Simon has been involved in software development since the days of paper tape. He has developed niche software for information management.
Photo Captioning Applications at a Glance
The leading desktop, web, and mobile apps for captioning as evaluated in this review are listed below. More detail of these and other apps follow. To locate them, type Ctrl-F and enter the Application name.
Windows Desktop Applications
Application Rating Notes Caption Pro 4 Stars Converts prints, editable captions Photo Gallery 3 Stars Photo editor,unsupported Photo Caption Creator 3.5 Stars Unsupported Picasa 3 Stars Photo editor,unsupported AutoSplitter 3 Stars Converts and captions prints
Mac Desktop Applications
Non-Native Mobile Apps
Why Add Text to Photos?
Taking photos has never been easier. Some estimates place the total number of photographs in the world at about 100 billion. Their content has meaning for the people who took them, and maybe the people who appear them. For anyone else, a few words of context adds enormously to their value to other people. In the paper era, they were often added on the back, or in an album.
Digital photos have a huge capacity for storing data within their file structure, but this is mostly used for recording automatically captured data such as camera and exposure parameters, date and time. Geo-tagging using recorded latitude and longitude from GPS data is frequently added by mobile phone cameras.
The Four W's of Journalism
However, what people most want to know about photographs are the four W's of journalism: who, what, where and when. Computer power can be applied to answering all of these questions.
'When' is easily supplied, relying only on internal clocks in the camera. They may become confused about time zones, but an accuracy of a day or so is all most people want.
'Who' is performed increasingly well by automated face recognition, once some examples have been provided. Without examples, faces tend to be recognized as celebrities.
'What' is a question that automated image analysis (or auto-captioning) struggles with. It often comes up with accurate but uninformative descriptions as shown below.
'Where' is provided by turning latitude and longitude into a named location using a gazetteer database. Mobile phones do a pretty good job in well-populated areas, but off the beaten track, results may not be satisfactory. Digital cameras do not routinely have built-in GPS location tracking.
Although technology is making inroads into automatically adding the kind of information humans want to photos, it has a long way to go, and adding text manually looks like being necessary for many years yet.
The Progression of Broadsheets and Posters to Memes
With social media came the meme, where the image resonates with the text rather than the text describing the image. Some memes are the electronic successors to the broadsheets and posters that have been used to influence public opinion for centuries.
However, the near-zero marginal cost of electronic production and distribution means that many more people now create them, and humorous/philosophical memes now probably outnumber the ones seeking to influence people.
Another class of computer application assists with the creation of digital photo albums from existing hard-copy albums, which many people own, usually containing photos of family members. These applications have the capability to create a number of separate digital images from a scan or photograph of a number of paper prints, such as those appearing in a photo album.
As well as improving the quality of original images in the manner of photo editors, the applications can add captions (and sometimes metadata) to each of the digital images. The caption is added below the original image so that it does not obscure any of the original image pixels. These capabilities are of particular interest to people interested in genealogy.
What Software Should I Use to Add Text to My Photos?
When computers were less powerful and graphical user interfaces were a novelty, information about images was often easily visible in the file browsers (such as Windows Explorer). In that environment, adding information to a file name or placing the file in a folder with an informative name was what most people did.
Nowadays, applications dominate the operating system. File names and folders are not readily accessible to image viewing applications, especially on mobile devices. If it’s not in the image pixels, users won’t see it. This gives new importance to embedding information into images.
Social Media Captioning Is Limited
Most social media platforms offer image captioning, but the captions are placed on a web page containing the image and are only visible using that platform. If you download a single image from a social media platform, the caption (or any other metadata added by the platform) does not come with it, although if you download all your images, some metadata may be included in the download.
This review looks at some of the leading software products for a range of image captioning tasks that you might conduct on a desktop, mobile device or using a Web application. These include adding names of people or places to photos you've taken yourself or creating a meme to reach as many people as possible. Different tasks need different software.
A major feature of social media is the ability to upload images and videos and text relating to them. The image and text are then displayed on a web page such as that shown below.
This facility is widely used, but viewing of the image and caption is restricted to the Facebook application. If the photo and video data are downloaded, images have reduced pixel dimensions and arbitrary names. Caption data such as that shown in the red box above is not included in the download.
Google Photos is a very popular web-based photo editing, sharing and tagging application with impressive image analysis capabilities that make it possible to search images for a range of entities, and to group photos according to who appears in them using facial recognition.
Multi-line captions can be added to images stored in Google Photos via the Info box as shown below:
However, if the Info Box is not shown, the multiple lines are concatenated at the bottom left of the image as shown below:
Desktop Captioning Applications
Almost all image editing applications on desktops, phones, and tablets provide the capability to add text anywhere on top of an image, and many will let you add a blank region to the image in which you can place your caption. The major difficulty with using such applications for captioning is complexity: users want to type their captions, not learn how to use an image editor.
