Let’s start with the fact that I am an emeritus (retired) member of The Photo Managers who never specialized in photo scanning. But the more popular it becomes, the more confused I see people getting. So, I’m hoping to clear things up a bit.
Instead of becoming a crackerjack photo manager like some of my colleagues, I combined my general professional organizing and genealogy experience into a book called What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy. It includes chapters on how to organize, preserve, and share your family photos. So I do have a vested interest — not so much in HOW people do it, but more THAT they do it, and making it seem do-able to them.
There are lots of photo scanning apps. (Did you know there’s a scanner built into the iPhone Notes app?) Why, then, am I singling out Photomyne in this post? Because I see it popping up everywhere! It’s not new, but this year I’ve seen it in TV ads, as a sponsor at RootsTech and Save Your Photos Month, and most recently they have become a prominently-advertised partner at Ancestry.
The tips and suggestions in my book are categorized as follows:
- Low effort (Do this if nothing else.)
- Medium effort (Your family will thank you.)
- High effort (Ask for help if you need it.)
I’d put Photomyne in the “Do this if nothing else” category. Keep reading to find out when I DO and DON’T recommend it.
First, why do we want to make digital copies of our printed photos by scanning them?
Here are some reasons:
- To make our printed photos shareable on social media and websites.
- To share the photos with our families via email and other modern technologies.
- To create digital photo books and slide shows.
- To back up printed photos in case something happens to them.
Scanning can be done in several ways, with varying degrees of resulting quality:
These options all have their place in the photography and legacy world, as long as you know what you are getting into.
- Highest Quality and Speed: Scanning professionals use equipment that most of us who are not in the photo industry do not have at home. They may use machines made for scanning, or elaborate camera set-ups for “camera scanning”. Large quantities of photos can be scanned quickly by a professional. “Camera scanning” is relatively new, but becoming very popular, so be sure your professional really knows what it means. (Check Google Images for “DSLR scanning setup” examples.)
- High Quality, Low Speed: At-home scanners, including 3-in-1 flatbeds, will work just fine if you know how to control the settings and have a lot of time (or only a few photos). Most professionals scan photos at a high resolution for archival purposes. The higher the resolution, the larger the file size, and the more you will probably need to buy an external hard drive to store them. Also the larger the file, the more useful it is in terms of being able to make high-quality prints and enlargements. The settings you choose depend on how you are going to use your photos and store them. I am purposely not getting technical here.
- High Speed, Low Quality: This category includes scanning apps such as Photomyne. The lower the resolution, the smaller the file size. Smaller files are ideal for social media and websites because they load faster and look good enough for quick screen viewing. (NOTE: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram automatically compress your files, irreversibly reducing them in size and quality. That is, assuming your camera is set to take high-resolution images to begin with. That is one reason why we don’t use social media for photo storage, only for sharing.)
When DO I recommend Photomyne?
- If you are visiting a cousin and they are tech challenged but also don’t want you to take their album full of precious family photos home with you to scan, by all means, Photomyne away!
- If you want to quickly share a photo of your own family on social media, on your website, or on Ancestry (or other genealogy platform). Be prepared, if you’re really in the sharing mood, to provide a higher-resolution copy to anyone who asks.
- If you know you will never hire a professional to help you. (Maybe you think you can’t afford it? Have you asked for an estimate? Maybe you just want to DIY. Maybe good enough is good enough for you?)
When DON’T I recommend Photomyne?
- If you ever want to make a print (of any size, but especially an enlargement) from the resulting digital file.
- If you want to store a high-quality, archival digital image for future generations.
- If you are planning to ditch the original printed photos and/or negatives.
- If you think that a scanning app on your camera is the same thing as “camera scanning” (see Highest Quality and Speed above). It’s not.
Test it and see for yourself.
If you have a scanner at home, take a scan of a photo at 300 DPI, and at 600 DPI. (And as much higher and lower as you feel like testing.) Then take a scan from inside the Notes app of your iPhone (if you have one). Then take a Photomyne scan, or whichever app you have. Compare them all. Enlarge them to see how grainy they get. If you really can’t see the difference, then it doesn’t really matter, does it? But I’ll bet you can see the difference. (Who knows? Maybe the quality will improve over time, while the price remains low and the ease of use remains high, like technology tends to do.)
Have you used Photomyne or another photo scanning app?
If so, what was your experience?
What printed photos do you want to digitize first, and for what purpose?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Copyright 2022 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
Author of What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy
Please contact me for reprint permission. (Direct links to this page are welcome!)