Despite its truly awful camera, the iPad 2 is what I take most of my photos with these days. Why? Because the photos are easy to share, and easy for me to browse and play around with. And Shoebox is an app that will help you to do that with all your old paper photos.
Shoebox is a scanner and archiver for your dead-tree photos. You dig them out of the shoebox at the back of the closet, fire up the app and snap a picture. Shoebox tries to find the corners of the photo, and if it doesn’t you can drag some handles to fine-tune the crop. If the photo and the surface it rests on contrast, the app does a pretty good job automatically.
Next you can rotate the image, and then you move onto the data stage. You can add names of people, date taken and location. For a task that could be very dull, it’s important to make this step easy, and it is. You can add people from your contacts list and then just tap their names to add them to the photos. Dates and places are just typed in, so “Christmas 1985″ is easy to add. Locations, though, also need to be typed every time, and they’re not kept in a list for re-use.
You can also add photos from the camera roll on your iPhone, although weirdly date and location aren’t filled out automatically.
Once done, the images are uploaded to the Shoebox servers, and then the fun begins. You are automatically set to “follow” people you tag, as long as they also use Shoebox, and they can follow you. When you visit the Shoebox Web site, you are prompted with questions about the photos (eg. “When was this taken?”) and if you can’t answer, you can delegate it to someone who can. Thus, you could nominate your mom to identify the weird, drunk, half-forgotten uncle in that old wedding photo.
You can also add audio, video, text and even construct a family tree by dragging and dropping photos into a chart. It’s an organizational nerd’s dream.
I like the app quite a bit, and its a nice way to bring all those paper memories back to life. Even the scanning part is fun, too, as it’s really just an excuse to go through those old, forgotten images. Shoebox is free, and you get unlimited upload space. Just do yourself a favor: don’t use the iPad camera to scan those precious images — it’s a piece of junk.