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How to digitize old photos and negatives
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Tech tips

These apps can help get your physical photos and negatives digitized

You may take it for granted that you walk around with a high-quality camera in your pocket that can hold thousands of photos. We’ve gotten so used to snapping photos without a care, knowing that they’ll come out great without the need to fiddle with camera settings.

Your smartphone makes it easy to share photos with anyone at any time. But unless your phone is your first camera, you may have some old negatives. You can get them developed or scan them into your phone to view and share easily. Tap or click here for tips on converting negatives into digital photos.

A physical scanner is one route you can take to digitize your photo collection, but (surprise, surprise) you can also use an app. Here are three great options.

PhotoScan by Google Photos

Google’s PhotoScan is a free app for iOS and Android that scans your photos multiple times, then stitches all the images together to remove glare and improve the quality of the final image. The app works on matte, gloss prints and photos inside or outside albums.

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You take the initial picture of the photo with your smartphone, then take four additional shots according to the app’s instructions. The app uses an algorithm to detect and crop the photo area, automatically detect the edge, correct the rotation and correct the perspective to show a frontal view.

PhotoScan is as easy to use as taking a photo with your camera:

  • Open the PhotoScan app and hold your phone above a photo.
  • Tap the capture button to take pictures, which will save to your device.
  • Move your phone around to get the circle over each of the four dots.
  • After the photo is processed, tap the photo thumbnail.
  • Select a photo to rotate, adjust the corners or delete.

You can use Google Photos to store and organize your scans. From there, you can edit your images and share them with others.

Microsoft Lens

Microsoft Lens (formerly Office Lens) is a free business-oriented scanning app that works with documents, whiteboards, business cards, receipts, menus, signs, handwritten memos, or anything else containing text you want to import to your phone. It certainly beats typing everything by hand.

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The iOS and Android app also works with photos and automatically corrects things like shadows and odd angles.

Microsoft Lens makes it easy to digitize photos in a few steps:

  • Open Microsoft Lens and swipe left or right near the bottom of the screen and select Photo.
  • Point your camera at the photo you want to capture, ensuring it’s in the frame. You can turn the flash on and off before tapping the camera button to snap the picture.
  • Now you can Add a new image to your scan, apply a Filter to the image, CropRotate, or Delete the image or annotate it with the Pen or with Text.
  • Tap Done when you’re finished.

You can save pictures in your phone’s gallery.

The best option for negatives: FilmBox by Photomyne

FilmBox is a smart scanner app for iOS and Android that digitizes your old camera film negatives using just your smartphone. You can view, capture, and save film negatives, making browsing, organizing, and sharing easier.

FilmBox inverts the image’s negative colors into positive, then enhances the overall appearance.

All you need is a light source and your smartphone to get started:

  • Set your negatives in a dark or low-lit room and open the FilmBox app.
  • The only light source should be a backlight, which you can get by opening a white screen on a tablet or computer. You can also use the link provided in the app. Set your backlight device to the highest brightness setting.
  • Hold your film strip vertically in front of the light and keep it steady. Make sure the perforated borders are included in the scanning screen.
  • Hold your negatives about two inches away from the light source and tap the app’s capture button. You can also activate the voice control and say “Go.” Note: Voice control is only available for iOS.
  • Your image will be saved as a digital photo in the app.

The first few scans are free, but you’ll have to pay for a subscription if you want to capture more. A two-year plan costs $39.99 and gives unlimited access to the app and its features.

You may also like: The best, easiest ways to print photos from your phone or computer

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