How to scan photos with your smartphone

Ever wanted to digitise your old photograph collection for yourself or friends and family? We’ve researched 3 of the best ways to scan your photographs and save and share them online using free apps and in built features available on your Android smartphone.

1. Take a photo

The first option is a simple one. All you need to do is take a photo of your photograph using the camera on your phone. Depending on the quality of your camera and the lighting, it may take a few tries to get a perfect snap of your picture in sharp focus without any glare or reflections. But once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have the image saved to your gallery for you to edit and share as you would with any photo taken on your phone!

  1. Open Your Camera
  2. Place the photo on a flat surface in bright, evenly lit room
  3. Hold your phone directly over the image, taking care to hold it parallel with the photo
  4. Take the photo and edit where needed

2. Use the PhotoScan app by Google

Available on both the Google Play and Apple Stores, this advanced scanning app that digitally scans your image just like a printer would, giving you an exact enhanced copy of your original photo. It works similarly to the ‘Scan Documents’ feature on Google drive and the Notes app on iPhone but it’s specifically designed for photos and works perfectly every time. With this app, you can also crop and edit your images to make them even better than the original, altering the colour, adding filters and text and even sharing them instantly on social media or messaging apps. Best of all, it’s completely free!

  1. Download and open the Photo Scan app on the Google Play Store
  2. Place your photo on a flat surface in a bright, evenly lit room
  3. Hold your phone directly over the image, parallel to the surface and press the white button
  4. Trace the 4 white circles to scan the photo and, once complete, view the final scan to check for imperfections
  5. Crop and edit as needed

3. Scan Documents in Google Drive

Though built to scan documents, you can use this feature to replicate your photos with one tap. Though this feature does seem to take on the faults of scanning your photos with your camera or a document scanner, it can take a few tries to get right depending on the angle or lighting. I’ve tried this a few times, each attempt with different results. But with a few tweaks to the settings, I managed to get a decent scan of the image that I could screenshot and save just as I would with the Notes app on an iPhone. Of course, as you’re already in google drive you can save the image straight to your online storage, reducing the risk of losing the copy on your phone over time and letting you label images and organise them into folders for the perfect digital library.

  1. Download the Google Drive app and open
  2. Select the Scan feature and allow drive to take pictures
  3. Place your photo on a flat surface in a bright, evenly lit room
  4. Hold your phone directly over the image, parallel to the surface and press the capture button
  5. Title the image and save it to your Drive in your preferred folder
  6. Edit the image in your gallery and share using google email, social media or messaging apps of your choosing

These apps work across all up to date handsets connected to the internet so you can scan and share wherever you are either to your phone or to Google Drive.

Check out the video below to see how these features work and if you’re looking for more quality smartphone accessory news, reviews and handy tips, head on over to our YouTube channel for daily content!

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Nowadays, with all of our files in the cloud, you may end up reading important documents on your smartphone or tablet. What happens when you need to print something out, though, and you’re not near your computer? Can you print from your phone? Of course you can! If you’re not sure how to print from your phone or tablet, we’ll teach you.

How to print from your phone (Android & iOS)

No need to email a file from your tablet/smartphone to a computer to print. Save yourself the hassle by sending print jobs directly from your Android phone or iPhone. You’ll need to do it wirelessly with help from a printing app.

Android

Before you can print anything from your Android device, you have to know what operating system (OS) version it’s using. If your tablet/phone runs Android version 4.4 or higher, it’ll likely have built-in wireless printing options. But you may have to do a bit of a workaround if it runs an earlier version of Android. To see what Android version your gadget has, just go to Settings > About Phone.

Android 4.3 or lower

The best way to print from your phone when you’re running older versions of Android is to use the Google Cloud Print app. It will send the file to a desktop PC/laptop then forward them to a printer. From there, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Google Chrome and open the settings page. Click Show Advanced Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the Google Cloud Print section and click “Manage”.
  3. Click “Add Printers” option. This will reveal any WiFi-connected printer. From there, click “Add to Cloud Print”. You may also enter your ePrint email address into Cloud Print when your equipment is cloud-ready.
  4. On your mobile device, download the Cloud Print app from Google Play.
  5. Click the “Print” from the top of the app. Afterward, select the file to be printed through either Gallery or Google Drive.
  6. Once you select the image to print, click the print button again.
  7. Select the printer you’re using from the list. Your file will then be queued for printing.

