Google surprised a few people when it announced the Photo Scan app a few days ago. The app is basically designed to well, take better pictures of pictures. In simple English, you use the app to take digital copies of your printed photographs (the ones that came on that wonderful material called “Paper”, remember?) and store them. Preferably on Google Photos.
Well, I have been using the app to scan a few of my old pictures and the news is that while the app is not as glitch-free as it claims, it certainly is a massive step ahead of the “just take a picture of the picture” method of image digitization that most of us tend to follow.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first – the app is available for free download for Android and iOS devices (iPhone users in India cannot download it, though, at the time of writing). We downloaded the Android version on the Pixel, but the app will work on any Android phone running Android 5.0 and above. I nicked two old prints from my mum’s album for the test – one in black and white and one in color.
The app itself is very easy to use. Launching it opens the camera with an area in which you have to place the photograph you wish to convert to digital form. Hit the shutter button and the flash comes on. As this happens, four spheres appear on four corners of an invisible square on the photograph in the viewfinder with yet another sphere that moves as you move the phone. Your task is to place the moveable sphere on top of each of the ones in different corners. In essence, the app takes four different photographs and then stitches them up (very quickly indeed – no lags, ladies and gents) to give you a single photograph that in most cases are free of the glare and other problems that can occur if you just take a snap of a snap. And in a very neat touch, it is cropped automatically along the borders of the photograph itself – so if you have taken the snap while playing your picture on a table, the table part will be automatically cropped out, saving you a fair deal of post snapping angst.
Note that we said “in most cases,” though. For ironically, the first time we tried out the app, we actually found ourselves getting a fair amount of glare on the image. Subsequent experiments in slightly less well-lit rooms yielded better results. We also felt that the app handled black and white images better than the color ones – glare was eliminated to a large extent in color shots but we felt they looked a trifle faded. We used two photographs, one that was slightly larger than a standard postcard size and one that was a tad smaller and got images that were of 1500 x 2000 and 1333 x 2000 resolution. No, we were not able to zoom into them the way we could in a “normal” picture of a picture (which would be close to the 3036 x4048 resolution that the Google Pixel would take), but the level of clarity and lack of glare was strikingly significant. The fact that the app allows you to save images to Google Photos is a bonus – you can export whole photo albums very seamlessly to the cloud and also use Google Photo’s face recognition feature to specify who is who!
All of which makes PhotoScan pretty much a must-download for those who want digital copies of their old photographs. It is easy to use, fast and more often than not delivers very good results. We would have liked a few more editing options (all you can do is change orientation and cropping at the moment) but even without them, this is an app for those who look at their mouldy photo albums with regret and scanning machines with terror!