Those were photos I wanted to share with other family members, but there was a problem. How could I scan them into digital images without removing the pictures from the album and risk damaging them? The solution turned out to be the mobile phone in my pocket.
Every smart phone made in the past few years contains a high-quality camera. Pair the camera with the right app and you have a system that will easily and quickly turn an entire album of portraits and snapshots into a collection of digital images.
To capture my family albums, I used an app Photomyne (shown here) because it will shoot and process multiple photos one page at a time. Just take a picture of the page and the app will find the edges and corners for each picture and automatically straighten the edges to make a square or rectangle.
The app has an editing option that lets you crop the photos, fix colors and brightness levels and add details such as names, location and the year the photo was taken. With a couple of clicks, the photos can be stored on your phone, posted to Facebook, or sent to other people in an email or text message.
While Photomyne is a good choice to quickly capture a lot of photos, Pic Scanner may be a better option if you plan to make a new print from an old photo. In that case you’ll want the higher resolution image that Pic Scanner creates.
With Pic Scanner, you work through a stack of photos, either shooting them one at a time or in a group. Once they’re captured, an editing screen lets you crop and rotate the photo, adjust the brightness and contrast, and add special effects such as a sepia tone to give a photo that old time look. The app supports adding names, dates and descriptions to each image and it will create albums and share images.
Many of those same photo editing features are available with Heirloom, an app that focuses on photo sharing with selected groups. Scanned photos are stored on the Heirloom website where users can create albums for different collections. Each album is accessible only to people who have been invited by the album’s owner. Those people can view the images and download copies.
Two more apps are geared toward genealogy research. CamScanner will capture and correct snapshots and album photos, but it’s especially good for making copies of documents such as marriage licenses or birth certificates. The scans can be saved as PDFs as well as JPEG image files.
Shoebox is a companion app that works with the Ancestry.com, the popular website for collecting family history and creating family trees. Shoebox will shoot and fix photos made from paper snapshots or copied from album pages. You can also use it to take live shots of cemetery headstones, for example, or when you find grandad’s childhood home.
The images can be tagged with the names of the people in the photo, annotated with historical details and the location pinpointed on a map. Ancestry users can also upload photos directly to a gallery in any of their family trees.