Android 4.4 or higher

Navigate to Settings > Printing and then turn on HP Print Service or Cloud Print. You may then print directly to any wireless printer via compatible apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Chrome. However, you have to link your printer to your Cloud Print account first.

Thanks to Apple’s AirPrint service, you can send files from your iPad or iPhone straightaway to a wireless printer. The printer model has to be supported by Apple, though. When that’s not the case, use a third-party app to send print jobs to a traditional printer through either a PC or Mac.

AirPrint

You have to see if your Wi-Fi printer is supported by the AirPrint service first here (About AirPrint – Apple Support). When it is, ensure that your Apple device and printer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Afterward, open the file on your mobile device the select the “Print” option. You will then be made to choose the printer to process your request.

Third-party apps.

In most cases, apps made by developers other than Apple will let you print to any wired or wireless printer, regardless if they’re compatible with AirPrint. Be sure that your printer is on the same wireless connection as your iPad or iPhone, though. From there, install any of these printing apps—HP ePrint, Print, PrintCentral—on your device.

How to scan from your phone (Android & iOS)

Sure, you can always take photos of a document on your tablet or smartphone. The quality of such an output, though, usually pales in comparison to scans done by dedicated scanner hardware. Not to mention the effort you have to put into editing!

To keep you from ending up with crudely done “scans”, explore these options from Android and iOS.

Android

One of the best ways to scan files on Android is using the Google Drive app. The process is as simple as opening the app, pressing the “+” option, then tapping “Scan”.

When you’re done taking a snapshot of a document, the app will crop the image and clean it up automatically. If you’re not satisfied with the initial output, you can crop, rename, or change the color depth further as needed. You can also set how images are automatically enhanced in terms of orientation, image quality, and paper size in the “Settings” menu.

What’s great about scanning with the Google Drive app is that any output is immediately saved to the cloud. Of course, there are several great reasons why everybody should use cloud storage. For one, it saves you from painstakingly transferring documents from one device to another.

However, keep in mind that Google Drive is just one of the many great scanning apps on Android.

For anyone who owns an iPad or iPhone, the easiest and fastest way to scan files is using the Scannable app. It’s a breeze to use. Just open the app, hold the device over a document (against a contrasting background), and you’re done!

This Evernote-made app isn’t only easy to use, it also delivers consistent quality. It can produce well-cropped and well-edited documents so you won’t have to bother doing them yourself. If you wish to manually scan the document yourself, tap “Manual” so a shutter button appears at the right edge of the screen.

On the bottom part, pay attention to a scrollable tray that contains all the items you’ve scanned so far. To delete an item, press and hold an image then swipe upward. Tap any image twice and a blue bar will show, which basically allows you to crop, rotate, or delete the selected scanned item.

When you tap on an image, pay close attention to a blue circle underneath the scan’s name. Tap the circle to add the scanned image to your photos, insert it into an email or SMS, or send it to Evernote. Tap the “More…” button to see other familiar OS X options like sharing via social networks, printing, and AirDrop.

A lot of us are on-the-go and have little time to sit down and print important documents through our Macs, desktop PCs, or laptops. Knowing how to scan or print from your phone, therefore, is an invaluable skill. For the most part, it’s a straightforward process since most of today’s smartphones, tablets, and a few of the best printers are designed to cater to wireless printing.

Your smartphone, with its built-in camera, can help you take some extraordinary images—but the camera can also double as a pretty good flatbed scanner.

It’s ideal for digitizing photos in albums, within frames or on a wall. But along with that, it can convert documents you need to keep, notes on projects, receipts for expense reimbursement and even whiteboards on which you’ve been brainstorming. You then can store those images or send them to someone via email or text.

