What Is Google PhotoScan and How Does It Work?

What the Google scanner app can do

A picture of a picture beside a Google PhotoScan Image.

Google PhotoScan is a Google Photos companion app that lets users scan and digitize print photos on the fly. The app not only captures a print photos in digital format, but it also offers automatic edge correct, will adjust the perspective of the photo, removes glare and reflections, and includes smart rotation so your photos are always shown correctly.

According to Google, the company wanted to create a photo scanner that was available where you need it but also wanted to make the images that are captured with that scanner available through a number of photo storage and sharing applications. What that means is that you can capture images with PhotoScan and store them in your Google Photos account, or in your Dropbox account, or anywhere else that you prefer.

How the 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 the glare of surrounding lights or the flash 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 an easy process.

Google PhotoScan scan images at 72 pixels per inch. That’s a perfectly fine resolution for sharing images online, but if you plan to print the images you’re scanning you may be disappointed with the results.

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. Tap Install from your app store provider and a video screen opens. The short video that plays illustrates how to scan photos. Tap 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 files on your device. Tap 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.

    Google PhotoScan installation screenshots.

How to Scan Photos

When scanning photos, Google recommends that you place photos on a contrasting background to ensure the image is captured correctly. If you’re scanning on a rug, place a sheet of plain, white paper between the photo and the rug as the texture of the rug could cause the scan to be inaccurate. Also use a well-lighted area to capture scans. Don’t worry about any glare on the image. PhotoScan removes glare during the processing.

To scan a photo:

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

    You can even scan pictures hanging on the wall, through the glass in a frame. PhotoScan will sort it out.

  2. Tap 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 arrow appears on the screen to let you know the scan has been captured.

    Screenshots of Google PhotoScan scanning an image.

How to Adjust Scanned Photos

Occasionally, when you scan a photo it will be stitched together improperly. 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 that, tap the Rotate button. Once you’ve righted the picture, it will stay that way.

Screenshots of adjusting an image in Google PhotoScan.

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, tap Adjust corners and then tap and drag the white corner dots to the correct position. There is a circle on-screen that magnifies the area around the dot to help you better align the corners. When you’ve finished, tap Done.

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, but you have the option to choose to upload the image to other storage spaces or to share with friends.

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

Screenshots of sharing images in Google PhotoScan.