By Jodi Bash
The digital age of photos gives us so much to be thankful for. Photos can be edited, shared, deleted, and ordered in a frame at the touch of a button. I am so used to this convenience that when faced with a physical copy of a picture it often takes me months to decide what to do with it. Even my kids’ school pictures sit around gathering dust before I eventually frame them.
Many of us have also inherited (or absconded with) family photo albums. The pre-digital, white border, film covered photographs. The ones you can’t remove from the album because the glue used to hold it down should be used to hold airplanes together. We know we should be scanning these photos to preserve what’s left of them. But it can be so time-consuming! I’ve used portable scanners, my smart phone, a printer scanner – and I can usually get about 20 photos scanned and edited and labeled before I can’t take it anymore.
Then I discovered Photomyne. This is a free app for iPhone or Android systems that can also be accessed on your computer. In the amount of time it normally took me to scan in about 10 photos, crop them, and put them in a labeled folder on my computer I could do all that with an ENTIRE ALBUM! Maybe even two albums. The time savings is thrill-inducing; I am unsure how I will spend all of the extra time I now have.
Editor’s Note: The basic version of Photomyne, which allows you to scan an unlimited amount of photos, is free. The full version, which allows unlimited albums and other features, is $4.99. Photomyne also offers a monthly cloud service subscription for storing photos that comes at a cost.
Here’s how it works. Using the Photomyne app you take a picture of a group of pictures. Yes, a group. Not one at a time. You can arrange loose photos together, or snap a picture of a page of photos in an album. They don’t even have to be lined up nicely. The app will recognize the edges of photos and crop around it. No need to go in a crop each one individually. But you CAN crop the photo if you want. The edges aren’t perfect I’ve found. But they get the job done.
These photos can be saved into an album, dated, and titled. You can identify who’s in it and where it was taken – all from your smart phone. If you want, you can save the photo to your camera roll or share it on Facebook. Within the albums you create in Photomyne there’s the ability to specify a photo for the cover, reorder the photographs, and move photos to another album..
All of these albums are then accessible from the Photomyne website when you log in. Photomyne saves the pictures from all albums in their cloud. They save both your original scan and edited photos. At anytime you can see the group of photos you originally took a picture of – even re-edit the picture. Right now the editing capability is only on the phone not the website. That will be a welcome feature!
Tips for getting the best results from this app:
- If you can, remove the film on top of photo pages in albums, but not if it will damage the pictures.
- Try to avoid scanning in an area where light or shadow reflect on the pictures
- Don’t cram too many pics in one frame. It will degrade the quality: 3 to 4 pictures per scan is good.
- Photomyne makes it so easy to label and date your pictures as you scan them, don’t wait. The longer you wait the more likely you’ll be to forget pertinent information.
- If there are details written in the margins of your albums – as my family loved to do – open the “photo details” and type them in. This is great info you don’t want to lose.
- Remember that if you hate typing on your iPhone, like I do, you can put all the information in using microphone icon on your iPhone keyboard! (Hint: Siri has to be enabled to use that.)
Here are some examples of scan quality with Photomyne vs. another scanner:
1. This photo above (from 1997) was scanned using Photomyne from an album with the page film covering removed. It matches almost exactly with the image on the actual photo – only about ½ inch on the left was lost.
2. This is the same photo scanned with Photomyne with the film covering of the album page still in place. As you can see, the film creates a glare and it reduced the captured area by more than 2 inches. Of course, you can go see the original scan in the app and correct the cropped edges. The color is not as vibrant either.
3. Here’s the photo scanned in using a scanner on my printer. It too cut off part of the photo – a good 2 inches off the top. The resulting image was smaller and had to be enlarged.
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None of these photos were altered (coloring, lighting, etc.) Clearly photo #1 is the best from the bunch and is closest to the resembling the physical picture.
Here’s another example of what can happen when taking pictures in batches:
This is a screenshot from my iPhone. These two photos overlapped and Photomyne read them as one. I can edit the picture and drag the edges to outline only one picture, but then I’ve lost the other and have to take another scan to outline the second photo.
While this is slightly annoying, let me break down the time it took to scan with Photomyne vs. a standard scanner. The scan from my printer took about 3 minutes. That included: a) removing the photo from the album, b) placing on the scanner, opening my scan tool, c) waiting for the scan (about 5-7 seconds), d) importing the scan into my photo editing software, e) cropping off the white space, f) saving it on my computer in the correct location. Add to that the labeling the photo information with dates and names…we’re talking a good 5 minute process for 1 picture.
On the other hand, to create these examples in Photomyne, I used the tool to take several scans (3 seconds) with and without the page film, saved them into a named album, added dates and locations, downloaded the pictures to my phone for use in this article…all in about 2 minutes. Given I took several pictures of this page to show quality differences, I ended up scanning, labeling, and saving 6 photos in less than ½ the time it took me to scan one using typical scanner. AMAZING! Even if the quality wasn’t better it would be worth the time savings for many of our pictures. But the quality is great.
The reason we do this is to save our memories. You’ll have time to tweak and perfect them later. This tool saves so much time; it’s crazy to put off using it. The quicker we can digitize our cherished photos and documents the better! My great aunt & uncle’s wedding photo, featured at the beginning of this article, is a good reminder of that to me.
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About Jodi Bash
Jodi Bash is a genealogist living in Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. She is founder of Family at Your Fingertips and is passionate about finding creative and tangible ways to connect with family history. She runs two blogs: Unclaimed Ancestors is an effort to connect old photos with descendants, and a way to scratch the ever-present research bug! A more personal blog at Family at Your Fingertips explores family heirlooms and the love of history. Jodi has been researching family history for over 15 years, and is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. She is the Director of Communication for Covenant Church in Houston, holds a B.A. in History and English from the University of Texas at Austin, a Masters in American History from the University of Houston, and an M.B.A. from Rice University. You can reach Jodi at [email protected] and follow her on twitter via @famatfingertips.