A scan really means taking a photo, but the technology goes beyond that. Along with adding colour correction to photos and magically repairing tears, some scanner apps include optical character recognition (OCR), which can translate typewritten and even handwritten words into editable and searchable text. Without OCR, when you scan a newspaper article, it saves the story as an image file on your phone, but you won’t be able to search for a keyword or copy specific sentences to text a friend.

Here’s a look at how to turn your smartphone into a scanner, either with built-in tools or free apps.

What’s built into your phone

With an iPhone, you can use the Notes app to scan documents and photos as well as add a handwritten signature just with your fingertip.

  1. Open the Notes app and create a note by tapping the icon in the lower right corner of your screen, or select an existing one.
  2. Tap the Camera button at the bottom of the screen, and select Scan Documents, even if you want to scan a photo.
  3. Place whatever you’re scanning in view of the camera. If your device is in Auto mode, your document will automatically scan. If you need to manually capture a scan, tap the Shutter button or one of the Volume buttons.
  4. Drag the corners to adjust the scan to fit the page, then tap Keep Scan or Done. If it doesn’t offer you a cropping tool automatically, you can choose it by tapping the icon at the bottom left of your screen.
  5. Hit Save to keep your work.

If the document needs to be signed, follow these additional steps.

  1. Open the Notes app, then tap the document in the note.
  2. Tap the Share button, which is at the top right of your screen. It looks like a square with an arrow pointing up. Tap Markup icon.
  3. Sign, using your fingertip or a stylus. You can use your fingers to zoom in and out of the document before you sign. Different pen and marker options are available at the bottom of the screen.
  4. Tap Done.

If you want to see how to do this in action, I created a short video.

Android users, on the other hand, you can open the Google Drive app built into your phone. If you don’t see the icon (it’s a colourful triangle), search for the word “drive” and it will pop up.

  1. Open the Google Drive app. At the bottom right, tap Add (it’s the large plus + sign).
  2. Tap the Scan icon.
  3. Take a photo of the document that you’d like to scan. Then tap Done.
  4. Tap the Crop icon on the bottom right, and move the blue dots to adjust the scan area.
  5. If it’s a multipage document and you want all pages to be part of one PDF, tap the Add symbol again to scan more pages, or tap the Checkmark to upload the document to Google Drive.
  6. Tap the Save button when you’re done.

Every Google Account starts with 15 gigabytes of free storage—shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos—but you can always pay for more or choose to download and save your scans to your phone’s memory.

Other top app downloads

Many good, free scanner apps are also available for your smartphone.

Microsoft’s Lens (formerly called Office Lens) for iPhone or Android is one of the best. It’s free, easy to use and has reliable optical character recognition that supports several languages.

Its smart software can remove shadows and odd angles, too, so your captured images are easier to read. When you’re done, you can upload document and whiteboard images to Word, OneDrive, OneNote or PowerPoint, and you can save them as PDFs or send them by email or text.

To get going, open Lens and choose your mode: Business Card, Document, Photo or Whiteboard. That way, the app can improve the kind of image you’ve photographed automatically:

  • Business Card mode pulls out relevant contact information and populates that person’s contact card in your phone.
  • Document mode is ideal for making out small words on, say, a restaurant menu or flyer.
  • Photo mode has many filters to enhance the image.
  • Whiteboard mode is better for capturing notes, maybe even sketches, and the app will adjust images so the background isn’t too bright and the words are easy to read.

Like the built-in apps, Lens also supports cropping, rotating and adding text.

Another great choice is Adobe Scan, available for iPhone and Android. The company says the app has been downloaded more than 110 million times and users have scanned more than 1 billion documents.

Like Lens, Adobe Scan can capture, save and organize your documents in JPG or PDF files, has optical character recognition and offers the ability to sign documents. But the app excels in how it touches up photos, ideal if you’re scanning old and faded or ripped photos.

To get going, launch the app; Auto Scan will be on by default, so simply hold up the camera to analyze and capture the image, or import a photo from your phone’s gallery. For more precise scanning, you could manually select Business Card, Document, Form or Whiteboard.

