Digital workflow is becoming the new norm, which is great for both humanity and the environment. In our everyday lives, it means two things: (1) we no longer need to print out paperwork and complete it by hand, and (2) we need reliable tools for going digital. In this blog post, we’d like to talk about why using your smartphone camera for this purpose is not the best idea and why you need a mobile scanner.
Cameras Are for Photos, Scanners Are for Documents
A smartphone camera is a wonderful tool! It is fun, useful, and on hand at all times. It’s also incredibly versatile. You can take pictures of the majestic view of the Appalachian mountains and an ant on your boot with the same camera without even needing to adjust the settings. However, no matter how great — or at least satisfactory — smartphone cameras and their filters are with landscapes or portraits, they are much less satisfactory when taking pictures of our documents.
And when it comes to digitizing documents, quality can matter a great deal. When applying for a job or certification, we usually want to show professionalism and attention to detail. Plus, a large number of organizations have certain requirements for the image quality of submitted documents and can reject your application if those are not met. That’s why it might be a good idea to find a solid mobile scanning application that guarantees high-quality scans to make your documents look professional even when you’re on the go.
Speed and Efficiency
Another reason why you need a mobile scanner is that when you need to make a digital copy of a document, you usually need it fast. If you’re looking at scanning with your phone camera, chances are high that the need for it has occurred unexpectedly, you are on a very tight schedule, and traditional scanners are out of reach. Anyone who’s familiar with mobile photography knows that it takes multiple attempts before you get a perfect (or even half-decent) shot. Especially if you’re stressed and currently in an airport bathroom.
Mobile scanners, on the other hand, rely on cleverly designed software. For instance, iScanner starts streaming and processing images once you press the Camera button. The app’s algorithm takes a shot automatically when it detects a sharp and complete image. This way you don’t have to take dozens of pictures, checking each one in search of the best shot — the app will do it for you! Shaky hands and poor lighting are no problem for the app.
Chop-Chop, No Need to Crop!
You probably wouldn’t want to share a photo of your passport with the remains of your lunch in the background. However, unless you’re a highly skilled sniper, it’s pretty much impossible to take a picture where your document occupies 100% of the frame. Cropping seems unavoidable, and it takes time. This is why mobile scanners have another advantage over smartphone cameras. Mobile apps can detect documents’ edges and automatically crop out the surrounding mess.
Yet another reason why you need a mobile scanner is the size of your digital documents. It begins to matter a great deal when you get a notification that you don’t have enough storage space. Scanning documents is far superior to taking pictures in this regard. The average photo takes up approximately three times as much space as the average scan. You can conduct an experiment and see for yourself. Not to mention that a scan of a document looks much, much tidier and cleaner than a photo, even if taken in the same conditions.
A Needle in a Haystack
Do you ever think about how many pictures you take with your smartphone? I don’t, except when I’m trying to find a particular one I know I have but have no clue as to when I took it. Apart from being a spectacular waste of time, searching for photos is also tedious and annoying. However, it’s unavoidable if you use your camera to digitize documents. Avoiding this activity is another reason why you need a mobile scanner. Just be sure to choose one with a decent file management system. We have a post about why efficient file management is important here. With a solid scanning app, you can have a dedicated folder for different types of documents, such as personal, medical records, tax returns, warranties, etc., and you can find them in no time.
A Matter of Perspective
Perspective distortion is a big issue in photography, especially in mobile phone photography. If you post on Instagram, you’ve probably seen what can happen to your pictures of food. You see a perfectly proportioned layout, but when you try to capture it, the picture often just doesn’t look right. The objects closest to the camera look disproportionately large, the table surface appears bent, and the objects on the periphery look like they are positioned at a weird angle.
A similar thing happens when you take a picture of a document lying in front of you on a horizontal surface. The side closest to the camera appears wider, and the lines that are parallel to each other appear to be at an angle. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s not entirely about aesthetically pleasing proportions. Perspective distortion not only ruins the geometry of a document but also distorts characters, which makes OCR inaccurate, if not impossible.
So, what can you do to fix this? One solution is to hold the camera perfectly parallel to the document and as close to its surface as you can. This will fix the distortion issue but might create another one — the shadow of your hand and smartphone on the document. Another option is to use special software that can correct perspective distortions in pictures. But there’s also a much simpler route — mobile scanners. Some modern apps can correct all sorts of distortions. iScanner, for instance, has a unique AI algorithm that can fix the geometry and eliminate warps, skews, shadows, and even minor creases.
Other Bonuses to Consider
Making high-quality scans is not the only thing mobile scanners can do. Another reason why you need a mobile scanner is that some apps also offer a great variety of editing tools and useful additional features. With iScanner, for example, you can apply signatures and stamps, add page numbers, obscure and highlight text, merge and split PDFs, recognize and extract text, eliminate distortions, and export to various file formats.
People who are thinking “Well, at least my smartphone camera is free!” might be interested to know that a great deal of scanning apps are free as well. All in all, it looks like you have nothing to lose and quite a lot to gain! Don’t hesitate to try and see for yourself.