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How to scan old photos

By Amy Wright | Jul 15, 2020

We've all gotten used to the quality and convenience of 12MP camera phones and unlimited cloud storage options. However, things weren't always this way.

It's only been 20 years since the sales of digital cameras surpassed film cameras, pushing them out of fashion. Then, between 2010 and 2021, worldwide camera shipments dropped by 93% thanks to smartphone cameras. These days, it's primarily hobbyists and specialists who buy dedicated digital and film cameras.

Our modern setup is more convenient. However, nothing can replace the magic of an old photo. There are so many poignant memories of places and people stuffed into old albums or shoeboxes, out of sight and gathering dust. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Instead, you can use your old photos to fill your living space with your favorite pictures and memories. Whether you're looking for a canvas print, collage print, triptych print, or framed print, all your old photos can find their perfect home as a new piece of wall art.

But before you do that, you'll need to digitize your photos. Thankfully, there are several ways to scan and prepare your images for a canvas.

Why should you digitize your old photos?

There are lots of great reasons to digitize your old photos. Before we get into how to scan old photos, here are a few reasons why you should do it.

1. Protect against loss or damage
Sadly, old photos get lost or damaged all the time. Digitization helps you store these irreplaceable memories permanently.

2. Better quality
Old photos degrade. Additionally, some of them are fuzzy or poorly lit. Scanning your photos allows you to adjust or touch them up, breathing new life into your treasured link to the past.

3. Digital photo albums
While traditional photo albums are a blast to look through, digitization makes the process quicker and easier.

4. Easy to share
Scanning old photos means they're easy to share. You and your family and friends can swap all your old memories by email or social media.

5. Less clutter
Photo albums and shoeboxes take up space. Marie Kondo would approve of digitizing your old pictures.

6. Put them to work
Most people don't drag out their old photos too often. However, if you digitize your pictures, you can relive the memories with the simple click of a button. Better still, you can turn your favorite old photos into wall art representing many generations of your family.

Old photograph of a city

Digitizing your old photos

Now that you know the benefits of digitizing your old photos, it's time to look at how you can do it. You have two main choices: have a print shop do it for you or scan them yourself.

Let's look at both options and explore their pros and cons.

Photo of a pile of old photographs

Scan your photos at a print shop

Using a photo-digitization service is the easiest way to scan your old photos. If you have many pictures you want to digitize, it can be a really time-consuming task. Sending a big box off to a print shop takes a lot of the hassle away.

However, while it's convenient, there are a few drawbacks to consider. For starters, the chances are that this box contains your only copies. If you send your old photos to a shop by mail or courier, there is a chance they could get lost or damaged, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to do!

The next thing to consider is the cost. If you're busy and need the project to get done, it's a good investment you'll be unlikely to regret. However, if you need to convert a lot of old pictures to digital, the costs can start to add up.

Scan your photos at home

The other option, of course, is to do it all yourself. You have a few options: use a flatbed scanner or photo scanning apps.

Use a flatbed scanner
While flatbed scanners are going out of fashion, they were built for this kind of job. They're handy if you want to digitize a large number of photos over the course of a few weekends.

The drawback is that getting a good scanner isn't cheap. The better end of the market will set you back hundreds of dollars. However, you can pick up a decent model for under $100.

Of course, many modern printers already come with a scanner. So, you might not even need to rush out and buy a new one if you want to digitize your old photos.

The advantage of using a flatbed scanner is that you have more settings and configurations to choose from. You can adjust contrast, sharpening, brightness, and many other settings for good quality scans.

Use a photo-scanning app.
Much like camera-equipped smartphones disrupted the camera industry, photo-scanning apps have reduced the need for physical scanners.

The earliest versions of these apps were hit-and-miss. However, the new generation of apps is far better.

There are lots of good photo-scanning apps to choose from. The benefits of using them to scan your old photos are that it's cost-effective, quick, and convenient. You only need to take a picture with your tablet or smartphone, and you'll have a digital copy.

Final steps

Once your old photos are scanned, it's time to get down to business.

Touch-ups and edits
One of the problems with old photos is that the quality can be a bit inconsistent. Touch-ups and other photo edits are a great way to boost the quality of your pictures. Many great programs are available that will allow you to edit or touch up your old photos, like Adobe Photo Edit, DXO, and Capture One.

There is a lot you can do to edit your pictures. For starters, you can crop photos to focus on particular people or sections. Additionally, you can change the hues, contrast, saturation, and more. Many modern photo editing applications have pre-set or automatic settings that you can use if you're not confident in your photoshop skills.

Some old photos have blemishes and imperfections. Good photo editing tools can help you cover or fix some of these issues.

Old scanned photograph of mother and father with their child

Think about storage
Once you've got your old photos scanned, it's time to think about storage options. Again, you’ll need to decide between a few options.

Cloud storage: You can upload your photos to the cloud. The benefit is that they'll be safe, and you can access them anywhere.

Hard Drive or USB: Upload your files to an external storage device like a hard drive or USB, or keep the images on your computer or phone. While this is a handy option, hard drives are vulnerable to breakage or loss.

Overall, if you are scanning your old photos because you want to preserve them for the future, cloud storage is probably your best option. There are many free options, like Google Drive or Dropbox. If you have a huge amount of pictures, you can pay a little money per year for the extra server space.

Now, the fun starts

After all that, it's time to have some fun and turn your old photos into new art. Old photos make great wall art for your home or thoughtful gifts for your friends or family.

The first thing to do here is to review your photos and draw up a shortlist of the pictures that capture your most cherished memories. Once you've done that, it's time to move on to the next phase.

Think about what type of wall art you want to make. Some of your options here are canvas prints, framed prints, collages, etc.

Once you have decided on the perfect old snapshot to print, head on over to to create your masterpieces.

Canvas print in dining room of mother and father with their baby

Need help deciding which photos would be best, what size to go with, or something else? Shoot a message to our incredible customer support team, and they will be more than happy to help you.

Ready to create your work of art? Get started by clicking the button below.

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