The Best Way to Scan Your Old Photos (And Why You Should)

By | March 6, 2022

Are you staring at your box filled with old photos? Memories are priceless, but the practical aspect of preserving, preserving, and sorting through old photo albums can be daunting.

Fortunately, there are a number of great solutions out there that will allow you to digitize your photos quickly and easily. But which is the best way to scan old photos? It depends on how many you have, your budget, what you want to do with photos, and how much free time you have.

Why You Should Scan Old Photos

Taking the time to turn your precious physical photos into digital copies isn’t as easy as leaving them in a photo album or box. Even if you enjoy shooting with movies, or keep physical memories in your hands, there are a number of reasons why you might want to consider this option.

It’s easy to damage physical photos. Water damage, discoloration, and accidental tears are legitimate issues that can ruin your precious photos forever. Making digital copies allows you to make as many backups as possible — so you don’t have to worry about losing your entire family history in the event of a flood or fire.

Photo albums, frames, and storage boxes can take up a lot of space in your home. On the other hand, you can store hundreds of thousands of digital copies on a single external hard drive the size of a deck of cards.

Family photos are meant to be shared. Having a digital copy ensures that no one has to go without favorite childhood memories every family member can have access to every photo ever taken.

Digital photos allow you to correct blemishes, adjust white balance or exposure, or crop your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend if needed. These adjustments cannot be made to the same degree as physical photos, and you want your precious photos to look their best.

Honestly, everyone should consider scanning at least some of their old photos. It may take time or money to get started, but the benefits of having old photos protected, shared, and edited completely outweigh the costs.

And you can always start with your most prized photos; You don’t have to scan your entire collection at once.

Option 1: Scan Old Photos at Home

Scanning your photos at home in the scanner is time-consuming, but it also gives you complete control over how your photos are organized, scanned, and saved. Plus it can be a lot of fun to relive old memories.

If you’re on a Mac, check out how you can use the Image Capture app to scan old photos.

Strategies for Scanning Old Photos at Home

If you’ve never done a large-scale scanning project like this before, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind.

Organized. Will you scan photos in chronological order? In order of importance? How are you going to set it up on your computer or external hard drive? Consider using a file naming and sorting system so it’s easy to find the photos you’re looking for. You may also want to consider a strategy for tracking who is in each photo.

Be selective. Think about how many photos you take on your phone that you delete right away. You don’t have to save all the photos you’ve ever taken. Scan only the people who are important to you.

Careful. Remove dust from your photos and from your scanner using a non-abrasive cloth. This ensures that your images are as clear as possible, without any annoying specks of dust. And if you’re using a scanner that doesn’t preview your photos, check your scans every hour or so to make sure they’re scanning and saving properly.

Check your settings. All scans are not created equal. For scanning photos you’ll want to use a minimum quality setting of 300 dpi (but consider going as high as 600 dpi if you plan on enlarging any photos). Plus, even if you’re scanning in black and white or sepia, choosing to scan in color will give you the best chance of making edits and modifications to your digital photos.

Prepared. You will probably spend more than a few hours with these photos. Why not put a TV show in the background, listen to your favorite music on Spotify, or surround yourself with friends and family for a photo-scanning party and share memories while you dig through your photos.

Option 2: Using an App to Scan Old Photos

If you just need a quick way to scan old photos digitally, you probably don’t want to invest money in an image scanner. Or maybe you’re at a family member’s house and only have access to your phone.

Of course, you can always take photos using your phone’s camera app. However, you run the risk of creating shadows, distortion, and glare. This app helps remove these features and guides you through the scanning process

It may come as no surprise that one of the best app options out there is the free PhotoScan app from Google. This app takes multiple photos of each print to improve quality, eliminate glare, and correct any distortion. And even better, the app can be fully integrated with all the great Google Photos features you already know and love.

Download: PhotoScan for iOS | Android (Free)

Option 3: Photo Scan Service

Of course, the easiest way to tackle this project is to hire a photo scanning service. While this is a wonderful way to reduce the amount of time involved in the project, it does come with a few downsides.

You have to send your family photos to strangers, often trust the email system with some of your most cherished memories. Plus, strangers will see every photo you send them (so you might want to do some sort of scratch first anyways). You will also lose control over how your photos are arranged.

When choosing a service to scan your photos, don’t forget about your local photography studio. While not all locations will offer this service (and the price may be higher), this option may offer you peace of mind. This can also be a more appropriate choice if you only want a few scanned photos, and want them to be of high quality.

What to Do After Your Photo is Scanned

No matter how you choose to digitize old photos, the end result will be more space in your home, memories safe from harm, and a sense of relief. Now that you have all these fantastic digital images, your options are endless.

You can send copies of your photos to family and friends, create slideshows for your next family event, and/or share great awkward photos online for instant likes and comments. Or, if you really want to show it off, consider creating a digital photo book that you can display without risking damage to those precious originals.

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