Boys in Blanket Tent - Scanning Photos Adding Captions Descriptions

My brother and I loved making blanket forts!

Hand-written Caption or description for Scanned Photo

The description (caption) my Mother wrote on the back to be the storyteller for this photo

 

Ah, there's nothing quite like reading a great caption to go along with a special photograph. Sometimes they're so effective, they just seal the emotional experience of being there — as if you were right there when that photograph was taken — even if you weren't!

I think it's so important that you record these “priceless” descriptions as soon as you can. Some of us might think we can remember all of the details. But face it, you probably won't be able to. They're fleeting. And even if you could, you and your memory aren't going to be on this earth forever.

With prints, it was easy to record this information by writing the stories by hand on the back. But, now that we are wishing to move our prints, slides and negatives to a digital form in our computer, how do we easily add this information so that it can live with each master image file?

In part 2 of my series on how to name your scanned photos, I suggested that the image's filename isn't the best place to save a lengthy description of your photograph. Strong and precise keywords for sorting and identification work best there.

Caption or Description for a Scanned Photo that is too long

See, the filename just isn't the best place for a lengthy description

So then where is the right place to go hog wild and write all about your photographs?

Caption on top of Scanned PhotoCaptioning Your Photos

The best place to add this information is actually a simple text field (box) that you type into and is then stored inside of your master image files. It used to be that only professional photographers and journalists had easy access to this “IPTC metadata.” But now, with even the simplest photo software becoming powerful, all of us can now benefit from this technique.

There are lots of lightweight graphics programs out there that can help you with this. But, since I am always advocating that all of us archiving our photo collections store and edit our scanned photos in “non-destructive” image managers, I'm going to keep things simple and show you how to do it in each of the four managers I think are the best.

If you currently aren't using one of these programs, you might want to take a look at my article called “Use 1 of These 4 Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection” and see if you would be interested in trying one of them out for your own photo collection.

But Will All of My Captions Be Trapped in My Image Manager?

Absolutely not. Your captions will move with your photos where ever you want to take them. However, each image manager handles how and when the caption information is saved to the master image file differently. In the “worst” case scenario, your caption is stored in your image manager's project database for safe keeping. And then when you “export” one or more images to use outside of the program, the exported image will then have this caption information saved inside of it.

If you were to then open up this new file in another program that is able to access IPTC metadata, your captions will be displayed! Cool!

Whichever program you use, I hope you caption your digital photos. Sure, it's a lot more work. But if you don't do it, really — who's going to be the voice of all of these memories generations from now?

Windows users: The following instructions and screen captures for Picasa and Lightroom were made using their Mac versions. Sorry, I still don't have access to my windows partition. However, I believe all steps work exactly the same way in Windows as they do on a Mac. So all should be good!

Picasa – How to Add Captions to Your Photos:

Google Picasa software icon

Version 3.8.9.390

Scanned photos in Picasa Library View Mode

Library view

1Double click on one of your photos from the “thumbnail” Library view which will take you to the Edit view screen.

Picasa Make a Caption Field in Edit View

Place for caption

2Look underneath your photo on this new screen. Single click on that gray bar with “Make a caption!” written in the middle.

Picasa in Edit View entering in a caption

Caption typed in

3Type in your entire caption.You can use your cursor keys as well as clicking through your text to jump around. When you're finished, single click anywhere on the screen outside of this field or simply hit enter.

Now what's cool is you can set up Picasa to display your captions underneath each thumbnail. Go back to the Library view screen by clicking on the Back to Library button on the top left. If you don't see the caption you just entered below its photo, go up to View in the menu bar and then at the bottom highlight Thumbnail Caption and then click on Caption from the list. You should now see your caption!

