17 aug 2022

Simple Steps to Get Best Scanning Results

Mobile scanners are great, handy tools when you need to scan a document on the go or your office machine is out of order. Modern mobile scanning apps are quick and provide high-quality results. Unlike traditional office scanners, though, mobile scanners have far more variables that can affect the quality of the scans, like lighting, shaky hands, or smartphone camera resolution. However, there are several things you can do to get consistently excellent scans and take advantage of the mobility and convenience mobile scanners provide. Let’s see what simple steps you can take to get the best scanning results. 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your Scanning Results

1. Lighting is Crucial  

If you’re in a hurry and need to scan and send a document on the go, you probably won’t bother to look for the best-lit location. However, if you’ve got time and want the best possible quality, lighting is the first thing you need to look at. Here’s a short list of conditions that ensure the best scanning results: 

  • Natural indirect light. There’s a reason why “plenty of natural light” is one of the main features people look for when buying a house. Natural light is good for everything, including our health and work. Try to choose a surface as close to a window as possible. If the sun is not shining directly into your window, pull back the curtains or blinds as far as they will go. Lots of natural light is perfect for high-quality scans.
  • No flash. Professional interior photographers prefer to avoid using flash whenever possible, but when there’s no alternative, they shoot with the flash facing away from their object. That would be because light travels in straight lines. So when you direct a light source at an object, the surface of that object will reflect the light straight back at you. The more reflective the surface is, the more light bounces back, creating a glare. Same rules apply to mobile scanning. Try to avoid using flash, especially with glossy or semi-gloss paper.
This image shows the difference between scans made with and without flash. Turn off the flash to get the best scanning results.
This bookpage is from False Knees by Joshua Barkman
  • No harsh overhead lights. Overhead lights create sharp shadows that you definitely don’t want in your scans. Sometimes avoiding shadows can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. After all, you need to hold your phone over the document to be able to take a shot, don’t you? Luckily, modern apps can deal with this problem. In iScanner, for example, you can remove shadows by simply switching to the black-and-white theme (please see the example below). 

However, if you place your document right underneath a harsh, overhead light source, the shadows can get very intense and be pretty much impossible to get rid of.

2. Fill the Frame as Much as You Can

However far away you hold your phone, the app will detect the edges of your document and crop the picture. The only difference is how much it will have to crop. And that’s important because cropping doesn’t merely cut out irrelevant details. When the app crops, it will have to magnify the remaining part of the captured image, which reduces its resolution. For example, scans made with the document occupying most of the frame have nearly 30% higher resolution than those where the document was only taking three quarters of the screen. That’s why the app sometimes prompts you to hold the camera closer to the document. This extremely simple step can contribute greatly to the quality of your scans.  

3. Ensure Your Smartphone Camera Is Clean

As we’ve already mentioned in the introduction, camera lenses can greatly affect the quality of your scans. The lenses of your smartphone camera have to be clean and in fine working order if you want to achieve best scanning results. Jeans pockets, the insides of our handbags, and storage compartments in our cars are hardly ever completely clean. Dust, sand, and grease on the lens can significantly impair the quality of your pictures and scans. Therefore, it might be a good idea to always have a microfiber cloth with you. If you notice that your pictures and scans come out blurred and unfocused, it might be time to clean the lens.

4. Mind the Angle 

If you’re after the best possible quality, try to hold your phone directly above the document. Ideally, the camera should be positioned parallel to the paper to avoid perspective distortion. The good news is that some modern mobile scanning apps employ AI algorithms to correct distortions. For example, iScanner will make your scan look perfectly rectangular even if the shot was taken at an angle. But still, no app will be able to fix a scan taken from a 90-degree angle, so it’s best to keep it in mind. 

5. Check the Settings in the App

If you’re aiming for the best scanning results, be sure to check the settings in your app before scanning. The iScanner app allows you to choose from four options: Low, Medium, High, and HD. Once you’ve chosen the resolution, the app will use it for all scans by default until you change it. For the best scanning results, we recommend HD mode. To get into the menu, tap the + icon and then Camera. At the bottom of the screen, you will see several scanning modes for various purposes, such as QR Code, ID Card, Documents, Passport, etc. Tap Documents, and a small tag specifying the current quality setting will appear above the Documents button. Tap the tag, and within the next menu, choose HD. All done. If you’re interested in how AI algorithms improve the accuracy of mobile scanning, check out this blog post.