How to Separate Multiple Photos from a Single File in Photoshop

I do quite a bit of scanning whether it be slides, negatives, or printed photographs. For slides and negatives I can easily scan multiple items at one time. Scanner applications are able to save each image to a separate file with slides and negatives.

Scanning multiple photographs is a different story. Many times people would scan multiple photos in at one time and then manually separate them. My scanner software can do that, but with automated settings only. Photoshop includes an automated action that can do this for you after the scan, and straighten your photos automatically.

Scanning the Photographs


The Photoshop automated action is executed after you have scanned in your photographs. To scan in the photographs, use the following steps:

  1. Place the photographs you want scanned on your scanner. Ensure that you leave some empty space between each photograph.
  2. Open your scanning software.
  3. When you select what to scan, ensure all the photographs are outlined so you will have one large photograph.
  4. Set the scan options to your liking. For photographs a scanning resolution of 300-600ppi is more than sufficient.
  5. Scan the photographs. If you are scanning the files from Photoshop, then the file will be displayed once the scan is completed. If you are using an external tool then save the file to your hard drive.

You should now have one large photograph comprised of all the photos. If you scanned the file outside Photoshop, then open up Photoshop and load the file to continue with the next section.

Separating into Multiple Photos

Once you have your large photo loaded in Photoshop, separating the photo into multiple photos is simple.

  1. Click File->Automate->Crop and Straighten Photos.
  2. At this point Photoshop will analyze your photo and attempt to distinguish the individual photos. A new file will be created (but not saved) for each photo. The original large scan will still be loaded in Photoshop.
  3. Once the cropping and straightening has completed, examine each photo to make sure they look fine. Once they are to your liking, you can then save each photo separately.

Problems with Crop and Straighten

As with most automated methods, this one is not without some problems. For the majority of the time I have used it, I haven’t had any issues, but were a few times I had to make some corrections.

Photos include a white border around some edges. This problem can occur if there is a light background in the photograph. Photoshop may not have been able to determine where the photograph ended and the scanner background started.

You can simply crop out the unwanted background from the scanner, but if you have many photographs with a light background, you may want to include a background in the scanner that provides more contrast during the scan.

Multiple photos are included in a single file. This can occur if you don’t include enough empty space between photographs. Photoshop may have had trouble determining where once photo ended and another began.

When you scan multiple photographs, ensure that you include enough empty space between the photos.


If you need to scan in many photographs, you can easily scan many in at one time. You can then use Photoshop’s Crop and Straighten automated action to help separate the large scan into individual files.

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