Those old photo albums may be nostalgic to look at, but they are extremely vulnerable to damage and deterioration. Photo scanning provides a secure backup of precious memories and makes it easier to view them anywhere, any time.
Photo scanners turn physical photos into digital files that can be safely backed up online. Once digitized, these photos can be viewed on phone, computer, or TV screens, edited to enhance the quality of the image, and shared with anyone you like.
Choosing a photo scanner depends entirely on what you are trying to accomplish. There are scanners designed specifically to quickly scan large stacks of photos, ideal for digitizing an album collection. Some are designed specifically for photo negatives, film, and slides, some are particularly portable, and some are versatile all-in-one options.
Here are our top picks for the best photo scanners, including our overall and runner-up picks, the best negative scanner, best portable scanner, and best all-in-one scanner.
If you only need to scan the odd photo now and then, we’ve also recommended a few app-based options at the end. They aren’t a replacement for a dedicated device, but still have their uses in certain situations.
Looking for more scanning options? Check out our recommendations for the best portable scanners right now.
- Dimensions: 11.7 x 6.9 x 6.7 inches
- Weight: 8.2 pounds
- Max Resolution: 600 dpi (optical)
- Automatic Feeder: Yes (36 photos)
- Dimensions: 11.4 x 6.3 x 6.2 inches
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
- Max Resolution: 600 dpi (optical)
- Automatic Feeder: No
- Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.9 x 4.4 inches
- Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Max Resolution: 3200 dpi (optical)
- Automatic Feeder: No
- Dimensions: 11.2 x 2.0 x 1.7 inches
- Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Max Resolution: 1200 dpi
- Automatic Feeder: No
- Dimensions: 19 x 11 x 4.6 inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Max Resolution: 9600 dpi
- Automatic Feeder: No
Best Photo Scanner: Epson FastFoto FF-680W
The Epson FastFoto FF-680W is a high-speed photo scanner that’s fantastic at quickly and easily digitizing stacks of cherished old photos, polaroids, and postcards.
It’s a top-of-the-line machine, beating out all of the competition when it comes to quickly scanning large numbers of photos. The speed and quality come with a high price tag, though.
The FF-680W scans stacks of up to 36 photos from an auto-feed tray, so you don’t need to load each one individually. This won’t mean much if you’re only scanning a few photos, but if you’re digitizing all of your albums, it makes a big difference to your workload. You can even capture both sides of the photo simultaneously, to maintain important dates or notes on the back of the photos.
It’s incredibly fast, making it the best fast photo scanner on the market. Able to scan one photo per second at 300 DPI, Epson claims the FastPhoto FF-680W is the world’s fastest personal photo scanner. It can scan at 600 DPI, too, but you’ll lose a bit of speed by ramping up the quality.
Scans can be uploaded directly to your computer via USB, or sent straight to Dropbox or Google Drive. You can use the accompanying FastFoto software (available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android) to review, rotate, delete, and reorder images.
This versatile scanner can also scan a range of other items up to 8.5 inches wide, including documents, school records, artwork, bills, receipts, trading cards, and more. There’s no support for scanning negatives, however: we’ve got a separate recommendation for that below.Buy on Amazon
Runner-up, Best Photo Scanner: Plustek Photo Scanner
The Plustek Photo Scanner is our runner-up option, a quality scanner that’s noticeably cheaper than our top pick. If price is a major concern, this is definitely the better choice.
The main trade-off is scanning speed, mostly because you can’t stack up several photos at once. As a result, it’s better for scanning a few photos at a time than multiple albums in a row. Like our top pick, there’s no support for scanning negatives.
You’re able to scan at an optical resolution of either 300 or 600 DPI. In addition to 3 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, and 8 x 10-inch photo scanning, it can also scan documents on letter or A4 size paper.
Although it’s not as fast as the FastFoto FF-680W above, scanning photos with the Plustek is still more efficient than with a flatbed scanner, since you can feed each item through without needing to open and close the lid. It only takes two seconds to scan each 4 x 6 photo, five seconds for an 8 x 10 photo, and five seconds for documents.Buy on Amazon
Best Photo Negative Scanner: Magnasonic FS71
The Magnasonic FS71 is our top pick for scanning film, negatives, and slides. The scanner turns these mediums into quality 22 megapixel JPEG images in seconds, with a compact design that measures approximately 5 x 5 x 5 inches and weighs a bit over 13 ounces.
You have a few options for viewing and editing photos with this scanner. The convenient 5-inch LCD screen allows you to instantly view scans, and you can adjust brightness and color (red/green/blue) or mirror and flip images directly on the device.
There’s also an HDMI port, so you can connect it to a TV and display images on a screen instantaneously. This feature is ideal for showcasing photographs at events and parties.
The scanner comes with 128MB of built-in memory, which will store up to 50 images on the device until you’re ready to download them to a PC or Mac via USB cable. This memory can be expanded to up to 20,000 images with an SD card. A bundle is available that includes a 32GB card, or you can use your own with up to 128GB capacity.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Photo Scanner: ClearClick Portable Photo & Document Scanner
If you’re looking for something highly portable, we recommend the this ClearClick model, which can scan photos and documents up to 8.5 inches wide in either JPG or PDF formats. It’s a powerful scanning tool for its size, approximately 13 x 8 x 2 inches and only 12 ounces.
You can use the scanner anywhere with no cords so long as you have 3 AA batteries (not included.) It scans at up to 1200 DPI, but it’s unclear whether that’s optical or interpolated (ie, software-enhanced) resolution. There’s also a convenient 1.4 inch LCD screen on top that allows you to preview each scan before saving it.
