Tips for Scanning those Heritage Photos Straight

What’s a person to do? You have captured an entire album of your family’s heritage photos and then realize that they look like they aren’t straight? Will just rotating them help? Probably not. You are going to have to do a little perspective adjusting or “Skew” as it is called.


The best way to keep the tilting at bay is to try and get the heritage photo as square as you can in the camera when you take the photo. But that is sometimes easier said than done especially when you are attempting to capture multiple photos with each visit.


After my article last month, “One Photo Scanning Hack You Need to Know” I received a comment about crooked heritage photos. What is the best way to straighten them up? Here’s a few tips:

Before Taking the Photos:

  1. Lay the photo or album on a flat surface
  2. The best lighting is near a window but out of the direct light so you don’t get a glare.
  3. Use an app that has a grid available — like VSCO — so you can try to get it level with your photo.
  4. Keep a tripod level bubble handy to lay on your phone when you are taking photos so you can tell when you have it leveled up. Handy idea, right?  HERE‘s a link to the one I ordered on Amazon.

After Taking the Photos:

  1. Apps (all FREE):

    1. VSCO (Edit / Edit / X-Skew or Y-Skew / Click Save)
    2. Google PhotoScan (Adjust the Corners / Click Done)
    3. Snapseed ( Edit / Transform / Touch the screen for menu and scroll up or down for Vertical and Horizontal Perspective / Then slide left or right to adjust how much to adjust )
  2. Desktop (Windows):

    1. Photoshop (Transform / Either Skew or Distort)
    2. Photoshop Elements  (Transform / Either Skew or Distort)




Oh, there is really just so much to love about this app. I cannot lie…  You can either take the photo directly from within this app or you can bring a photo in from your Cameral Roll and edit it. That’s kind of significant since you might already have a bunch of heritage photos you have taken with that slight tilt that needs some editing.


This app retains the quality of the photo and retains as many pixels as possible. Just remember that if you crop too much, you begin to lose the number of pixels available and your quality starts to go down.


Google PhotoScan


Remember, this is the app that can help to cut glare in some glossy photos which can be a real lifesaver, for sure, but you can also turn off the Glossy mode by clicking on the magic wand at the bottom of the screen. If you take a photo and it is a bit distorted, you can adjust the corners. Just click on each corner and line up to the corner of the photo. (Note, that you cannot edit a photo that you have saved on the Camera Roll. You have to take the photo using PhotoScan


This is fairly simple to do, but I have to say that the quality of the photo doesn’t come out nearly as clear as when I take a photo either straight out of my phone or through VSCO. In order to adjust corners, you HAVE to take the photo using PhotoScan.




This app can do the perspective tilt but it takes a bit to get used to with all the swiping up and down for menus and sliding your finger left and right to adjust amounts of the actual adjustment. The shift is a little less dramatic within this app as the other two, but it definitely does handle the skew issue and it can also bring in photos from your camera roll.


Just Do It!


I know I start to sound like a broken record, but if you have the chance to get those heritage family albums scanned and the only recording device you have with you is your phone — Go for it! If you have time to go back later on and scan them on a flatbed scanner at some crazy high resolution, then that is wonderful as well.


It’s one of those things that just need to get done — and the sooner, the better. Bad things happen and there occasionally are natural disasters that might play havoc with our treasured family heritage photos (as well as our more current ones!) We are the family memory keepers so taking care to capture our most fragile family photos is right up our alley, don’t you agree?



This layout is another page from my own LifeStory book and it has two of my favorite photos of my Dad. I have fallen in love with the Paislee Press line and used the Serendipity kit for the papers as well as the elements. The title tag and the journaling note card all came from Paislee Press Then & Now kits and it just all seems to come together really well! Life was pretty simple back in 1932 in Pleasant Lake, Indiana. You woke up early and took care of your chores and then went to school or if it was during the summer, you played. And I think that my Dad played with gusto. You can just tell that he had some fun during his childhood — look at the sparkle in his eyes!



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  • Michele Kerr August 18, 2017   Reply →

    Update!!!!! I did get the tripod level bubbles and the are pretty tiny but wow, they really made a huge difference! I posted photos on my Facebook page because I quickly noticed that while the bubble level straightened my photo, it was still just a bit off. The next step was to place a couple of bubbles directly on the photo (the package comes with 4) and make sure that it was level. Because it was in an album, it need a bit of propping up with some extra papers I had handy and guess what? Almost a perfectly aligned photo!

    The VSCO app has something similar, which is what had got me thinking about these levels, but it really only works when the camera is in the normal position. Well… I won’t say it doesn’t work, but it isn’t as sensitive as I need to get a lined-up photo of a heritage photo!

    Yay for inexpensive answers to life’s little problems!

  • Michele Kerr August 18, 2017   Reply →

    I forgot to mention the Facebook page! It’s Join me there and if you have any other family history questions, feel free to ask away!

  • Courtney August 22, 2017   Reply →

    If you have Lightroom, there’s a super easy way to straighten the photos. There’s a skew option, and you can draw a line, and it will straighten the photo based on that line.

    • Michele Kerr August 22, 2017   Reply →

      Courtney, thank you for mentioning that!

      Just in case anyone else is interested in where they can find the Skew option in Lightroom, you need to go to the Transform panel inside the Develop Module. There is an Auto option, but I like using Level and then moving the sliders myself – very satisfying.

      Lots of ways to handle it but my favorite is to get it straight when it is taken! When I figured out that the tripod level bubbles make it so easy, it feels like a real game-changer — especially when I am in the process of scanning in such a large number of photos.

      For anyone using their phones exclusively for editing as well, getting that photo straight in the first place really makes the whole process so much more enjoyable! Plus it is kind of fun… 🙂

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