With powerful photo organization tools like Apple’s Photos app now available across the board from iOS to OS X, there’s probably never been a better time to finally convert those physical photo albums into their digital counterparts. But there’s one roadblock to doing that: it’s amazingly difficult, since each photo must be removed from an album, scanned, color-corrected or touched up, and then finally moved to Photos. That’s where Photomyne, a $4.99 universal iOS app, saves the day.
The developers of Photomyne knew that those who would be converting those cumbersome photo albums into digital versions would want to keep all of the photos in an album together, so the app works on the concept of digital albums. Once the app is launched, the user creates a new album and then starts adding photos. With Photomyne, there’s no need to start pulling prints out of the album and set up the old scanner; instead, you just use the rear camera on your iPhone or iPad.
Aiming the camera at the album page, the user follows simple guidelines — get as close as possible, don’t cut off the corners of photos on the page, try to avoid parallax by holding the camera direct above a page — and then presses and holds the shutter button on the app. Within a few seconds, Photomyne captures an image of the album page. Here’s where the magic begins: Photomyne is able to determine how many prints are in the photo, auto-crops them, and then saves them into the album as four separate photos.
If too many prints have been squeezed onto an album page, the user might need to give Photomyne a bit of help. This is done through a tap and hold gesture, defining where the center of an image is. Photomyne then tries to determine where the photo borders are. If Photomyne gets it wrong, it’s possible to drag the corners of the capture area to the borders of each photo with a finger.
This slideshow demonstrates the built-in app tutorial, as well as actual digitization of an album page with Photomyne.
Next, Photomyne applies automatic color correction to the images. Most old prints tend to fade in very predictable ways, and the app applies just the right amount of correction to make each photo look its best. There are also manual controls for tweaking the brightness, color intensity and contrast of an image.
Now, let’s say your Mom added a penciled-in description of what was happening to the back of each photo. Fortunately, Photomyne has a place to enter metadata about each photo. Type in a title, when the photo was taken, and even tag Facebook friends who might be in the photo. Photomyne plans to add a public sharing service so that friends can share their photos, or everyone who has taken photos at a specific location — say Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park — can see every other photo of that location that’s been added.
How did Photomyne work in testing? Pretty well, although I had some issues with lighting. A lot of the photos I was working on were under a shiny plastic sheet that held them in place on the album page, and the sheet reflected overhead lighting. I was able to easily remove the images, then put them onto a light background to capture the images without the reflection.
In summary, Photomyne still requires a bit of effort, but can save hours of time over traditional scanning methods. And if you’ve ever used a commercial scanning service to convert your photo albums to digital format, you’ll realize that the $4.99 price of the app is a bargain compared to the hundreds of dollars you would have spent otherwise.