Got old photos? Here are the best ways to scan them into digital files

Technology

You probably have some old photos sitting in boxes somewhere in your house or garage. And chances are, you’ve been meaning to scan them in. Here are some ways that make it easy.

Have someone else do it

We met up with a company named Scantastic that serves Orange County, Los Angeles and Ventura County. They come to you to scan your photos.

“It was clear to me that the best way to do it was to come in and do it in people’s homes… it’s the quickest, most efficient way and the most secure way,” explained Mike Margolis, who started the company after researching a way to scan his own family’s archive of photos.

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Scantastic had to pause in-house operations for a bit during the pandemic, but Margolis tells me they are back up and running with COVID safety procedures in place. This includes fully vaccinated and masked employees. Scanning is done custom with various devices and runs about $100 an hour. The company is also now offering free pickup and delivery if customers prefer.

If you don’t mind sending your photos off to be scanned, another fantastic option is Irvine-based ScanMyPhotos.com. We met up with them several years ago for a segment and it’s hard to believe just how many photos they are receiving and scanning daily.

I was so impressed, it’s where I ended up sending my collection of printed photos to have them scanned. The job was done perfectly, and the turnaround time was very reasonable. If you’re worried about sending your photos through the mail, locals have the option of dropping their boxes of old photos off to the company’s Irvine offices.

You could also search Yelp for a photo scanning service near you. There are many smaller operations, just look for a company with lots of complimentary reviews. I would call your top two choices and go with the one that you get a better feeling for after speaking with them.

Use a scanner

If you have an all-in-one printer in your house, you might already have a photo scanner! HP and others typically have companion apps that will let you do most of the work right from your phone. Lay a photo on the flatbed, hit scan and watch it appear on your phone screen. It’s time consuming, but it works.

A dedicated photo scanner is faster, but more expensive. Epson makes one I’ve tested and it’s a super-fast way to scan a stack of prints. I also like models from ScanSnap.

Use an App

Don’t just take a photo of your printed photo. Sure, it might look passable on your phone screen but it’s not your best option. Instead, use an app like Google’s Photoscan to digitally “scan” a printed photo with your phone’s camera. The trick here is that Google makes you take several snapshots, then uses AI to stitch them together and remove any reflection from light. This option is free for unlimited use.

Photomyne App

Another option is Photomyne’s excellent photo scanning app. It’s fast, can handle multiple photos at once and makes the process feel effortless. It can even colorize black and white photos. Unlike Google’s app, Photomyne doesn’t necessarily take care of glare, so you’ll want to scan your photos in an area with plenty of natural light. Photomyne gives you some scanning for free but if you have a lot of pictures you’ll want to pay to upgrade.

Enjoy your photos

Once your photos are scanned, I highly recommend putting them into a cloud app for safekeeping. Google Photos is great since it can identify the people in your pictures, as can iCloud on an iPhone. Amazon Photos is great since it offers unlimited storage to Prime members.

Listen to the Rich on Tech podcast for answers to your tech questions.

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