with digital photos We don’t have to worry about limited shots, whether we put the film on correctly, or what’s coming back from the drugstore. The cloud has it all, ready to be shared on a screen near you. For older people, memories are often associated with images of aging chemically fixed on paper and neatly affixed to plastic frames or pockets. Discovering and digitizing your favorites makes them available to share on screens, through messages, or on social media. It can unlock forgotten days for everyone who was there and bring moments back to life for those who weren’t.
I recently scanned a selection of old photos, many forgotten in an old shoebox, and spent a few happy hours reliving special days with my wife while our kids were incredibly looking at them. “Is that really you? My mom looks so beautiful. You are such an emo dad.” (For the record: Yes, still, and I was very angry.) It’s an exercise I recommend, to thrill long-deceased relatives, old friends, and younger versions of ourselves into the mix of digital photo frames. It’s also easy and only requires your smartphone or scanner and a free afternoon.
By far the easiest option to digitize old photos is to use your phone. You can simply take a picture of your old photos, but you can get better results with a photo scanning app. I tested three popular photo scanning apps on the Pixel 6 (9/10, WIRED recommends) against an affordable photo scanner and compared the results with several older photos. Judging images is always subjective, so I got a blind second opinion from senior WIRED writer and reviewer Scott Gilbertson.
You can also use photo digitization services, but they are very expensive and require you to send your photos away, so we don’t cover them here. But I’ve included tips on how to prepare your photos for the best results and what to do with them after scanning.
Google Photo Scanner
The first app I tested is a natural choice for anyone who uses Google Photos because it automatically makes backups in your photo library. The app is free and easy to use, but scanning photos is time consuming because you have to scan them individually. The process requires multiple photos to be taken, which are then stitched together to produce the best image quality. When you hit the scan button, you’ll see four circles (one in each corner), and hold the phone over each of them until it’s full to take the photo.