A further difficulty is choosing a color for the text that stands out from the photo background. The same color may not work in all the photos you write on. If you make a mistake (such as mis-spelling a sports team member's name) you have to re-do the whole caption. And for historic family photos, you may not want to write over any of the existing pixels.
Fortunately, there are a few dedicated desktop captioning applications that address these difficulties, but support for them may not be available.
1. Windows Photos
The current native Windows photo management application is Photos. This is only available for Windows 10 and replaces the venerable Paint. Text can be added to the existing image via the Paint3D application, but with the limitations discussed above.
However, Photos has impressive automatic image analysis, presumably in order to compete with Google Photos. It supports search using text describing objects in photos, such as food, animals, etc. in order to retrieve images containing the objects. It also performs extraction of text appearing in images, so if an image is captioned, a search for text appearing in the caption will give the image as a result. Faces are also extracted automatically and naming one will allow detection of all images containing this face.
As Photos is a desktop application, the database containing all the automatically extracted data is available for enthusiasts to examine at C:\Users\<UserName>\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState\MediaDB.v1.sqlite for the current version of Photos (2019.19011.19410.0).
2. Photo Gallery
Formerly known as Windows Live Photo Gallery, this free application is an image organizer, photo editor, and photo-sharing app. It is a part of Microsoft's Windows Essentials software suite, but support was discontinued in 2017, probably due to competition from Google Photos, which offers similar functionality as a web app.
However, Windows Essentials is still available for download from CNET and Photo Gallery will run under Windows 10, although the geo-tagging functionality does not work.
Photo Gallery offers a wide range of metadata addition including people (using face recognition to identify named individuals in other images), descriptive tags and a caption.
Photo Gallery Caption Display
This caption display disappears after 5 seconds unless the cursor is over the caption, and is not shown at all in slideshow mode. The size of the captions is only controllable by altering the browser text size.
Although Google's captioning facilities are somewhat limited, download of all Google Photos data does include metadata such as captions as a separate JSON file for each image, and the album structure is mapped to a folder structure, which makes import to other applications much easier.
However, only user-created albums are included. Google Photos' grouping of photos containing a particular person or object is not included in the download unless the album is shared.
The Caption Pro desktop application is able to extract caption and album name metadata from data downloaded from Google Photos and generate captions and sub-captions. If files captioned in this way are then uploaded back to Google Photos, text can easily be viewed on all image displays as shown here.
Metadata created by Photo Gallery is not shown in image pixels but is displayed beside the image when it is selected, with the Caption displayed below.
This restricts the display to Windows environments with Photo Gallery installed, although the integration with Windows means that applied metadata is visible when the cursor hovers over a file that has been processed. It also shows all image files stored on local drives on startup, which may be time-consuming.
The ready availability and comprehensive functionality would have given Photo Gallery a substantial user base, but lack of support means that future operation is uncertain. A blog by Jean-Paul Olivier gives advice on how to obtain the geo-tagging facility in Phot Gallery with other applications.
My rating: 3 stars
Google's Picasa is a discontinued image organizer and viewer for organizing and editing digital photos, plus an integrated photo-sharing website. It was superseded by Google Photos in 2016 but is still available for download from CNET. Google produced Mac and Windows versions.
Picasa offers a massive range of functionality, including the addition of captions, including those with multiple lines. Picasa's handling of multiple lines is limited. Although a new line can be initiated (by entering ctrl-enter rather than shift-enter), only the first line of a multiple-line caption is visible if the caption is typed in.
If a multiple line caption is pasted on, a larger area is used for the caption, but the area used is limited and overlays the image as shown below. The full caption can be viewed by scrolling in the caption region.
Caption data added by Picasa is only viewable within the application, but is stored in the file metadata, making it potentially accessible to other applications.
Whilst it has an impressive range of capabilities (including the production of Web albums), its deprecation by Google and the fact that its captions are only visible in Picasa make of its limited utility.
My rating: 3 stars
This is a Windows application from Golden Apple Software that can add up to 5 lines of captions below the image and creates a black and white border around the uploaded image, which can be in JPEG, GIF or PNG format. However, the aspect ratio of the selected image must be specified correctly otherwise the image is truncated.
Although the caption font and color can be selected, there is no control of the caption size, and all lines are the same height. A watermark is added to images in the unlicensed version. A license costs A$13.39. The downloaded version threw errors when saving images.
The Golden Apple Software website only describes a website builder, so it is unlikely that support is available.
My rating: 1 star
This simple application from Free Picture Solutions only operates on single JPEG images. The captioned image is saved manually. Caption font, color, position (on, above, or below the image) are specified numerically and multiple captions can be applied to the image to create a multi-line caption by a laborious process.