When looking at a photo you’ve scanned, you can tweak its colour, rotate it or select Cleanup, which lets you drag your finger over parts of the image to remove any tears, improve lighting or colour, and more. Additional details are available on the official Adobe Scan help page.

A free Adobe account is required to use the app, or you can sign in with Facebook, Google or an Apple ID.

Also, while the Adobe Scan app is free, it has an optional Adobe Scan premium subscription for $13 a month, after a seven-day trial, that lets you combine multiple scans into one file; save scanned files into Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats, along with JPG and PDF; and store more files in Adobe’s Document Cloud with 20GB of storage, instead of 2GB. Premium also gives you extra OCR features, such as a 100-page limit (versus 25 pages for the free version), and the subscription works across Acrobat Reader mobile and Acrobat web applications.

Finally, if you’re looking to scan old paper photos, I’d recommend Google’s PhotoScan, available for both iPhone and Android devices.

There’s a QR code scanner pre-installed on both Android and iPhone. Here’s how to use it.

Have you come across a QR code but you aren’t sure how to scan it? It’s actually pretty easy to do, and you don’t even need a third party app for it.

Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, as long as it isn’t several years old, it has a built-in QR code scanner ready to help you scan your codes. Here we show how to scan a QR code on your phone.

What Is a QR Code?

QR stands for Quick Response and works in the same way as a barcode. The QR code is a square shaped black-and-white grid containing certain information—like web addresses or contact details—that you can access with your compatible device.

You find these QR codes pretty much everywhere: bars, gyms, grocery stores, cinema halls, etc.

A QR code has certain instructions written on it. When you scan this code, your phone displays the information contained in the code. In case the code has an action on it, say it’s the details for a Wi-Fi login, then your phone will follow those instructions and connect you to the specified Wi-Fi network.

What Types of QR Codes Are Out There?

There are many types of QR codes that you can create as well as scan on your smartphone. Each code has a unique action written on it.

Here are some of the popular QR code types that you’ll likely come across:

  • Website URLs
  • Contact information
  • Wi-Fi network details
  • Calendar events
  • Plain text
  • Your social media accounts
  • And much more

Just so you know, a QR code looks the same no matter the type. You’ll only know what type a QR code is when you actually scan it using your device.

How to Scan a QR Code on Android

Most modern Android phones have a built-in QR scanner to scan these codes. Depending on your phone type, your camera will either automatically detect the code or you need to tap an option in the camera app.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

What do you do when you wish to scan and store a page or important document while you’re on the move? It is not possible to carry a scanner but you can certainly make the best of the Android smartphone in your pocket to scan the text on pages using your mobile’s camera.

CamScanner app enables Android 2.0 or higher update to scan and store images in a readable format. For old bills or important personal documents you can always keep a copy of them as PDF files to be referred to later. This is a very useful app for those who keep referring to old documents that are fragile and easily damaged.

With the CamScanner you can turn your smartphone into a portable scanner and it can be quite helpful to store readable copies of documents.

Download and install CamScanner App from Android Market.

Open the CamScanner app and tap on the extreme left icon with the image of a camera on it.

Capture the image page in question. Tap on Retake to capture the image of the text again and tap on the OK button when done.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Use the 90 degrees rotation buttons to rotate the document clockwise or anti-clockwise. Then adjust the fluorescent green selection box to choose the specific text you want, or directly tap on the Correct symbol to automatically crop/trim and enhance the captured image. That removes all dark or grey spots.

Finally tap on the Correct symbol again to save the captured image.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Tap on the Pen icon and then assign a name to the scanned documents. Tap on the Correct icon once you’re done. If required you can tap the icon in the center to convert the document into a PDF file, then tap the Menu icon and select File to send the PDF document via Bluetooth, or upload it to your Google Docs, or send it via Gmail.

One of the shortcomings of CamScanner is the limit of up to three photos while capturing images in bulk mode. Also, the free version comes with advertisements; PDF files are created with watermarks; and there is a limit of up to 50 documents in which each document can have up to ten pages.

Hooking up to a scanner to capture documents, photos and other hard copies of important items can be a hassle. Luckily, smartphones seem to do it all these days, including “scanning” items.

If you’re an iPhone user, you don’t even need to use a third-party app to do this, since a 2017 iOS 11 upgrade to the built-in Notes app made it a regular option.

All you have to do is create a new Note and hit the “ ” sign option. Then, choose “Scan Documents.”

How to scan photos with your smartphone

The iPhone camera will auto-detect your document, image, etc. (if you have the auto shutter selected) and snap a scan of it. You can also manually capture the image with the camera button or one of the volume buttons.

Adjust the corners of the scan before saving it. If you want to sign or otherwise mark up the captured image, tap on it, hit the “ ” button in the upper right corner and select “Markup.”

But I Have An Android

Android users have several options for smartphone scanning as well.

Using Google Drive, you can quickly take a picture of any item, adjust its cropping, and save and sync it to your drive.

The PhotoScan app is a more sophisticated Google scan app that allows you to use in-app filters to adjust your captured image.

If you want to be able to edit and extract text from a document, you might like the Adobe Scan app. This option is great for creating PDFs and includes text recognition. It also syncs with Adobe Document Cloud.

CamScanner is yet another Android and iPhone scanning app. The free version will do in most situations and you can use it to save both JPEGs and PDFs. There’s a paid version that can also edit and extract text.

If you’re a big Microsoft user, Office Lens saves directly to OneNote or OneDrive.

Have you switched over to using your smartphone as your primary “scanner”?

Chris Hoffman
How to scan photos with your smartphoneChris Hoffman
Editor-in-Chief

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek. Read more.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

The phrase “scanning documents” used to mean spending a silly amount of time in front of a bulky machine, waiting for it to take a physical piece of paper and make it digital. But this is the mobile age, where nearly anything can be done with a phone. And scanning text-searchable documents is stupid easy with little more than your phone’s camera.

To start scanning everything from receipts to recipes, you probably already have everything you need: an Android phone and the Google Drive app. That’s it. Note that we’re talking about the full Google Drive app, not the standalone Sheets, Docs, or Slides apps.

Now that you’re all sorted, let’s do this thing.

First, fire up the Drive app and navigate to the folder where you’d like your scan to be saved. In the interest of simplicity (and logic?), I usually just scan stuff to a folder called “Scans.” Super creative, I know.

In the bottom-right corner, there’s a floating action button with a plus sign—tap that bad boy.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

This will open the “New” dialog, and the third option in the top row is “Scan.” Give ‘er a tap!

How to scan photos with your smartphone

The camera will open, and you’re ready to scan away. Here are a few tips to be aware of before you start hitting that shutter button, however:

  • Use a contrasting background: If you’re scanning a white document, put it on a dark background. This will help the camera find the edges.
  • Try to get a straight-over shot: If you need to place the paper on the floor to get a perfect overhead shot, do that. It’ll result in a much cleaner scan.
  • Be patient, it may take more than one shot: Sometimes the scan feature clips the edges off of a document, cutting part of it off. It may take a few tries to get it just right.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Now that you’ve got the know-how, go ahead and snap the picture. It’ll take a few seconds to load, and you can confirm it got the entire document in the picture. When the preview loads, there are a few options at the top:

  • Crop: If the image is too big, you can cut off the excess.
  • Color palate: Black and White is the default option, but you can also scan in color. There are a few options here (None, Black & White, Color, Color Drawing), so just select the one that best applies to what you’re scanning.
  • Overflow button: The overflow menu houses all the other stuff—Delete, Rename, Rotate, and Settings. While the first three are self explanatory, the Settings menu has some options to help you get the most of your scan. Things like automatic image enhancement, paper size, orientation, and image quality are all found here.

