Skip to content

Your Smartphone is a Scanner

Scanning is the opposite of printing: when you print, you convert an electronic document into a hard copy; when you scan, you convert a hard copy into an electronic document. Your scanner simply takes a picture of your document.

So, can you use your phone’s camera (or your tablet’s camera) as a scanner?


  • Take a picture of a form you just filled out and email it where it needs to go.
  • Take a picture of a framed photograph, rather than take it out of the frame and put it on the scanner glass.
  • Take a picture of a newspaper or magazine article you want to share.
  • Take a picture of a written recipe — or one from a book — and file it or share it electronically.
  • Take a picture of a receipt and file it in your computer or email it to whoever will reimburse you.

Once you have the picture, you can edit it and/or email it right from your phone. Or, you can email it to yourself, pick it up in your computer, and file/edit/send from there.

Smartphone cameras take pictures in the .jpg format. If you need your scan to be a .pdf (a document format), use a program or an app designed to convert a .jpg to a .pdf, and even combine pages into a single document. Shop your app store for these.

Most likely, your flatbed scanner — with its cover that blocks light, shadow, and glare — will take a higher quality picture than your camera phone will. But, if you are not near your scanner or you can’t easily place the object on the glass, use your phone.

Try it!

%d bloggers like this: