Step-By-Step Guide to Scanning Your Family Photos

Simple Tips to Scanning Your Family’s Photographic Story

How to Scan Old Family Photos

Photo Credit: Mark 2400 via Compfight cc

As you rummage through those huge stacks of family photo albums for the perfect photos to add to your family tree, it can be pretty overwhelming when deciding which ones to scan and share. But the good news is that there are simple, effective ways to scanning your entire printed photo collection if you decide to do so. Not only does this process get your family history research organized, but it’s a vital action to digitally preserving a big part of your family’s story.

The following tips will help you get your family photos scanned, preserved and ready to share in no time.

Steps for Using a Scanner to Digitize Printed Photos

1.) Set Up Your Scanning Station

Photo Scanner with Old Portrait

Photo credit:

  • First things first, be sure your environment is free of dust before setting up your chosen scanner.
  • Set up your scanner and plug it in according to your scanner’s setup instructions.
  • Using a microfiber cloth, dust off your prints and clean the glass on the scanner to produce the best, digitized picture.

2.) Get Organized

Be sure you know which photo organization method will suit your photos best before scanning. Will you be organizing photos by the events they occurred? Or by the date they happened? Choosing your perfect system will make the photo scanning process a breeze. Stack the photos according to your chosen method.

3.) Start Scanning Pictures 

  • Make sure your scanner is plugged in and turned on.
  • Using your computer mouse, navigate to your scanner’s program location on your computer.
  • Run the photo scanning program.

    Run Scanning Program

    Photo credit:

Tip! Use a minimum resolution of 300dpi or up to 600dpi if you wish to order some larger pictures later. 

Scanning a Photo

Photo credit: Lexmark

  • Place your photos face down on the scanner surface, and align each photo inside the scanner surface’s grids or arrows.
  • Close the scanner lid (if the scanner has one), then press the scan button on your scanner.

Tip! Cut down on time by scanning four 4×6 photos at one time using an average-sized scanner bed. 

4.) Edit Your Photos

Use your computer photo editing software to crop, adjust color, brightness and even remove red-eye on your newly digitized photos.

Tip! Your scanner may already come equipped with photo editing software. Simply follow the instructions on how to set it up and start editing.

5.) Continue the Process

Repeat the above photo scanning process as you make your way through your photo collection. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get through those old picture stacks (especially when you’re this organized!).

Steps for Using a Smartphone to Scan Photos

If your smartphone has a high-quality camera, you can scan, preserve and share your old family photos with your family members online, in a jiffy! Here’s how.

1.) Download a Photo Scanning App

Pic Scanner Photo Scanning App Screenshot

Photo credit: Pic Scanner

There are quite a few great photo scanning apps out there for your smartphone, so take a look and decide which you’d like to try. Two great photo scanning apps for the family historian that offer free versions are Pic Scanner, and CamScanner.

2.) Dust Off Your Photos & Clean Your Lens

Once again, before scanning any photos, be sure to dust each picture off using a microfiber cloth. You should also clean off your smartphone lens before the scanning process begins to assure a clear image.

3.) Get Organized

Always be sure to make the photo scanning process easier by organizing your photos in a system that makes sense to you (date, event, etc.). Stack your photos in piles according to your chosen method.

4.) Find the Light

Before scanning, find a well-lit area in which to use your smartphone photo scanning app of choice. Find a location with plenty of natural light and no shadows.

5.) Launch the App & Scan Photos

Start your photo scanning app and follow the simple instructions for using your camera lens to scan your family photos. From here, you’ll also be able to crop and edit your photos according to your app’s instructions.

Tip! Place each chosen photo face up on a well-lit surface to get the best scan.

6.) Share Your Photos 

Family Using Tablet

Photo credit: Android Authority

Photo scanning apps will allow you to easily share your photos on Dropbox, through email and Facebook with your family and friends. This makes for simple family tree collaboration on their smartphones, tablets and computers.

If you need additional help in digitizing your family photos, you can always opt to outsource the work to a photo scanning company. Here are 7 great photo scanning companies to research and try out.

Now that you know all about scanning family photos, complete the process by adding your family’s photographic story to your free Crestleaf Family Tree!