How to scan photos with your smartphone How to scan photos with your smartphoneHow to scan photos with your smartphone

There are also three buttons at the bottom: a plus sign, “retake” button, and a check mark. The plus is to add another page to the same PDF (I love this feature so much!), the center is to re-scan the document if it didn’t turn out right, and the check confirms that the scan is good and you want to save it.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Once everything is good and you’re ready to save the document, just tap the check. Drive will automatically open the folder where you told it to save and upload it. Once it’s finished syncing, you’ll be able to grab the scanned document from any other device with Drive installed.

Best of all: the contents of the saved PDF are also searchable in Drive. So, let’s say you saved a recipe for Gourmet Chocolate Oatmeal Balls and you’re ready to make them seventeen months later. Just fire up Drive, search for some keywords—like “chocolate oatmeal”—and Drive will kick back all the applicable results. This PDF will definitely be among those, so you can start cooking. Also, hit me up and I’ll come over so I can have some of those Oatmeal Balls. Those sound pretty good.

While Google Drive isn’t the only “scan with camera” option on Google Play—there are a slew of others, in fact—it’s easily the most useful. Since it automatically uploads to Drive, you essentially have an instant backup, the file can immediately be emailed or shared, and the text is searchable. Most of the other offerings out there only offer one or two of those features (at most), so Drive is definitely the way to go. Now, get to scanning all those receipts you’ve been saving for the last twelve years.

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How to scan photos with your smartphone Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times—and that’s just here at How-To Geek.
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With each new smartphone and tablet, consumers are given yet another portable photographic and imaging device that can be used not only for casual photography, but also for serious purposes such as archival and preservation. Recently, I began experimenting with my smartphone to see if I could convert photo negatives into workable digital positives without having to buy a single-purpose device like the ION Pics 2 Go smartphone negative scanner.

There are quite a few smartphone applications and accessories to help people use their phone’s camera to scan photographs and documents. The $15 Kickstarter project called Scanbox places smartphones an ideal distance from photos for scanning purposes, and mobile apps such as Shoebox by 1000 Memories uses edge detection and perspective correction to clean up digital shots of printed photos.

For my project, I used a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Shinycore’s Picsay Pro (a $3.99 app I’ve used since I’ve been an Android user), a magnetic macro lens (Specifically the Creative Vado lens kit.)

The secret weapon in this project is the Tracing light box which can cost as little as $20 or as much as $1,000. The one I already had for art and design projects cost me $50 at my local art supply store five years ago. If you’re so inclined, you can build your own out of an old flatscreen monitor.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

First things first: If your photo has a big block of a single, light color (which shows up as a big dark block in the negative) you might have to worry about photographing your own reflection. This is especially true when using underlighting like I did in this project, because you illuminate yourself nicely for the reflection. The solution in my case was to increase the ambient light until my reflection disappeared from the surface of the negative. This will take some messing around.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Here’s the shot of the negative. It is flat, straight, and in focus.

How to scan photos with your smartphone
In Picsay Pro, the first thing I had to do was invert the negative. Now you can see how washed out the colors appeared.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

For the second step, I adjusted the RGB settings very little by boosting Red and Green

How to scan photos with your smartphone
Then I increased the color saturation.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

I increased the contrast by 20 percent, and shifted the hue -30 degrees.

How to scan photos with your smartphone

Then I cooled off the “temperature”

How to scan photos with your smartphone
. And torqued the RGB settings once again.

Having done all of the color correction with a four dollar app within the phone, and without a good close-up view, I was pretty satisfied. Then I broke out the original print of the photo from 1999.

How to scan photos with your smartphoneAs you can see from this side-by-side comparison, the photo-positive scan has much richer colors than the smartphone negative scan. It almost looks like an artificial aging filter was added. So if you happen across a pile of old photo negatives that you don’t want to pay to process, you can absolutely use your smartphone to create positives, but without the benefit of knowing how the colors were supposed to be reproduced, your final result might not look as good as an actual print would.

Still, it’s the DIY spirit that counts, and it proves that you can do an acceptable job of reproducing old color negatives without having to put them through a chemical reproduction process, or even removing them from where they’re stored.