While I always recommend using a flatbed scanner rather than a mobile phone to capture prints for restoration, that might not be an option for you. A flatbed scanner is better because it is a real scanner, it will create a perfectly lit, flat, sharp, detailed image free from distortions. It will not add grain and file compression imposed by a phone camera.
While today’s smartphones are marvels of technology, smartphones are not scanners and have several limitations which make them far from ideal, including small lenses, wide angles which will distort images, imposed file compression and grain, tiny imaging sensors, over-packed with pixels, suited better for photos and not “scanning”.
With that said, by following these few simple steps, you should be able to capture a decent-enough digital image of your photo so that it can be restored more easily, with better results.
1. Use the best phone you can find
Smartphone technology continues to improve at a staggering pace, with each new generation offering considerable improvements over the last. If your phone is already a few years old, but you have a friend or family member with a more recent or more advanced model, then ask them if you can borrow theirs…
2. Set your phone camera to the highest quality setting
Open your phone’s camera settings and check that the quality setting is at maximum.
On an iPhone…
- Settings > Camera > Formats > Most Compatible (JPEG/H.264)
On an Android device…
- Open camera > tap the cog for settings > Picturesize > choose most amount of MP i.e. 12M
3. Clean the phone camera lens
Clean the phone camera lens with a clean soft cloth. For phones with multiple cameras, make sure all the lenses are clean.
4. Get the lighting right.
For best results, use all-round soft, even and bright lighting…
Do – Ensure the lighting is bright but soft from all angles
Avoid shadows from your arms or body
Avoid reflections from over-bright lights or side lighting.
Diffuse over bright lighting conditions with tissue, tracing paper or even a sheet
Wear dark clothing to avoid reflections.
use a table lamp or torch as lighting, it is too bright.
Take the photo in full sun, it almost impossible to avoid reflections
Block the light with your body or arms
5. Steady the camera
Do – Use a tripod, as a stand or clamped selfie-stick to keep the camera steady
Have the camera face directly at the photo so all the sides are square. Tilt the camera until it is parallel to the photo or square on. The photo on the screen should be four right angles with equal-sized sides. If they differ adust the camera until it is “square” on.
6. Don’t Use a scanning app
There many scanning apps that fancify taking a photo and tell you it is a scan. It is not. It still just a photo. That is what we are doing here taking a good photo. Don’t use a scanning app. Best just take a photo correctly in the first place. Scanning apps “process” the image and correct any miss alignments. This processing of the image degrades the image and loses details and data.
7. Email it
Sending from your phone…
- Open the Photos app and select the photo to send.
- Tap Share, then tap Mail.
- In the To: field, type firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Compose your message and tap Send.
- When prompted to select the image size, select the Actual Size option. This prevents the image from being automatically compressed, which reduces the file size but also the quality of the photo.
- Open your photo gallery
- Open the photo you wish to email
- Tap Share, then tap whichever app you use to email.
- Compose your message and tap Send.
Don’t – Drag and drop the photo into the email body
Don’t – Screenshot the photo after you have taken it and then email it.
This should help get an image that is useable for restoration but not ideal, a good scan will always give you better results. A smartphone is not a scanner!