Scanning apps, portable scanners and using a digital camera to "scan" documents

The transition to paperless documents has been a bumpy road and even today in many countries, you will still see paper being used for daily documents, letters, contracts and receipts. Even with the ubiquity of cheap Android tablets, the popularity of Apple's iPad and iPhone, NFC and even QR codes, paper is still found everywhere, so it's not unusual that you have to scan a document on-the-go as a back up copy or even send it as an attachment to an e-mail.

Portable and desktop scanners have long been affordable and you can get a very good model for a price several times cheaper than a mid-range smartphone. However, the drive to digital documents and the popularity of mobile devices with cameras is driving scanners to extinction even faster than desktop printers. The sad thing is that Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is better than ever and scanners are incredibly efficient when it comes to producing digital images not only of documents and colored photos, but film and objects. Unfortunately, even the smallest portable scanner can't compare to the convenience of a 7" tablet or phablet.

There are dozens of "scanning" apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Essentially, all of them are designed to use the mobile device's camera (rear or front-facing) to take adequate macro photos and then optimize them for reading or viewing.

Using apps is well and good but digital camera enthusiasts will tell you a prosumer or even entry-level Canon or Sony digital camera can get better images of documents than an iPhone or Surface Pro.


The coverage on photography on the Internet is huge and divisive and it's hard to understand the fascination for the technology considering the eventual outcome is nothing more than pixels. If I wrote tips on taking photographs of documents using my Sony NEX-3NL, I'll have several thousand so-called "photographers" shooting me with hate mail and insulting my lack of photography skills.

However, having used my Sony NEX-3NL to "scan" documents for conversion to PDF, I can provide the following very basic tips to reduce post-editing tasks:

1. It goes without saying that the digital camera needs to be on a tripod or a stable surface when taking photos of documents. When James Bond or some fictional spy is using a mini-camera to take photos, you can be pretty sure the photos came out shoddy and blurred.

2. Lay the document on a flat surface. Warped paper or curled edges, of course, can be edited out later but make sure none of the text is obscured or unreadable.

3. Although you can adjust the brightness of white paper documents in photo-editing software such as Photoshop, Corel Photo-Paint and Corel Paint Shop Pro, you can use a white background to reduce post editing tasks. You can place yellowed pulpy paper flat on brightly white sheets of paper so you can use your editing software to adjust the brightness properly.

4. Resize the photo based on the eventual output of the PDF or whether the "scanned" document will be printed out using a laser or inkjet printer. If it's for archiving or backup purposes, check your company's archiving specifications. When Microsoft and Google undertook their now-defunct archiving project, they were scanning at an incredibly high resolution rates (as much as 300 dpi) for and

5. Photo-editing professionals recommend using just Levels and Curves to adjust the black text and the whiteness of paper documents. Unsharp Mask or sharpening filters are only mildly helpful in improving readability.

6. Remove blemishes and spots on the document using the Clone tool.

7. To reduce file size or simulate a photocopy, use the Threshold option. This reduces the photograph of a document to just black and white and produces an appearance of a xerox copy.



  1. I think it is better to use Ideals virtual data room. for operations with documents. There you may scan and print documents and also share them with any people you need.


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