Photo-scanning apps

Q: Do photo-scanning apps for phones really do much more besides clicking a picture of the photograph you want to scan?

Some smartphone apps that are designed specifically for scanning or capturing digital versions of photographic prints can do a bit more than just take a picture of the picture.

When searching for a portable scanning program, read its listed set of features on its app store page — tools like edge detection, perspective correction and colour enhancement can make a battered print look much better after its digital conversion.

Google PhotoScan, which was released last year for Android and iOS gadgets, is one free app with a lot of tools for turning your photo prints into decent digital copies; for a visual introduction to the software, a demonstration video is available on YouTube.

To scan a picture, you move the camera over several areas of the print as the app guides you. PhotoScan then merges all the parts and removes any glare from the light in the room.

The combined image is straightened, cropped and colour-enhanced to make it look as good as possible. You can save it locally, or if you use Google Photos, you can automatically back up your PhotoScan files to the cloud.

Other photo-scanning apps to check out include Photomyne, which has free basic and $5 versions for Android and iOS devices and can capture multiple images at once. Apps designed to convert documents as well as photos include TurboScan (for Android and iOS) and CamScanner, which offers versions for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

If you have boxes of old albums that you want to digitise, you need negatives or slides converted or have damaged photos in need of repair, a professional service like ScanMyPhotos or DiJiFi is another option.

Q: How to get free access to genealogy files?

Viewing public records is typically free if you go to the municipal or religious archives and look them up yourself, or the organisation has digitised and posted them.

However, if a genealogy company took the time to scan in paper-based records from various sources around the world, index them and make it easy to search through mountains of material from the comfort of your own home, you will most likely be charged at some point.

A company’s custom software for creating a visual family tree and access to community forums are also perks of being a paid customer.

Many of the bigger services, like Ancestry and MyHeritage, have a free trial membership you can use to see if a subscription is worth it to you. But you may be asked to provide a credit card up front. You can find many types of public records free online.

For example, the National Archives has a “Resources for Genealogists” page with links to research guides and free online databases like passenger lists from the Ellis Island immigration center and the scanned images from the 1940 census.
J D Biersdorfer

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