How Google’s new app makes it possible to get high-res scans of your old photos

By: Gadjo Sevilla

December 28, 2016

devices_family-2xBy Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

It’s hard to believe that we once shot photos on film, had to go have them developed and then displayed these in albums. With the advent of digital cameras and smartphones, most of our photos now live in our devices, on web storage services and in the cloud.

Google’s PhotoScan is a free app that the company calls a photo scanner from the future. What PhotoScan does is take photos of old photos and digitizes them using various computational solutions to make clear, and more importantly shareable, digital copies.

You might think that any smartphone can already take photos of photos. There are also various scanner apps which approximate the detail of a scanner (but the results of these apps are usually mixed).

3f2de790b6ed7dc9f8a04f4f410fd1feWhat makes Google PhotoScan really shine is that it understands the limitations of prints made on film, it takes into consideration the ageing of the chemicals and all the interesting effects time and storage has on old photos.

PhotoScan knows it is shooting old photos, it compensates for glare and weird distortion. You shoot your old photo in four different areas and PhotoScan makes a high-resolution composite that’s good to print even in larger format.

Of course, being a Google product, it feeds into their Google Drive ecosystem, which means that you can share and print these copies as much as you want.

“PhotoScan gets you great looking digital copies in seconds,” Google explains in its blog post, “- it detects edges, straightens the image, rotates it to the correct orientation, and removes glare. Scanned photos can be saved in one tap to Google Photos to be organized, searchable, shared, and safely backed up at high quality—for free.

See how the PhotoScan technology works behind the scenes by watching this video from  Nat & Lo.”

523550-google-photoscan-animationI tested PhotoScan on my Google Pixel device and found that it made very good copies of photos that were ideal for sharing via Instagram, Facebook or other online means.

I would still consider using a flatbed scanner for getting a high-resolution copy meant for enlargement or printing but I think PhotoScan will serve 90 per cent of users for 95 per cent of their digitizing and sharing needs.

Open a photo and then tap the pencil icon to start editing. First, for auto enhance, just select Auto, and see instant enhancements a pro editor might make – like balancing exposure and saturation to bring out the details.

Where Google’s solution really shines is in the editing and post-production functionality which could take hours to achieve in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop.

“our advanced editing controls for Light and Color allow you to fine tune your photos, including highlights, shadows, and warmth. Deep Blue is particularly good for images of sea and sky where the color blue is the focal point.” Google explains.

This is technology that makes it simple and easy to collect old photos and update them to digital formats as well as making copies that will last forever without fading or quality degradation.

PhotoScan is available for iOS and Android devices in their respective app stores.

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