Photomyne: Turning physical photo albums into digital treasures

Transferring old photo albums to a digital format can be a huge amount of work. First, there’s the hassle of taking photos out of an album, whether they’re glued in, using those little adhesive corners, or using the clear plastic sheets that are used in “modern” albums. Then the images need to be scanned, generally with a flatbed scanner of some sort. Next, each image is color-corrected if necessary, or touched up if there are scratches or stains. Photomyne (US$4.99, universal) is an iOS app designed to take the work out of converting a printed photo collection to a digital format.

Photomyne works on the concept of digital photo albums, so if you happen to have a physical album that needs to be converted to the 21st-century equivalent, you just create a new album and then start adding photos.

Now, adding photos to albums can be a real hassle. Generally, you’re feeding them one at a time through a scanner, then cropping them, adjusting color, and so on. Not with Photomyne. Point the iPhone or iPad rear camera at your photo album page while following simple guidelines (get as close as possible, don’t cut off corners of photos, be directly above the page, etc…), hold down the shutter button on the app for a few seconds, and Photomyne captures the image.

The next part of the process is sheer magic; Photomyne examines the album page, and if it discerns that there are four separate pictures under the plastic sheet, it auto-crops them and saves them as four separate photos.

Sometimes — especially if prints are too close together on an album page — you’ll have to give Photomyne a little help. To do this, you simply tap and hold the center of a photo, and it then does its best guess of where the border of that photo is. If it gets it wrong, no problem — just use a finger to drag the corners of the capture area to the correct places.

Photomyne also does its best to try to do some color correction, as many old prints tend to fade in predictable ways. If you want to adjust the color, contrast, or brightness of an image a bit more, there are controls to let you do that.

It’s also possible to add a lot of details to an image: a title, the year in which the photo was taken, and (if they’re Facebook friends) tag friends who are in the shot.

Photomyne will soon a have a public sharing service, where friends who are also using the service can share their photos, you can see all shared photos taken at a particular location, or have friends and family share their photos from a specific event.

Photomyne works quite well; I only had issues with lighting, since many of the photos I was working with were under a shiny plastic sheet that reflected light. My suggestion in that case is to take the photos out of the album, then place them four at a time on a neutral background to capture them.

This $4.99 app is going to pay for itself very quickly in time saved converting old photo albums to a digital format.