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Photo Scanning Apps vs. Traditional Photo Scanning

When it comes to digitizing pictures, slides, and film there are many options available. Traditionally, there were two options for those wishing to digitize their family photos: flatbed scanners or photo scanning services through a local business. Now, photo scanning apps offer another option. There are many photo scanning apps for iPhones, Androids, and similar devices, available at a range of prices and with various features. Each method has its merits and downsides and deciding whether a flatbed photo scanner or an app is best comes down to the unique needs of your family history project.

Flatbed Scanners:

Flatbed scanners have been around for a long time and are a reliable method of digitizing film, slides, documents, and photographs.


  • You can adjust for a higher scanning resolution. For example, for printing purposes, 300 dpi (dots per inch) is required, but if you scan at a higher resolution, say 600 dpi, you can crop out a portion of the picture or print it larger to fit your needs

  • Flatbed scanners have the advantage of a weighted top, flattening any creases or folds that may be found in the document or photograph you wish to scan


  • Flatbed scanners are slower and depending on the scanner software that you have, you may have to scan one picture, slide, or document at a time.

  • If you want to scan slides or film with a flatbed scanner, you will also need the adapters to hold them and additional software to scan with.

  • Flatbed scanners can be expensive to purchase, ranging anywhere from $99 to $900

  • These scanners tend to be large and heavy, taking up desk space (or storage space when out of use)

Like flatbed scanners, there are small scanners designed to scan pictures with, such as the Fujitsu M300. These scanners tend to also be expensive and will not scan slides or film.

Professional Photo Scanning Service

There are several options for professional photo scanning services. Some box stores like London Drugs and Walmart offer photo scanning. You submit photos, slides, film or video, and these stores will digitize your keepsakes and return them to you on a USB or CD. Alternatively, there are several similar online options for photo scanning, too. Sites like ScanDigital supply a prepared box for customers to send their original photos in and digitized photos are supplied via USB or HDD. Others, like, are a digitizing service that goes way beyond just scanning photos. You can purchase drive space that actually belongs to you, they promise to keep everything updated to the latest format, and you can will it to your relatives, share links to it, and more. (and, if you use this link, you'll get $20 USD off your first order).


  • Photo scanning services are very convenient. After compiling and delivering your chosen photos, the remainder of the work is completed by the business.

  • Professional photo scanning services can often accommodate a variety of keepsakes, including film, photographs, and slides. There is no need to purchase additional software or equipment.

  • Photo scanning services tend to be an inexpensive method in comparison to purchasing or even renting a flatbed scanner. For example, sites like ScanCafe charge only $0.44 a photo.


  • Most scanning services use a sheet feed scanner rather than a flatbed scanner, meaning that any delicate documents or photographs are at risk of damage

  • If choosing to send photos away to an online photo scanning service, old photos and heirlooms are subjected to the postal system, creating the risk for them to get lost

  • With professional photo scanning services, you have no capacity to edit or adjust your photos to suit the needs of your specific project

Photo Scanning Apps for iPhone or Android

There are many options in terms of photo scanning apps in 2022. Some apps are free, some are paid at a subscription basis, and some are a one-time cost. These apps make it convenient to do your own photo scanning and document digitizing.


  • Photo scanning apps are easy to access since we almost always have out phones with us

  • You can have many different scanning apps on your phone to accommodate a range of documents, photos, slides, or other memories you wish to digitize

  • The cost is much cheaper in comparison to a dedicated picture scanner or a flatbed scanner

  • Photo scanning apps are generally easy and quick to use

  • Many apps have editing services built in, so adjusting the colour or size of your scan is simple


  • It can be difficult to take scans of pictures to eliminate glare (although some apps offer in-app editing to take care of this quite nicely)

  • For scanning film, you will need to access a white background

  • Scanning with a phone requires a steady hand, or a tripod for your phone

  • Some apps require scanning items one at a time, making for a much longer process

  • There’s no way to adjust the size or DPI of a scan in most photo scanning apps

Check out a post coming soon for more info on the best photo scanning apps, to help you choose the best one.

We hope this information helps you make a wise choice, based on your own context. When you’ve got those images scanned and are ready to create a beautiful book – check out our Samples page for ideas/inspiration!

Thorough and thoughtful research thanks to Grant, a participant in a NextGen Story course through Vancouver Island University’s Elder College.

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