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How to scan a QR code from a photo on your phone

Kirsty Moreland
Last Updated May 14, 2024 3:48 am

Do you know how to scan a QR code from a picture in your phone? Read on for a detailed guide, no matter what phone you’re using!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably used a QR code at least once. 

The QR code was first introduced to the public in the early 2000s, but enjoyed only moderate success. However, QR code adoption exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a contactless alternative to physical documents. They allow detailed information to be stored within a unique pattern, which can then be read by your smartphone. Simply open your camera, hover over the QR code and a prompt will pop up containing the relevant URL.

But what about QR codes stored in your photo gallery – how do you scan a QR code from inside a picture you’ve taken?

How to scan a QR code from a picture on your phone

Scanning a QR code from a photo on your camera roll is usually pretty simple:

  • Open the photo
  • Tap on the area where the QR code appears
  • Click on the pop-up that appears containing the URL
  • You can now navigate to the data contained by the QR code

Of course, different operating systems might require slightly different steps. So let’s take a more detailed look below.

Scan a QR code from iPhone photos

If you own an Apple device (and it’s an iPhone XS, XR, or newer) there’s good news. Chances are you’ll be able to scan QR codes from images using something called Live Text. This functionality enables your device to recognise and interact with text elements in your photos. 

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Open the image containing the QR code within your phone’s photo gallery.
  2. In the bottom right corner of your screen, tap the Live Text Detection option.
  3. Once you’ve done that, long-press the part of the photo where the QR code is. A prompt will appear on screen, containing the data stored by the QR code.
  4. When you click the prompt, your phone will open the “payload” of the QR code. In other words, it will take you to the webpage or file it contains.

Scan a QR code from a picture on an Android device

If you’re using an Android device, you can read QR codes from pictures or screenshots within your gallery. You have two options: using Google Lens, or doing the process directly from your Gallery. Let’s check out both.

Use Google Lens

Scanning images via the Google Lens option on your device allows you to read both photos and screenshots.

  1. On your homepage, locate the Google Lens button at the bottom right of the page. This will prompt your phone to switch to “lens mode”, enabling it to read and open QR codes within images.  
  2. Once you’ve selected Lens Mode, the following page will ask you to select an image to read from your saved images. Simply select the image containing the QR code you want to read.
  3. Once this image appears full size on-screen, your Android device will identify the QR code. A pop-up will appear showing the underlying URL.
  4. Once you click this pop-up, you’ll be taken to the website or app it relates to.

How to read a QR code in an image using Google Lens

Read QR codes within your Gallery

You’ll be able to do this same process directly within your Gallery too. This is often easier if you’re trying to scan a photo instead of a screenshot.

  1. Begin by opening your Gallery. Select the photo you want to read and click the share icon. This will display all of your sharing options below the photo.
  2. From the options, select Google Search Image: this will prompt your phone to read the QR code using Google Lens, and lead you to the URL.

My phone can’t read the QR code in the photo. What does it mean?

Of course, there are some exceptions. Some older mobile phone models may not be configured to scan QR codes from photos. Where this is the case, you can simply download a designated QR code scanner application. You’ll then be able to open QR codes from pictures on your device. 

Why take a photo of a QR code anyway?

QR codes are a shorthand way of storing information. So taking a photo of a QR code allows you to access that data later, without downloading any files to your phone.

To store product details

For example, you might take a photo of the QR code for a product you like in a store. This would allow you to easily access detailed product information later on, all with the click of a button. A great example of this is the way Nike uses QR codes in-store to give product details to customers. 

To share information easily

Alternatively, you might see a restaurant you like and want to share the menu with a friend. Taking a photo of the QR code and sending the image via a message means your friend can see the menu for themselves by reading your photo.

Storing data with QR codes empowers users to access key information when they want it, with a simple click.

The future of data sharing

The humble QR code waited long and hard to be accepted. But through mass adoption, it has become a universally recognised symbol – taking centre stage in security, marketing and community-building campaigns.

This little patterned square looks set to stay the course, so stay informed and make sure you know how to get the very best out of it.

QR code FAQs

Can you scan a QR code from a camera roll?

Yes! Whether your phone runs on iOS or Android, you’ll be able to scan a QR code directly from a photo or screenshot in your gallery. The first step is either taking a photo of a QR code you wish to scan later, or a screenshot if the QR code appears online.

What does QR code stand for?

QR code is shorthand for quick response code. QR codes are descendants of barcodes; they are unique black and white patterns capable of storing data, which can then be read and understood by a scanning device.

When were QR codes invented?

QR codes were developed in 1994 by a researcher at Japanese car manufacturer Denso Wave. They were initially used to label and track car parts moving through the supply chain.

Barcodes, one dimensional symbols only readable in one direction, were not able to store sufficient data to achieve this. So as a solution, employee Masahiro Hara developed the QR code. Readable left to right and top to bottom, QR codes can store far more data than a barcode, and are more damage resistant.

Do I need an app to read QR codes from images on my device?

Generally speaking, no. Most recent iOS and Android devices (with some exceptions) enable you to scan a QR code from within your photo gallery. You normally don’t need any other application to do this.

How do I take a screenshot of a QR code?

Every device is different, but for most smartphones pressing the power button and the volume up or down button will take a screenshot.