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How to save your old photos forever with Google PhotoScan

In the past, if you wanted to make digital copies of your photos at home, you'd have to rely on bulky desktop scanners – or take your negatives to a developers and pay a little extra to have them 'printed' to a USB stick.

But smartphone cameras can take great photos, so what's stopping us from 'scanning' our old photos with new digital technology? Google have answered that question with an app – PhotoScan.

Today, I'll show you how you can use it to create high-quality digital copies of all your old prints, without spending a single penny – read on to find out how!

What is Google Photoscan?

Google PhotoScan is a powerful app that essentially turns your smartphone into a digital scanner, ready to import documents and photos from the real world and store them safely online.

Much more powerful than simply taking a photo of a photo, PhotoScan takes multiple pictures and blends the best bits of each to make the perfect image: one that's free of glare and automatically cropped to the best shape, avoiding unnecessary white spaces.

Google PhotoScan setup 1Google PhotoScan setup 2Google PhotoScan setup 3Google PhotoScan setup 4

Better yet, PhotoScan comes with unlimited free storage in Google Photos (depending on the quality of your pictures), and saves all your pictures automatically, so you don't need to worry about anything – other than having a working internet connection, of course!

Saving your photos in the best quality

There are two options when it comes to saving your photos in Google PhotoScan – either in the original image size for your phone's camera, or in 'high quality' mode. Interestingly, though, high quality mode isn't always actually the best quality for your photos – especially if your phone has a great camera!

High quality mode is best suited for cameras with a resolution up to 16 megapixels, or for pictures that don't need to have microscopic levels of detail. Uploading photos in high quality mode reduces the file size of the picture – and comes with the added bonus of not taking up any space in your online storage.

But if your phone has a great camera, and you don't want to sacrifice even the tiniest bit of detail, you can upload your pictures in their original size. This is the original size for your phone's camera – not the actual physical size of the photo you're backing up!

Editing your photos

Any photos you've backed up to Google Photos can be edited directly in the app.

Google Photos should be installed by default on Android phones – but if you need to reinstall or update it, the app can be found on the Google Play Store. For iOS users, you can get Google Photos from the App Store.

Google Photos gives you direct access to your library of backed-up photos, as well as giving you the tools to edit and improve your pictures – so you can correct your photos without having to sit in front of a computer!

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  1. Open the Google Photos app from your Home screen or apps list.
  2. The first screen you see is the Photos list: a gallery of photos that are already backed up to Google. Your scanned images are found here, so tap the one you'd like to edit.
  3. Now the image is selected, and you'll see some extra buttons at the bottom of the screen. From left to right, these icons are for sharing, editing, photo information and deleting. Tap the pencil icon to edit the photo.
  4. On this next page, we can change the lighting and colour range of your photo, as well as rotate or crop it. To make things easier, you can pick automatic editing, which gives you a few different styles to choose from. From left to right, the three icons at the bottom represent auto mode, manual editing and rotation & cropping.

Are your scanned photos not being backed up?

You may have scanned your pictures, but what if they aren't appearing in Google Photos? There are a few reasons why your pictures aren't being uploaded – so follow the steps below to find out what's causing the problem.

Google PhotoScan edit 1Google PhotoScan sync 1Google PhotoScan sync 2Google PhotoScan sync 3

  1. Open Google Photos from your Home screen or apps list.
  2. In the bottom-left corner of the app, tap Assistant.
  3. The Assistant will tell you if there are any problems with the backup, with one of these following messages:
    • Waiting for connection/Wi-Fi: check that your phone is connected to the internet.
    • Back up & sync is off: tap the message to turn on the backup feature.
    • A photo or video was skipped: your photo might be too large (over 75 MB or 100 megapixels).
    • Backup complete: this message means there should be no problems with backing up your photos.

There you have it: a comprehensive guide to scanning and backing up your precious photos with Google's PhotoScan app! This should be all you need – but if you've got any questions or queries, leave us a comment below and we'll do our best to help. And for more great articles from our Agents straight to your inbox each month, get your name down below for the Geek Squad newsletter!

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