What Is Google PhotoScan and How Does It Work?

What the Google scanner app can do

Google PhotoScan is a Google Photos companion app that lets users scan and digitize print photos on the fly. Not only can PhotoScan capture print photos in digital form, it can automatically correct edges, adjust perspective, and remove glare and reflections.

The idea behind the app was to create a photo scanner that works with existing photo storage and sharing applications. That means you can capture images with PhotoScan and store them in Google Photos, Dropbox, or any other cloud storage service.

How Google PhotoScan Works

One of the best features of PhotoScan is that as long as you carry your smartphone, you have a photo scanner with you. You could use the camera on your device to capture a picture of a picture, but if you’ve ever tried to do that, you know that fighting glare, ambient light, and flashes is a tricky task. Getting the photo lined up properly is also a chore.

A picture of a picture of a young child.

Google PhotoScan removes those obstacles to digitizing old photos. It works by capturing an image from multiple angles and then stitching together the image, without the glare, into one complete photo. In the process, the app aligns the edges of the photo and the orientation, so your picture is always displayed properly. In the event that PhotoScan captures too much of the surface on which your photo is resting, adjusting it is easy.

Google PhotoScan scans images at 72 pixels per inch. That’s a perfectly fine resolution for sharing images online, but if you plan to print your images you may need to look for a more high-res solution.

How to Use the Google Scanner App to Digitize Photos

Google PhotoScan is available for iOS or Android devices. Once you’ve downloaded it, the install process is easy.

  1. When you launch the app, a short video will illustrate how to scan photos. Select Start Scanning to walk through the install process.

  2. You have to grant permission for PhotoScan to take and record video and to access photos, media, and other files on your device. Select Allow on the two permission screens.

  3. Once you’ve allowed those permissions, the Scan screen opens and you can begin scanning your photos. The first time you scan a photo, PhotoScan will walk you through the process.

    Photoscan first use

How to Scan Photos

Here's how to scan a photo:

  1. Place the photo you want to scan on a flat surface.

    You can scan pictures that are hanging on a wall or behind a glass frame.

  2. Select the Shutter button to take the picture.

  3. PhotoScan prompts you to place an empty circle over a white dot. When the circle meets the dot, hold it there until the dot turns blue.

  4. Repeat the process with the remaining dots to finish the scan.

  5. Once the scan is complete, a green checkmark appears on the screen to let you know the scan has been captured.

    Screenshots of Google PhotoScan scanning an image.

Photo Scanning Tips

  • When scanning photos, you should place photos on a contrasting background to ensure that the image is captured correctly.
  • If you’re scanning on a rug, place a sheet of white paper between the photo and the rug, as the texture can cause inaccuracies.
  • Use a well-lighted area to capture scans, and don’t worry about glare. PhotoScan removes glare during the processing.

How to Adjust Scanned Photos

Scanned photos are sometimes stitched together incorrectly. If that happens, just rescan the image, making sure to keep the circle on the white dot until it turns blue. If the image is still distorted when you scan it, try placing it on a different background. Images may also be turned sideways during capture. To fix this, select the Rotate button. Once you’ve righted the picture, it will stay that way.

With small pictures, you may find that the photo scan is larger than the actual image, which captures too much of the surface the picture is resting on. To correct that, select Adjust corners and then tap and drag the white corner dots to the correct position. There is a circle that magnifies the area around the dot to help you better align the corners. When you’ve finished, select Done.

Adjusting scanned photo

How to Share Google PhotoScan Images

Once you’ve captured and adjusted you picture, it is automatically stored in your device’s storage space or on Google Photos. You also have the option to upload the image to a storage space or social media.

With the image open, select the Share menu icon in the upper right corner. The share menu opens and you can scroll through it to select the service you would like to use to upload or share your image.

Sharing images in Google PhotoScan