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7 Great tips for scanning photos with iPhone and iPad

Scanning photos is easy and fast with apps

If you are short on time, or need to scan photos on the fly,  just use an iPhone or iPad and a good photo scanning app. It’s much faster and easier than hooking up a desktop scanner to your computer, scanning one photo at a time, then manually cropping, saving and organizing them.


How’s the image resolution when you scan with iPhone?

Very good. Current iPhone and iPad models have 12 megapixel cameras, and their digital sensors are very good. In practical terms, this means that you can get high resolution pictures even in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Of course, you could simply use the iPhone (or iPad)’s Camera app to take photo of a photo, and crop and enhance it with Photos app’s (modest) tools. If you have a handful of photos, you could do this.

Have HUNDREDS of photos: Loose, framed, in albums?

If you have stacks of old photos in need of some TLC, you want a simple way to scan, crop, enhance, and do a few other things to preserve and make them shareable. Desktop or flatbed scanners are perfect if you need professional quality scans, but they can be frustratingly tedious to use, especially if your photos are framed or glued into old-fashioned albums.

Simpler alternatives for scanning photos are mobile apps such as Pic Scanner Gold and its lite version, Pic Scanner. Both of these let you scan four photos at a time (or an entire album page). They then detect, separate, enhance and save all the photos as individual images. It’s a fast, easy, and inexpensive way of scanning photos. Pic Scanner Gold is meant for newer devices (iPhone 6s and newer), and has more features. Pic Scanner is for older devices. You can read about these apps, and download them, at the links given above, or at their website.


To get high quality scans with these apps, you need to follow a few simple rules.

7 Great tips for scanning photos with iPhone

To scan with your smartphone, iPad or a digital camera, remember a few things:

1. Lighting: Ensure good ambient lighting. If you can, scan in natural daylight. You don’t want the sun shining directly on the photos, but indirect or reflected light; so scan near a window. It’s harder to avoid glare and reflections under artificial (electric) light. Colors will also not be reproduced faithfully, especially if scanning under fluorescent light. Can you guess which of the following scans was done by daylight and which under a table lamp?

2      2a

2. No flash: Never use flash while scanning, for precisely the reasons mentioned above regarding electric and fluorescent lighting. Turn OFF flash before you scan. See the reflections and flash glare in the photos below:

glare reflections scanned photo      scanned pic with flash glare

3. No zoom: Using the digital zoom on your smartphone will reduce image resolution. Bring the camera closer to the photo being scanned, instead of holding it further away and zooming in. As explains, “Digital zoom….takes a central portion of the image and enlarges it, thus ‘simulating’ optical zoom. In other words, the camera crops a portion of the image and then enlarges it back to size. In so doing, you lose image quality.”

4. Scan fewer: Scanning four at a time is faster, but you’ll lose on resolution. If you scan one or two photos at a time, you’ll get much sharper scans.

Fewer photos per frame


5. Steady hands: Since the photos being scanned are close to the camera, you must hold the iPhone or iPad very steady while scanning. Can be difficult, especially with iPad. An easy solution is to place the iPhone or iPad on a locker stand, and position the photos below it. Use a Bluetooth remote or your iPhone’s headphone cable to operate the camera shutter remotely.

6. Hold camera closer: Don’t hold the camera so far that in the viewfinder, the photos look like postage stamps. And don’t hold it so close that the photos extend beyond the scanner frame. All four corners of every photo must be visible in the scan.

Background OK     Camera too far     Camera too close

In the above examples, #1 is the correct way to scan. In #2, the camera is too far. Too much background; too little photo. So, while cropping will be correct, more pixels will be discarded and you’ll get a low resolution scan. #3 is also wrong, because if the camera is too close and the photo extends beyond the scanner frame, cropping may be inaccurate.

7. Tap to focus: iOS cameras auto-focus pretty fast, but if the photos look blurred in the viewfinder, the scans will also be blurry. Tap the screen once to force focus, and then tap the shutter.

Give it a try

Download any of the above apps and give it a try. With the above tips and a bit of practice, you could be re-living your cherished old memories and sharing them with loved ones in under an hour!

Find more tips on auto-cropping, editing, creating albums etc. elsewhere in this blog, or email support (at) picscannerapp (dot) com.