Photo Scan by Google – a Review

A few days a go, I saw that there was a new photo scanning App from Google and decided to try out the new App called PhotoScan. The reason for my curiosity is that as well as being a Photographer, we have a ton of photos at home that go back as far as my Grandparents, Grandparents, which I would like to digitise. I have been slowly working through them, but, many of these photos are in frames that I would prefer not to interfere with. I have and will continue to scan some of the images on my flatbed scanner, however, if there was a good, quick way to scan them, I could get through the task more efficiently. So when I read about this App, I thought it might be the one for me. When you download the App and open it, it runs you through a quick ‘How to” tutorial and then off you go, roaming around your house, looking for things to scan, or at least I did.

I will set out my experience and findings so far, based on the claims that Google make about this PhotoScan App. Google states the following about this App:

1. Scan photos in seconds

Don’t just take a picture of a picture. Create enhanced digital scans, with automatic edge detection, perspective correction, and smart rotation.

This is correct, scanning a photo with this App is indeed a quick process. When you open up the App, you have to line up your picture with the border of the image. You then press the scan button, and the flash is activated (I shall return to this later). Four white circles appear on your screen, in the four corners of the image that you are scanning and you are encouraged to move your phone over each circle until it turns blue. To do this, you are not meant to tilt the phone, if you do, you will see that the circles now look a little squashed, and your resulting scan will be somewhat skewed. You just follow the small white arrows and move your phone in the direction required. The idea is that the App is going to take multiple shots of your image and stitch the together, in an effort to remove glare from the image. When you have finished moving your phone over the four circles, the App takes a moment and stitches the images together to give you the final result, it is at this point that the App try to correct perspective and detect edges, which is all very useful. After this, you then have the option to crop the image and save it, for further editing. There are no other editing options in the App itself, you need to use a separate App for that, some people use Google Photos, I use Snapseed. In an effort to get as good an image as possible, I have started to place the images on a table near a window, to get natural light and a better angle of the photo to use the App.

2. Picture perfect and glare-free

PhotoScan stitches multiple images together to remove glare and improve the quality of your scans.

Yes, this App did stitch multiple images together and tried to remove the glare, but, I found this element to be underwhelming, sometimes the App did remove glare and sometimes it did not. The thing I found most annoying about the App was that the flash went off every time you tried to scan a photo, leading to a reflection of the flash in the image. Thankfully, I then realised that you could switch the flash off. Yay! I have attached three photos below to show you the various results you get with the flash, no flash and natural window light. I would strongly recommend not using the flash at all and just use natural light. The App is able to remove glare from natural light quiet well. The other problem that I had with the App is that the image is only as good as your ability to hold a phone steady. I found that I had to try a number of times to get a clear image from the App, as I found it tricky to make sure that the angle I had my phone at, when I was moving across the circles was the same. Given that the App is blending four images together, you have to have four perfect images to start with, if you want a not blurry image in the end.

3. Stay organized with Google Photos

Get the free Google Photos app to keep your scans safe, searchable, and organized – even by the people and things in them. Plus, bring your scans to life with movies, filters, and advanced editing controls.

This part of the App is of no interest to me, as I keep all my images on external hard drives and Dropbox, if necessary. However, these images are mostly going up on Facebook, for sharing with family. If I wanted a print for framing, I would use my flatbed scanner. I don’t use the Google Photos App for editing images, I use Snapseed, so I cannot comment on that element of the Google Photo environment.

Wired.com said about this App “Google’s latest mobile app is good news for anyone with a bunch of packed Fotomat envelopes. It’s bad news for anyone in the scanner or shoebox industries.” I do not foresee this App being a serious challenge to the scanner industry. This App is new to the market, so maybe in the future this App will be as good as Google think it can be. There are lots of mediocre to terrible photo scanning Apps on the Market, so if Google improve PhotoScan there will be an appetite for it amongst photographers. Google got a number of things right about this App, it is a great idea, easy to use, and Google have made the PhotoScan App available on all Platforms. I shall follow the progress of this PhotoScan App and I hope things improve, as it looks promising.

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Flash                  No Flash       Natural Light

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