Ok. So you’ve got a huge stack of old family snaps you’ve just unearthed from the back of your loft. You’re ready to embark on some photo scanning and preserve them for future enjoyment. Excellent – your Great Great Grandchildren are thanking you for this! But where to start?

Couldn’t you just do the whole thing yourself rather than spending the money on a company to undertake the job for you? After all, there are photo scanning apps available to download on your phone now that could do the job. But can they do them well enough? Are they getting the very best out of your images?

Using the same photographs we undertook a comparison between the professional flatbed scanner and that of Google PhotoScan app, available to download for free on the app store. And whilst trying to remain unbiased , the results sort of spoke for themselves anyway…

example quality of photo scan app

Scanned with the phone app

example quality of flatbed scanner

Scanned with our flatbed scanner

Now to be fair to the photo scanning app, it stood up relatively well in a couple of areas: 

  • Functionality-wise it was easy to use and understand and is OK if you’re just wanting to scrub through images on your camera roll, at a small size. 
  • The resulting images were produced quickly which is handy if you’re short on time. We also imagine it would cope well with black and white documents or other non-photographic scanning.

However, it doesn’t take a photo snob to determine the differences in quality between the two images. The photo scanned using the PhotoScan app presented the following negatives for us:

  • Inconsistent auto-processing. 
  • File is too compressed to do anything other than store on your phone.
  • Lots of detail lost (processing the image quickly meant it didn’t have the time to capture the finer details).
  • Poor resolution (no good for printing or enlarging).
  • Dust and scratches more visible.
  • Glare still visible.

Our findings from the flatbed scanner:

  • Despite a much longer scan time (probably between 10-30x the amount it takes on a phone app) the details preserved on the flatbed scanner were extremely noticeable and far superior. 
  • The file size of a scanned image is higher than that of one taken on a phone but this can be addressed with minimal compression, if required. 
  • The colours on the photograph were richer, and less pixelated, because of the much higher, manually controlled DPI range.
  •  The image is generally a sharper and truer digital representation of its original. And we feel this is what that image deserves! 

Please remember too that scanning apps on phones wouldn’t be able to capture 35mm slides or processed negatives. Nor would it be able to scan in any handwritten notes, captions or annotations that accompanied your originals. 

As a reminder, The Memory Lab offers a full Album Scanning service too, where we can digitise the whole thing – borders, mounts, photo-corners, notes and covers, to truly capture the essence of the album as it was lovingly intended.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to visualise now the restrictions and capabilities of photo scanning apps versus those of a professional scanning service. And don’t forget all those little extras we throw in too; like dust removal and colour correction! Apps are satisfactory in certain circumstances but not the best quality your old photos are capable of achieving. Check out our Loose Photo Scanning page to see how you can get the very best out of your precious images and details of how to get started today!