How to digitize old photos and slides

Gone are the days when we had to wait seemingly forever, sometimes weeks, to get a glimpse of our vacation pictures once they were developed and printed.  

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This process saw a steady decline with the arrival of digital cameras and then became all but obsolete when our smartphones included cameras that produced pictures as good or better as anything we captured on film. 

However, many of us still have boxes and boxes full of our old photographs, or even slides, taking up space, and often collecting dust, in our closets. 

Thankfully, there are several ways of digitizing our old slides and photos. Several highly rated self-contained scanners are available at a variety of prices. But if you don’t have the storage space for a scanner, fear not, as it’s possible to scan your photos and slides using your smartphone. 

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How do I convert my photos into digital files? 

Photomyne is an app, available for both iOS and Android devices, which can easily scan your photos into digital files. Using only your phone camera, Photomyne can scan multiple photos at a time, remarkably detecting all edges of photographs. In addition to the clear, high-quality images produced, once uploaded, the app allows you to add numerous features to your digital photographs, including: 

  • Adding names, locations, and faces
  • Tagging faces
  • Adding and accompanying audio recording
  • Adding color filters
  • Colorizing black and white photographs.

Once uploaded, the app also easily allows you to save your photos to your desktop and mobile devices, or share them with friends and loved ones via a link.  

At the time of publication, Photomyne has 3 tiers: $9.99/month, $39.99/year with a free 3-day trial and $47.99 for 2 years.   

While Photomyne is specifically geared towards photographs, they have taken into account those who would love to digitize slides. 

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How do I convert my slides into digital files? 

Another service provided by Photomyne, SlideScan for both iOS and Android is specifically geared towards digitizing slides and singing the same overall technique as Photomyne, using your phone’s camera to scan the slides. 

We tried this and were amazed at how quickly and we could convert the slides to pictures.  The key here was to make sure your camera was steady. The only major difference is one additional step of holding the slide in front of a white screen or backlight source to make the image visible. 

At the time of publication, SlideScan has 3 tiers: $9.99/month, $39.99/year with a free 3-day trial and $47.99 for 2 years.   

Do I really only need my phone to digitize my photos and slides? 

Once the app is downloaded, you will not need any additional software or material. 

However, to ensure the best possible quality photos, Photomyne does sell accessories on their own Amazon storefront, with a couple of accessories coming highly recommended.  These include the following: 

  • Photomyne Light Pad slides and negatives viewer 
  • $39.99 (at the time of publishing)
  • Easy and convenient backlighting should you be digitizing slides
  • Large, lightweight flat surface
  • Allows you to scan multiple images at the same time with a scanning device
  • Saves you the trouble of holding slides or negatives up against your computer
  • For any artist, the light pad will also come in handy for tracing and sketching.

You can digitize your old photos and slides using just your phone.
(iStock, File)

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Get the Photomyne Light Pad Backlight slides and negatives viewer  

Macro Lens 

  • $39.99 (at the time of publishing)
  • Built-in magnifying lens to expand small subjects into high-quality HD images
  • Saves you the trouble of manually zooming in on certain subjects with your camera
  • Easily clips onto your smartphone camera lens, posing no threat of damage
  • Compatible with most smartphones (currently not compatible with the iPhone 13 pro
  • User-friendly.

Get the Macro Lens 

Photomyne Phone Mount

  • $29.99 (at time of publishing)
  • Sturdily holds the phone over photos and slides
  • Saves you the trouble of holding the phone yourself, with no risk of a shaky camera
  • Adjustable arm and mount to easily scan photographs and slides with your phone
  • Easily attaches to any firm, steady surface
  • Compatible with just about all smartphones
  • Limited assembly required.

Get the Photomyne Phone Mount 

What are alternative scanning devices to consider? 

Understandably, many people would prefer not to be beholden to their phones and apps when scanning their photographs. In this case, several scanning devices are just as quick and easy. 

Plaustek Photo Scanner 

  • Price: $199.00 (at time of publishing)
  • Over 68,000 global ratings with 78% giving the product 5 stars on Amazon at time of publication
  • Easily scans photographs one by one
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows
  • Easily transfers from iPhoto
  • Easy setup
  • Slightly limited storage.

Get the Plaustek Photo Scanner 

Kodak SCANZA Digital Film & Slide Scanner 

If you own an iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus or Blackberry Z10, you can craft yourself a custom case decorated with your best Instagram pic (or a mosaic of several) at Casetagram. Prices rage from $34.99 to $54.99.

If you own an iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Nexus or Blackberry Z10, you can craft yourself a custom case decorated with your best Instagram pic (or a mosaic of several) at Casetagram. Prices rage from $34.99 to $54.99.
(Casetagram)

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  • Price: $149.99
  • Over 9,900 global ratings with 60% giving the product 5 stars on Amazon at time of publication
  • Able to digitize both slides and film negatives.
  • Mac And Windows compatible
  • Easy setup
  • Built-in color display features.

Get the Kodak SCANZA Digital Film & Side Scanner 

Epson FastFoto Scanner 

  • Price: $499.99
  • Over 2,000 global ratings with 80% giving the product 5 stars on Amazon at time of publication
  • Scans photos and documents
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Color enhancement and restoration software included.
Aura Carver Luxe HD Smart Digital Picture Frame 10.1 Inch

Aura Carver Luxe HD Smart Digital Picture Frame 10.1 Inch
(Credit: Aura Frames)

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  • User-friendly
  • Scans 1 photo per second
  • Scan up to 33 photos at a time.

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