Picasa View Menu Thumbnail Captions

Thumbnail Captions Menu

Picasa Library View Caption Under Photo

Caption displayed under photo in the Library view. Sadly, I believe the current version is limited to displaying just the first line of it.

iPhoto – How to Add Captions to Your Photos:

Apple iPhoto software icon

Version 9.1.5 (iPhoto '11)

iPhoto Thumbnail Photos View

“Thumbnail” Photos view

1Select a photo in the “thumbnail” Photos view to highlight it or double click on a thumbnail to take it into the Edit view.

iPhoto Info Button

Info Button

2If the Info panel on the right isn't already open, click on the Info button (or command-i) near the right hand side of the bottom toolbar. A vertical panel with information about your photo will open up.

iPhoto Info Panel Add a Description

Where to add a caption

3Near the top you will see a line of text that reads, “Add a description…” Click on this text and it will open a box for you to type.

iPhoto Info Panel Description Caption Added

Caption added

4Type in your entire caption. You can use your cursor keys as well as clicking through your text to jump around. Hitting enter will not finish your entry, but will move you to the next line. When you're finished, just move your cursor away from the box.

Some of the themes while showing your photos in a Slideshow (really fun if you haven't already tried it!) can display this caption information on top of the photo. Make sure you go into the settings (gear icon) while in a slideshow and put a check next to Show Captions. Then choose either Descriptions or Titles and Descriptions from the pulldown.

iPhoto Slideshow Show Captions and Descriptions

(Settings panel to enable showing captions during an iPhoto slideshow) The current version doesn't seem to allow you to adjust font size or the amount of lines to accommodate a lengthy caption.

Lightroom – How to Add Captions to Your Photos:

Adobe's Lightroom software icon

Version 3.3

Lightroom Thumbnail Grid View in Library Module

Grid view

1Select a photo in the “thumbnail” Library Module grid view to highlight it or double click on a photo to take it into the Loupe view (“e” key).

Lightroom Metadata Option Panel

Metadata option

2In the panel on the right, you will see a Metadata option with a triangle icon that opens and closes its options.

Lightroom Metadata Large Caption Pulldown

Large Caption pulldown

3Open it up (if it isn't already) and select Large Caption from the upper-left most pulldown menu item. Several of these default options will display the box to enter in captions, but this by far gives you the largest field to type a long caption.

Lightroom Metadata Caption Added

Caption added

4Click inside the box and type in your entire caption. You can use your cursor keys as well as clicking through your text to jump around. Hitting enter will not finish your entry, but will move you to the next line. When you're finished, single click anywhere on the screen outside of this field.

 

Lightroom provides an almost endless way of displaying metadata underneath thumbnails in the Grid view and at the top of photos in the Loupe view. From the View option in the top menu bar, select View Options from the list. Use this Library View Options settings window to select any and all metadata you would like to display. It's ridiculous how much control you have.

Lightroom Loupe View Caption Library View Options Menu

Caption displayed on top of photo in Loupe View

Aperture – How to Add Captions to Your Photos:

Apple Aperture software icon

Version 3.1.3

Aperture Thumbnails Browser View

Browser view

1Select a photo in the “thumbnail” Browser view to highlight it or double click on a photo to take it into the Viewer mode.

Aperture Metadata Tab

Metadata tab

2Click on the Metadata tab inside the Inspector panel on the left. If you don't see this panel, click on the blue Inspector button at the top of the program or hit the “i” key.

Aperture Large Caption Pulldown Option

Large Caption

3From the pulldown near the top, select Large Caption. A few of these default options will display the box to enter captions, but this by far gives you the most room to type a lengthy description.

Aperture Large Caption Added

Caption added

4Click inside the box and type in your entire caption. You can use your cursor keys as well as clicking through your text to jump around. Hitting enter will not finish your entry, but will move you to the next line. When you're finished, single click anywhere on the screen outside of this field.

 

Aperture also provides an almost endless way of displaying metadata underneath thumbnails in the Browser view and under photos in the Viewer mode. From the View option in the top menu bar, select Metadata Display from the list. Use the Customize settings window to select any and all metadata you would like to display. Just like Lightroom, it's utterly ridiculous how much control you have.

 

Aperture Metadata Display Viewer Menu

Metadata Display Viewer menu

Aperture Caption Photo Viewer Mode

Caption displayed under photo in Viewer mode

 

So did I forget anything? Does this seem easy enough to make you want to record the stories about your photos? I would love to know your thoughts after reading about this. Don't be shy — it will only take a minute to write me a comment below. I would appreciate it.

I hope this will help you and your collection! Cheers everyone!

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