The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos

by | Last updated May 17, 2017 | Organizing Digitals, Featured Post | 44 comments

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

1 Double 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

2 Look 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

3 Type 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

1 Select 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

2 If 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

3 Near 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

4 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, 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

1 Select 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

2 In 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

3 Open 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

4 Click 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

1 Select 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

2 Click 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

3 From 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

4 Click 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!

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Popular Posts

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?
Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy
Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film, but now you’re having a hard time deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners.

Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models is going to give you exceptional results. But, I want to help you feel confident you’re going to make the right choice.

Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I’ve written out and explained in detail, the 5 differences between the two models.

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?
Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you actually feel relief … or utter panic?

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later
If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later

Whether you keep all of your scanned master (original) image files in folders on a hard drive, or you allow an image manager like Picasa, iPhoto or Aperture to manage them inside a library file, you will still be required to give each photo a filename.

It could be as simple and non-descriptive as “photo-1.jpg” or maybe even simple yet somewhat descriptive like “mom at the beach 1984.tif”.

But, it’s actually a very important part of the process of scanning photos, that if done with a little bit of forethought, can save you a lot of time and headache later.

My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012
My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012

Welcome to my third monthly progress report!

Last month I covered two complete months of scanning, but I learned that was just too much to talk about!

So this time is only one month and it’ll be a lot shorter.

What This Progress Report Is Really About:

Every month, I am posting a detailed report — just like this one — sharing with you how far I have come with my goal to scan and restore my entire 10,000+ family photo collection.

By doing so, I hope to inspire you to do the same!

In my first progress report, I set a goal for myself to do a little bit of work on my collection every single day. I shoot for about an hour a day which turns out to be about 30 scans a day. And I am going to record and detail each one of them so that you can learn from my transparency.

I don’t want to be “that guy” — a guy that tells you how you should scan your own photos but then sends all of my own to a scanning service to do the work for me.

How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning
How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning

So you have a closet with boxes full of old prints and slides that you are dying to have scanned and neatly organized on your computer.

The problem is, you’re worried about it either costing you way too much money to send it to a scanning service, or taking too much of your precious free time to scan them yourself on a flatbed scanner.

Does this sound EXACTLY like your dilemma?

I’d like to share with you my experience back scanning photos for the first week. If you want to make scanning your own photos fit into your busy and hectic life, I think my experience here might give you an idea how much time will be involved and how many photos you can easily get through.

Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection
Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection

It was seriously a life changing day when I discovered the magic of a “non-destructive” photo managing program.

With “non-destructive” editing, all of the edits (enhancements) you make to your photographs are managed by the program itself. Your original photo remains untouched. It’s like having a guardian angel that protects your master images at all costs. It’s brilliant and is 100% absolutely indispensable to me now.

What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1
What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1

As my own scanned photo collection grows, it has really become obvious to me how thankful I am for the added attention I have been putting into the filenames I give to all of my scanned images.

When you’re scanning, it’s really easy to get into a “robotic” mindset where you are just trying to scan as many photos as possible in a sitting. So when you get to that blank field each time that asks you to type in a name for the file, it’s tempting to just quickly bang out a few descriptive words with little thought to how useful they will be to anyone later.

The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs
The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs

One of the most important decisions you face when scanning anything with your scanner is choosing what dpi (“dots per inch”) to scan with. And specifically for this post, what is the best dpi to use when scanning and archiving your 8×10″ and smaller paper photographic prints – which for most people, make up the majority of our pre-digital collection.

Making this decision was very challenging for me and certainly a huge part of my 8 year delay. The reason for this is that dpi is the critical variable in a fairly simple mathematical equation that will determine several important outcomes for your digital images.

The Top 13 Reasons Why You Should Already Be Scanning Your Photo Collection
The Top 13 Reasons Why You Should Already Be Scanning Your Photo Collection

“I’ll get to it someday.” “Maybe when I get around to buying a decent scanner.” “It’s just too much work.” “I’ll make one of my kids do it. They know that ‘tech’ stuff – I don’t.”

Those are just a few reasons why your irreplaceable paper and film photograph collections are probably in jeopardy of being no more – just a distant memory. You see, there are forces greater than your lack of will power hurting your chances of having an everlasting collection to pass on to future generations.

Related Posts

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film, but now you’re having a hard time deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners.

Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models is going to give you exceptional results. But, I want to help you feel confident you’re going to make the right choice.

Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I’ve written out and explained in detail, the 5 differences between the two models.

How to Batch Change Titles and Descriptions in Photos for macOS

How to Batch Change Titles and Descriptions in Photos for macOS

Have you ever wondered how to batch change the name and even the caption of multiple photos at a time in Photos for macOS, to the same information for all of them?

For example, you would want to do this if you had a group of photos all taken on the same day, during the same event, and you want to label them in a very similar way — if not the exact same way.

This is a very common need, and knowing how to do this in Photos is not as easy as it was in its predecessor, iPhoto.

Leave a Comment Below

Subscribe by email to new comments without commenting
Notify of
guest
44 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments