Google Photos Team Releases Smartphone Photo Scanner App

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, iOS, Android, Music + Videos with 10 Comments

Google Photos has launched a new mobile app called PhotoScan that will help scan your paper-based photos and upload them to the cloud.

“We all have those old albums and boxes of photos, but we don’t take the time to digitize them because it’s just too hard to get it right,” Google’s Jingyu Cui writes in a new post to the company’s The Keyword blog. We don’t want to mail away our original copy, buying a scanner is costly and time-consuming, and if you try to take a photo of a photo, you end up with crooked edges and glare.”

The new PhotoScan app seeks to solve these problems. And this free new app is separate from Google Photos because scanning old paper-based photos hopefully won’t be something users need to do regularly going forward.

Since I’ve spent a good part of this year scanning in thousands of old paper-based photos—and still have many, many thousands to go—I am obviously very curious about this app. I’m also instantly suspicious that taking a picture of a picture isn’t necessarily the best approach.

But Google says that PhotoScan overcomes the typical issues with this sort of thing by automatically detecting photo edges, auto-straightening and rotating the scans, and removing glare. And your scanned photos can be automatically saved to, wait for it, Google Photos.

Beyond the auto-enhance capabilities, PhotoScan also includes advanced editing features so you can do things like correct the exposure and saturation. The app also provides unique “looks” you can use to apply filters to your photos.

I’m away this week, but I will absolutely be checking this one out with my real photos when I return home. Who knows? This app—perhaps in tandem with a tripod or phone mount of some kind—may actually prove to be a better solution than the manual scanning I’ve been doing.

Google PhotoScan is available for both Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad). You can learn more here as well:


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Comments (10)

10 responses to “Google Photos Team Releases Smartphone Photo Scanner App”

  1. 8217

    Or just use Office Lens

    • 2525

      In reply to Alin_Maior:

      Unfortunately office lens on android is pretty crippled as far as document scanning is concerned. Does it have a photo mode? 

      • 1088

        In reply to IanYates82:

        Yes, you can scan photos with Office Lens.  However, it's usually blemished with a shadow or uneven lighting, etc.  So, this thing seems FAR superior (though I have not used it yet, but at least they have dealt with the lighting issue).  

  2. 5516

    Just downloaded and gave it a spin. I'd say it's still a work in progress, it took me three tries to get my picture good enough that I could finish it up in Photoshop.

  3. 7063

    I just scanned about 20 photos in 5 minutes with PhotoScan, so it is definitely a lot faster than a regular scanner which takes more like 20 photos per hour. The results are decent enough for web viewing, but I would say it's of middle grade quality compared to a scanner. The resolution with PhotoScan is a lot lower and old textured photos often introduce glare artifacts that looks like dust speckles. So PhotoScan is not going to replace a real scanner for permanent archiving.

    Also, I'm not seeing advanced correction tools in the app, only crop and rotate. Once it gets into Google Photos then of course you have basic the tools already in there.

    One feature I think they should add though is some sort of voice dictation or OCR tool for adding descriptions and dates to the photo. A lot of my old photos have details written on the back. Being able to add this stuff quickly from mobile before it ever gets uploaded to Google Photos could be helpful.

  4. 6190

    I have begun a project of scanning in the thousands of slides my dad took over the last 70 years.  Many of them are in poor shape and continue to deteriorate.  He passed away a couple of years ago, and I wish I had done this before that so he could annotate many of the things I don't recognize.  For those of you with older generations still alive, I recommend capturing these memories sooner than later.  If this new google software makes it easier, then this is a good thing.

  5. 289

    This would be more compelling if there were decent tools for editing date/time and location information.  Google Photos offers no way to add a location, and date/time can only be edited one photo at a time, through the web interface.  How about using some of that machine learning and voice recognition?  Let me select a bunch of photos and say "Christmas 1985, at my parent's house".  Since they can recognize someone from baby or childhood photos, how about making some guesses about the date based on apparent age of person in the photo?  Maybe they'll add this stuff at a later date.

    Even though I use Google Photos every day, and have uploaded my existing digital archive, I still get uneasy about it sometimes.  Can you imagine the potential fallout and potential misuse of decades worth of personal photos from millions of people?  Yikes.   

  6. 6503

    I just gave it a try and was disappointed.  It wasn't appreciably faster than a flatbed scanner and the image quality is significantly worse.  Fine for looking at on a phone, but miserable at looking at on a larger screen.  It gives you no control over file naming or anything else like that, so it's just not worth it.

  7. 5285

    OfficeLens works so much better and on the first try. The focus was so far off, and I thought it was my shaky hand, but then used OfficeLens and it worked perfectly.

    • 490

      In reply to geoffpickard:

      as far as clarity I can see how OL might be better because you don't move your phone to multiple spots to make a composite picture. But that same action probably takes care of the glare that OL can't address yet.