PhotoScan app to the rescue

This question "what would you take out of a burning house?" has been asked many times over, in popular media and in private chatterings, with the answer often being "photos." Why? Because we all know that memories are priceless!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but I wish I had the foresight to use "archival" quality materials  – paper, ink, plastic – when printing photos, when arranging photos in the album pockets, and while scrapbooking (the memory preservation methodology of choice for my wife). Since we didn't use archival quality materials, we've found some photos fading, album pages falling apart, photo corners curling up, and pictures kept in shoeboxes showing wear-and-tear.

I recently came across several old albums from our courtship years – yes, we were college sweethearts – that had the plastic see-through pockets that I thought was to protect the pictures, actually doing the opposite by fusing onto the photos and ruining them. To add insult to injury, the film negatives are AWOL, perhaps lost when we moved into our forever home.

With digital photography, digital cameras first replaced film based cameras in the late 1990s. It then evolved to smartphones and tablets with cameras becoming our go-to device for capturing the Kodak moments. Granted, we have a totally different kind of challenge with digital photography which is not preservation but "presentation." That will be a topic for another time. Back to the old print photos …

I initially tried scanning these using a flatbed scanner but it was too time consuming. Also the photos were often too fragile to survive being pulled from the album pages they were stuck to. Remember, negatives of these old photos were nowhere to be found and even if some negatives were available, it was still too time consuming to use a flatbed scanner.

When smartphones became ubiquitous, I tried taking pictures of these old photos to "digitize" them before they deteriorated further. The problem was that it introduced shadows and/or flash glares that made them not optimal digital photos.

As they say, "there's an app for that" and there was. It's called "PhotoScan" and is available in both Play Store (Android-based smartphones and tablets) and App Store (iPhones and iPads). It is made by Google. Although not 100% perfect, I like the resultant digital photos of these old print photos.

The main feature I like is that they eliminate glares from lighting and flash while also eliminating shadows that were present when just taking a digital photo of the printed pictures. There are more features you can use to even beautify the old pictures to some extent.

The inspiration for this column was that I just used the PhotoScan app again to digitize more old pictures my mom had when I visited her recently. It reminded me how easy it is to use and produced good results. Yep, my mom too has old pictures needing to be digitized and the PhotoScan app is the answer!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 9:43 AM, 03.07.2023