Preserving Old Photos: Is It Better To Scan or Photograph?

Preserving Old Photos: Is It Better To Scan or Photograph?

Digitizing old photographs is an important way to remember and commemorate our past. The advent of digital technology has made it easier to store and share photos. Rather than leaving pictures packed away in shoe boxes degrading over time, priceless family moments can now be digitally preserved and enjoyed for generations to come. But, when it comes to the best way to digitize photos, the big question is: is it better to scan or photograph old photos? 

To answer this, it's important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each option. While scanning is more accurate and provides greater detail, which is helpful if you ever want to edit your photos, taking pictures with your smartphone camera can be a cheaper, faster, and more convenient option. 

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what your goals are for digitizing your images. Whether you're looking to simply preserve a handful of memories or create a digital archive for future generations to cherish, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each option so that you can make the best decision for your needs.

Why Digitizing Photos Is Important

There’s nothing quite like looking through old family photos. They bring to life memories and stories we may have long forgotten about. It’s like taking a walk down memory lane, and it’s a fantastic way to reconnect with our past. 

But as time passes, these old family photos can fade and deteriorate, leaving them beyond recognition. Not to mention, holding onto large archives of physical photos leaves them susceptible to physical damage and natural disasters destroying your memories, making them lost forever. 

That’s why it’s so important to consider preserving your old family photos before these memories fade away. By digitally preserving them, you can ensure your family’s most important moments and stories are safe and secure for generations to come. 

Method 1: Taking Pictures of Photos

Smartphone cameras are a great way to quickly and easily digitize old family photos. Almost everyone has one these days, they are easy to use, and this method allows you to store pictures directly on your phone for easy access. You can also edit the photos using photo scanning apps on your phone and easily share them with friends and family members or directly on social media.

But with this convenience comes some drawbacks. The quality of the final images will be lower compared to if you use a dedicated photo scanner or picture scanning service. Smartphone cameras tend to miss out on the finer details of an image, can capture glares, shadows, and photos can come out blurry for those without the steadiest of hands. It can take multiple tries just to get a clear shot of a single image!

Overall, smartphone cameras are best for quickly digitizing old family photos, but they should not replace dedicated photo scanners if you want the best quality digital representation of your photos.

Method 2: Scanning Photos

Using a dedicated photo scanner to digitize your photos will get you the best results (depending on your scanner), and is usually worth the extra cost and time compared to simply taking a picture on your phone.

Dedicated photo scanners help minimize distortion and help keep the quality of the original photograph. Photo scanners also typically have higher resolution settings than a smartphone camera, so you can get a much better digital copy of your images, and can better capture the finer details of an image.

Suppose you don't already own a scanner or don't want to invest in buying one. In that case, a professional photo scanning service like Nostalgic Media can help you digitize your entire collection of family pictures safely, quickly, and affordably.

So, Which Method Is Best?

When deciding on the best way to digitize photos, you should consider your goals, but typically, it is better to scan old photos than to photograph them. If your goal is simple preservation and quality is not a concern, then snapping pictures with a smartphone will suffice and save you money, but if you want your photos preserved at the best quality, then scanning photos is the way to go.

Some factors to consider when deciding which method to choose:


Digital scanning is the obvious choice if the quality of your photos is important to you (which it most likely is!). The typical resolution for a quality scan is 300 dpi, so it is important to use a scanner that can meet this resolution in order to achieve good quality. 

With the right equipment and proper technique, you can easily produce digital scans that are of excellent quality and can be used for various purposes, such as sharing with family and friends, editing, or safely storing them in cloud storage such as google photos, dropbox, or google drive, allowing you to access your memories from all of your digital devices. 

Quality should be a top priority when it comes to scanning photos, so it's worth investing in the right equipment or the best photo scanning service to ensure that the results will be up to your standards.


Taking pictures with a smartphone is the more affordable option for many, however, if you're looking for the highest quality scans, then investing in a scanner or finding a scanning service is the better choice. This may cost more upfront, but it will provide higher-quality images that can be reused time and time again.

It's important to consider what you need when it comes to cost and quality. Though cheaper options may be tempting, investing in an affordable scanner or service can make all the difference down the line, and can actually save you money and a whole lot of headaches down the line.


Taking pictures with a smartphone may seem like the faster option for capturing memories, however, scanning photos with the right equipment can be done just as quickly, or faster, and more efficiently.

With the help of technology, it is now possible to scan large amounts of photos in a fraction of the time that it would take to take pictures of them. This makes it more convenient for those who don't have the time to take pictures but still want to preserve their memories. 


For some people, preserving family photos with a smartphone may be the more convenient option; however, if you're looking for professional-grade scans, then you'll have to invest in a scanner or find a professional service to help you. Doing so will save you the hassle of trying to get it right with a smartphone camera.

Photo scanners and scanning services offer high-quality results that capture all the details you need without any of the hassles. In addition, they usually provide cost-effective solutions that are tailored to your personal needs. The convenience of having someone else do it for you can't be understated, as it means you don't have to worry about dealing with any technical issues or digging through that mountain of old photos yourself.