By default, images are saved directly to a microSD card (not included), which may be a pro or con depending on what you’re looking for. Once scans are complete, you can stick the card into a laptop or a microSD reader, or connect the scanner to a PC or Mac via the included USB cable to upload your photos.
The second option for scanning is only available for PC users. Instead of using batteries, you can power the scanner with the included USB cable and send scans directly to a Windows PC. To save your photos to a Mac, you need to first scan them to the microSD card as above.Buy on Amazon
Best Scanner for Photos and Documents: Epson Perfection V600
The Epson Perfection V600 is the best flatbed scanner for photos, documents, film, slides, and negatives. It’s a versatile machine that can scan just about anything up to 8.5 inches wide, and is one of the best photo and slide scanner combos. It’s the ideal choice if you want a scanner that can do it all.
The Perfection V600 scans at up to an impressive 6400 x 9600 DPI optical resolution, which creates sharp, vivid reproductions up to 17 x 22 inches. It also comes with software that can remove visible tears and creases and restore faded color photos, making it the best scanner for old photos.
The bundled software also provides other useful features, including scan to email, converting documents to editable text, and an image editor for touching up scanned photos.
On the downside, it’s not one of the speedier scanning options, and you will need to individually load each photo or document you scan. It’s also a bit on the bulky side, so be sure you have sufficient space to store and use it (19 x 11 x 4.6 inches.)Buy on Amazon
Best Photo Scanning Apps
If you’re only scanning photos occasionally and can’t justify a dedicated photo scanner, the alternative is to use a photo scanning app on your phone or tablet. The image quality and speed aren’t as high as the devices we mention above, but they’ll do in a pinch.
The best photo scanning apps combine your phone’s built-in camera with extra features and advanced image processing software to “scan” and enhance your images, and we’ve picked our top three below.
For a free photo scanning app, Google Photoscan comes with a number of impressive features. It’s simple to use, and integrates with Google Photos for easy photo storage and sharing.
To get higher quality image scans, the app asks users to take several pictures of the photo. The software then stitches the images together, taking the best aspects of each version to create a high-quality composite image.
There are several other features that boost the quality of the resulting scans. Glare reduction tech helps reduce the risk of bright sun or overhead lighting ruining your scans, while edge detection automates the cropping process, helping standardize images into a rectangular shape.
The app automatically determines the correct orientation, ensuring that images are always displayed right-side-up, and perspective correction eliminates the tilting effect that can happen if you don’t take the photo precisely straight-on.
The Photoscan app is powerful on its own, but it’s the integration with Google Photos that kicks the app into high gear. With one tap, you can upload photos from the app to your Photos account (which is tied to your normal Google account).
From there, you can use Google’s slightly-creepy-yet-highly-useful features, such as image search. Google’s tech uses image recognition technology to make all your images searchable, without any manual input or tagging from you.
For example, you can search for “birthday”, and Google Photos will find any of your images that it thinks may be birthday photos (cakes, decorations, etc.) The feature works surprisingly — some would say scarily — well.
Google Photos also makes it easy to share, collaborate and comment on photos. So if you’re scanning old family photos, for instance, it’s simple to share the album with your extended family. You can even order photo prints, albums and more, directly from Google Photos at very reasonable prices.
Photo Scan App by Photomyne
Essentially, Photomyne can scan an entire album page, and then automatically split each image on the page into separate photos. If you’re trying to digitize old photo albums, this can save you a ton of time. The feature works well, so long as the images are square or rectangular (it struggles with oddly-shaped images).
The app can also auto-rotate pictures to ensure they are upright, regardless of how they were scanned. There are also a host of features enabling you to edit your images, including filters and the ability to colorize black and white photos.
You can tag and categorize photos, adding details like date, location, and names, and even add audio recording to images if you’re so inclined.
The app has a free version, but functionality is limited. The number of images you can scan and share is limited, you can’t download images (you can only view them in the app itself), and image editing features are reduced.
The premium version adds unlimited scanning, editing and sharing, as well as online photo storage, higher quality image resolution, photo backup, and more. Photomyne Premium costs $59.99 for a two-year plan, with monthly plans from $4.99.
FamilySearch Memories is a unique app that combines photo scanning with genealogy and family history. As such, it’s a great option for scanning old family photos and documenting family history in a digital format.
The scanning features are fairly basic compared to the other apps on this list. Even so, as long as you take your time capturing the images, the scans turn out pretty well.
Where this app shines is in its family tree and family history capturing features. The app syncs with FamilySearch.org, a website which lets you construct your family tree and record notable events in your family’s history.
With the app, scanned images can sync up to your family tree on FamilySearch. The app will attempt to match images of family members with the appropriate person (although you can override this to manually assign images).
The FamilySearch Memories app can scan documents as well, useful for capturing family documents such as marriage certificates, newspaper articles, and more. Other features that help you capture your family’s history include the ability to take notes and write stories tagged to individual images, and recording audio interviews with your family members.
Everything you capture — images, notes, stories, interviews, and all the rest — is automatically organized into your family tree.
In the end, choosing the best photo scanner comes down to your budget and what you hope to achieve. If price isn’t a concern, and you want to scan a lot of photos quickly, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W will help you speedily scan stacks of up to 36 photos at a time.
Finally, if you’re just scanning the occasional old photo, either use the standard camera app on your phone to take a snap of the photograph, or install Google Photoscan.
Main image via Shutterstock, product images via Amazon, app images via Google Play store