The first step in many photo book projects is actually getting your photos in a digital form.  Whether they are piled in shoeboxes or neatly arranged in pocket photo albums, you still need to get them scanned to start your design work (and hey, Shoeboxers, you actually get to skip the step of removing each photo from the album – way to procrastinate!).  There are many services out there offering to take care of this for you, but my preference for smaller projects is to use my trusty Flip-Pal.*

The Flip-Pal isn’t like any other scanner I’ve come across.  We’ve already discussed my propensity for research, so rest assured I’ve come across a lot of them.  Most people envision a bulky behemoth when they think “scanner”, maybe even their 3-in-1 printer/scanner/fax.  But the Flip-Pal is an extremely lightweight, handheld scanner that does not need a computer or even an electrical outlet to work.  This means you can use it in your lap, turning TV-on-the-Couch time into Finally-Get-This-Done time.  It’s not a perfect solution (details below), but it’s the best I know of.  If you can get past the cheesy product name, that is.

What’s so great about the Flip-Pal?

  • It is incredibly light and easy to carry, and fits into small bags and purses.
  • Very easy to use, even if you are not “techie”. Just put the photo in and press the big green button!
  • Scans at either 300 DPI or 600 DPI – more than enough for most uses.
  • You can use it without a computer, again making it easier to scan on the go. No wrestling with a laptop – just sit and chat with Grandma while you quietly process photos using only the scanner and SD memory card.
  • You can scan through glass or plastic sheets, meaning you don’t have to remove fragile photos from old frames or albums.  You can even scan small objects or fabric!  This feature is the origin of the cheesy name, by the way – the scanner “flips” over to accomplish this.  (Sorry, Shoeboxers, the Responsible Album Creators won’t have to take the photos out after all – your advantage is gone).
  • Although it’s best suited for 4×6 pictures, you can scan larger items in sections and the software automatically “stiches” everything together when you load the photos onto your computer.
  • It’s entirely battery-operated, so you don’t need to worry about sitting near an electrical outlet.
  • It’s safe for old documents. In fact, it’s the only scanner permitted in the National Archives because it does not risk damaging originals.
  • It’s very reasonably priced (I recommend the bundle with the carrying case, which is $175 as of February 2015).

What’s less great about it?

  • It’s sort of annoying if you have a lot of large-format images to scan, like 8×10 photos or documents, since you can only do a section at a time.
  • It only uses batteries, so you should have a set of rechargeables (or a very techie husband who can hack a power cord for it!).
  • It does not automatically crop photos, so anything smaller than 4×6 ends up with white bars around it that need manual cropping. In my personal experience, this has been the biggest weakness.

All in all, the Flip-Pal solves a lot of common problems people have with getting their old photos in a digital format – convenience, price, and ease of use.  I hope you find my review helpful!  You can learn more and purchase the Flip-Pal here.

* I am a Flip-Pal “ambassador”, which means I am an affiliate and will earn a small compensation if you purchase a Flip-pal through my link. However, I am an affiliate because I respect the product, not vice versa. I genuinely think this is the best solution in many cases, whether you buy through my link or not, and I am honest about its shortcomings.