How to scan your old photos and keep them organised

By Bonusprint on 19 July 2017

Got loads of old photo prints sitting in shoeboxes under the bed? Follow these simple scanning tips to help you back them up safely on your computer and add them to your bonusprint photo books.

If you’ve got boxes and boxes of photo prints from your old instant camera or the days before digital, don’t leave them gathering dust. You can back them up safely and add them to a beautiful bonusprint photo book by using a few easy scanning techniques.

We’ve got storage solutions, scanning app suggestions and some steps you can try to get the best out of your prints. And even if you still love working with film, you can organise your snaps and save them with your digital photos too. Check out these tips to start scanning your old photos.

1. Sort through your old photos

A woman and daughter looking through an old photo album on the living room floor. 

Photo organisation can be time-consuming, so why not turn it into an activity the whole family can get involved in? Gather everyone round on a rainy day, dig out your boxes of old photos and sort through them together. You can discard all the blurry ones and the photos where Grandad had his thumb over the lens, and then decide as a family which ones to put into a photo book and which ones you just want to back up on your laptop.

2. Get your prints ready for scanning

A small selection of old childhood photos in colour.

Old photos can collect dust and fingerprints after years of sitting in storage or being passed around. To get the best results when scanning them in, you need to do a little prep first. Here are a few tips you can try:

  • Use a microfibre cloth to gently wipe off any dust, or use an alcohol-based wipe to get rid of any dirt.
  • If you’re thinking of using a scanning app (we’ll talk you through some great ones to try in a moment), clean your phone’s camera lens with a microfibre cloth or cotton with a drop of isopropyl alcohol.
  • To get quality scans through an app, go into a room with lots of natural light and as few shadows as possible.

OK, you’re ready to start scanning.

3. Try a scanning app

A woman sat on her bed looking through her smartphone with a cup of coffee in her other hand. 

The great thing about scanning apps is they’re a lot cheaper than buying a scanner for your home if you don’t have one already. They’re also easy to use, and many of them let you share and manage your photos too. Just keep in mind though, the quality might not be clear enough to print in larger formats.

Here are a few scanning apps we’d suggest trying:

Photomyne (Available for iOS and Android)
Best features: You can scan multiple photos in one go, and it detects different photos and saves them in separate albums for you.

Google PhotoScan (Available for iOS and Android)
Best features: It takes multiple shots of a single photo and gets rid of glare to give you a higher quality scan.

CamScanner (Available for iOS and Android)
Best features: This is a great app for scanning mementoes. There is a free version available too, but it leaves a watermark on your scans.

Pic Scanner Gold  (Available for iOS and Android)
Best features: It scans multiple photos at once, and it makes it easy to share your scans with friends and family through Instagram, WhatsApp and more.

4. Use a scanner or ask a professional

A woman’s hand placing a photo face-down on a scanner.

You could purchase a scanner to add all your prints to your computer at home. These range in price from very affordable to very expensive and the quality of your scans tends to reflect on the price. However, you can get a great finish by scanning your photos yourself, but you can also pay to have them professionally scanned for you instead.

Here’s a top tip if you love film photography. Lots of photo print labs also scan negatives too, so you can keep a digital copy of your negatives safe and then have them edited or developed later. It’s also a great way of tidying up any old negatives that you might have in storage boxes as well.

5. Scan your mementoes too

An old boarding pass, a passport and some diary pages on a wooden table.

We all love holding onto bits and bobs we’ve collected over the years, but sometimes we need a bit of a clear out. You can scan your mementoes too to add to a photo book, that way you’re freeing up space without parting with the little keepsakes you love.

You can scan maps and train tickets from your travels or add cinema tickets from your first date to a wedding album. And, if your scans are large enough, you could experiment with creating a background out of them for the pages of your next photo book.

6. Tidy up your photo storage

A woman in a yellow shirt sat behind her laptop in her living room.

Managing your scans cleanly and tidily will make them easier to find on your device when you start creating a photo book. It won’t be a five-minute job, but with some careful file management, you’ll be able to find the photos you want in a flash.

  • First, create backups of all your scans and photos on one device. Then make sure you’ve got a clear file naming system in place. We’d suggest a pattern like this: YYYY-MM-DD-Theme-Location-Description of what’s in the image
  • Think about how you group your files too. You can save all your travel photos in one folder, then split it by holiday and add all the boarding passes and postcards you saved from that trip as well. We’ve got more great tips on how to group your photos, here.
  • If you need some additional pointers on photo storage and how to manage your scans and images, take a look at our photo organisation guides.

Once your old photos, mementoes and image files are all tidy, you’ll be ready to create a brand new photo book from bonusprint. And your favourite memories will be safely stored to look back on and share for years to come.

If you’ve never created a photo book before, it’s super simple – just take a look at our creation guide to get started. And we’ve made it even easier to make photo books in no time at all, thanks to our new Smart Assistant. It automatically creates beautiful photo books in just a few minutes, but you still get full creative freedom, so you can make a book that’s one of a kind.

start creating your photo book