The 3 Best Photo Scanner Apps for Mobile Devices

Go digital with all your photos

A flatbed photo scanner connected to a traditional computer is generally the preferred way of creating digital copies of printed photos. While this method is still popular with those who want the highest quality and precise reproduction/archiving, mobile devices have broadened the scope of digital photography. Not only are smartphones capable of taking fantastic pictures, but they can scan and save old photos too. All you need is a good photo scanner app.

Each of the following (listed in no particular order) has unique and useful aspects to help you scan photos using a smartphone/tablet.

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Google PhotoScan

A hand holding a smartphone, using the Google PhotoScan app to scan a photograph
What We Like
  • Free.

  • Does one thing, but does it well.

  • Stores your scans in Google Photos.

  • Simple and easy to use for quality photos.

  • Fast scanning process is effective at eliminating glare.

What We Don't Like
  • Deep link into Google services; offputting for people who value their privacy.

  • Just a scanner; no meaningful in-app editing tools.

If you like fast and easy, Google PhotoScan will suit your photo digitizing needs. The interface is simple and to the point—all PhotoScan does is scan photos, but in a way that virtually avoids the dreaded glare. The app prompts you to position a photo within the frame before pressing the shutter button. When the four white dots appear, your job is to move the smartphone so that the center aligns with each dot, one by one. PhotoScan takes the five snapshots and stitches them together, thereby correcting perspective and eliminating glare.

All in all, it takes around 25 seconds to scan one photo—15 for aiming the camera and 10 for PhotoScan to processing. Versus many other apps, PhotoScan’s results maintain much better quality/sharpness despite the tendency to come out slightly more exposed. You can view each scanned photo, adjust corners, rotate, and delete as necessary. When ready, one press of a button batch-saves all the scanned photos to your device.

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A trio of smartphones showing different screens of the Photomyne mobile app
What We Like
  • Clean app that supports several photos in one scan.

  • Great tools for saving your scans.

  • Scans and digitizes multiple photos at the same time.

  • Accurate image cropping and auto-rotation.

What We Don't Like
  • Subscription model.

  • Quality of the scanned images isn't as solid as with other apps.

One of the benefits to using a flatbed scanner (with capable software) is the ability to scan multiple photos at once. Photomyne does the same, making quick work of scanning and identifying separate images in each shot. This app can be an ideal time-saver when attempting to digitize images found in albums containing numerous pages filled with physical photos.

Photomyne excels at automatically detecting edges, cropping, and rotating photos – you can still go in and make manual adjustments if desired. There’s also the option to include names, dates, locations, and descriptions on photos. The overall color accuracy is good, although other apps do a better job at minimizing the amount of noise/grain. Photomyne limits the number of free albums for non-subscribing users, but you can easily export (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc.) all digitized photos for safekeeping.

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Microsoft Lens

A piece of printed paper being scanned by the Office Lens app
What We Like
  • App has value beyond just photo scanning.

  • Free and tied to Microsoft services.

  • Works fast, with a few basic edit tools.

  • Maximum scanning resolution for sharper images.

  • Good color accuracy.

What We Don't Like
  • App not optimized for photo scanning.

  • App's potential shines brightest when part of a full Microsoft application stack.

If high-resolution photo scans are the main priority, and if you have a steady hand, flat surface, and ample lighting, the Microsoft Lens app is choice. Although the description touts keywords of productivity, documents, and business, the app does have a photo-capture mode that doesn’t apply enhanced saturation and contrast (these are ideal for recognizing text within documents). But most importantly, MS Lens lets you choose the camera’s scanning resolution—a feature omitted by other scanning apps—all the way to the maximum your device is capable of.

MS Lens is simple and straightforward; there’s minimal settings to adjust and only manual rotating/cropping to perform. However, scans done using MS Lens tend to be sharper, with image resolutions two to four times greater (based on the camera’s megapixels) than those by other apps. Although dependent on ambient lighting, the overall color accuracy is good—you can always use a separate photo-editing app to fine-tune and adjust photos scanned in by MS Lens.

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