom and select Detect Enclosing Box in the size list, which is set to A4 by default.

Scan photos on the Mac

The window changes to show a preview of the photo, but if you do not see it, click the Overview button.

Scan photos on the Mac

The area to scan is outlined and it can be adjusted by dragging the handles - the blue circles in the corners and the middle of the sides. The handle in the middle on the right is to rotate the selected scan box.

Scan photos on the Mac

Set the resolution by clicking the menu and selecting one of the numbers on the list. The higher the resolution the bigger the digital image will be. Avoid low resolutions like 75 dpi because the quality will be too low and select 300 or 600 dpi.

There probably will not be any benefit in selecting a higher resolution and a 6in photo at 300 dpi will be 1800 pixels wide (6 x 300). It was probably only printed at 300 dpi anyway and although it will be 3600 pixels wide at 600 dpi, it probably will not be any sharper. It is worth experimenting and trying both resolutions, but I found 300 dpi was fine.

Scan photos on the Mac

The Kind should be set to colour.

Scan photos on the Mac

The folder the image is saved to and the name should be set. Also select the format in the list. For most people the JPEG file format is the best. Technically TIFF is better because JPEGs are compromise by trading quality for size, but you will end up with huge image files and they might not be noticeably better than the JPEGs unless you are a professional photographer with high quality prints.

Scan photos on the Mac

If the Image Correction is set to Manual, controls appear that enable you to adjust the brightness, tint, temperature and saturation. Although it is possible to fix bad photos as you scan them, this can always be done afterwards, either in the Photos app or another photo editor. Leave these controls in their default positions.

Scan photos on the Mac

Click the Scan button and the image is scanned with the current settings and the image is saved to the selected folder. Scan all your photos before moving on to the next step.

After scanning a bunch of prints, open the Photos app and select Import on the File menu.

Scan photos on the Mac

Select the folder the photos were saved to and select the images. I just scanned one snapshot, but you should do a whole batch of them in one go. Click Review for Import to import all the photos into Photos.

Import photos on the Mac

Go to the Photos menu and select Preferences followed by the General tab. Next to Importing is Copy items to the Photos library. If this is ticked, you can delete the photo file saved by the scanner because the Photos app has made an exact copy in its library.

Scan photos on the Mac

I have just scanned one photo here, but in practise you would scan a whole roll - films rolls for cameras typically came in 24 or 36 photo sizes. It takes time, so do this when you have an hour to spare.




Your example shows you scanning first to a folder, THEN importing from that folder into the Photos app. One of the selections in Image Capture on the 'Scan To' pulldown is "Photo's app". Before Yosemite, this would work and scanned items would go DIRECTLY into Photos. Now it does not. It goes to La-La Land. Something changed and has yet to be addressed.

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