Captions can be edited before saving, but not afterward. Captions can be saved as image descriptions but in this case, the image pixels are not changed. The publisher's website is accessible but does not mention the product, whose copyright date is 2014. It is unlikely that the product is still supported.
My rating: 2 stars
There are a number of products with this name: Caption-Pro is a well-regarded UK-based metadata editing tool for media professionals which generates captions composed of the names of people appearing in the photo using facial recognition. There is also a poorly-reviewed iPhone app of this name offering a selection of pre-made captions for photos.
Caption Pro (from Aleka Consulting) operates with JPEG files and video files (mp4, mov and 3gp formats only). It supports editing of already applied captions by storing them in metadata and placing the caption in a strip below the original image, thus preserving the integrity of the original image and making the caption visible from any image viewing application.
Images and videos can be loaded from a file or folder browser, by drag and drop or by pasting from the Clipboard. Automatically cropped and de-skewed Images can also be obtained from scans or photos of multiple paper prints as shown below:
Loaded images can be automatically ordered by file name or date, and manually re-ordered via a graphical interface. The drag-and-drop interface can be used to upload and merge groups of files from different sources, such as a mobile phone and a digital camera SD card.
Different Types of Captions
Captions can be added as a single block, either by typing or from speech (for Win 10 users) with either continuous or multi-line text, or in two parts with different sizes for each part, making it particularly useful for team photos. The second part of an image caption may be a region of another image (such as the scanned back of a photo with descriptive handwritten text).
Caption font size is scaled automatically to fit into the area specified for the caption bar. It offers a wide range of other features including streamlined captioning of multiple images, font, and background color selection, slideshow, zoom, aspect ratio adjustment, automatic captioning from geolocation or other metadata (such as that created by Windows Photo Gallery, Picasa, Google Photos, Windows Photos and professional metadata addition programs), and a command-line interface. Double byte characters (such as Chinese) can be included in captions, but not emojis.
Caption Pro offers two face recognition options that allow users to name detected faces in an image and have captions added comprised of the face names in left-to-right order. The Standard option, using local resources. is included in the basic license.
The Premium option uses as a commercial web service for detection and recognition, and offers superior speed and accuracy to the standard option. It requires an Internet connection and only 50 premium transactions are included in the basic license. Additional transactions must be purchased as a top-up or included in the initial license purchase.
Image caption text is stored in IPTC metadata fields as well as in the image pixels and a high-quality save option minimizes processing changes, making Caption Pro particularly suitable for genealogy and archival applications.
Caption Pro offers a slideshow view, in which only captioned images and videos are shown, making it particularly suitable for processing large collections of travel photos and videos recorded on a mobile device.
Different Options Depending on User
For non-Windows users or users without local administrator rights, a Web application for single images is available, and remote access to the full application via a Windows server with Dropbox integration is available on request. It offers a free 30-day trial and a basic license fee of US$29. The basic license includes 50 Premium face recognition transactions. Additional Premium Face recognition transactions can be purchased at a cost between US$0.02 and US$0.03 per transaction for 500 or 1000 transactions.
Caption Pro runs on 64 bit Windows versions 7, 8.1 and 10, but face recognition is only available on Windows 10. An earlier version running on 32-bit systems is available. The Aleka Consulting website is accessible and describes Caption Pro, which has a copyright date of 2020. Context-sensitive help, a local help file, and email support are all available.
My rating: 4.5 stars
As its name suggests, Caption Pro for Mac is the Mac version of Caption Pro from Aleka Consulting. It offers a free demo 30-day 25 caption license, with a permanent license costing US$39.
Although providing for 2-part editable captions and capacity to process bulk images in a streamlined fashion, it lacks the Caption Pro capabilities for scanning and multiple photo image splitting, caption definition from metadata or other sources, video display, using images as captions and faces recognition.
What it does provide is a similar interface and operation mode to Caption Pro in the Mac environment.
My rating 3.5 stars.
This is a free Windows application available via Softpedia, which, like Caption Pro, only processes JPEG images. It can process multiple files as well as single ones. Captions can be positioned on or below the image and caption size, font, and color can be selected numerically. Captions on the image are located numerically rather than by dragging.
Multi-line captions are supported, but there is a maximum of 5 lines allowed. However, there is no auto-scaling of font size to fit the caption into the space available, and once applied, captions cannot be edited, although they can be saved as EXIF Descriptions.
The user interface may be daunting to novice users. The author's website (ricksideas.com) is not accessible. The program is dated 2015 so it is probably not currently supported.
My rating: 3.5 stars
This program is part of a suite of 4 programs for managing digital photo collections from CaptionsMadeEasy. Other programs allow sorting of collections, captioning of multiple photos and correcting time information. Collections of captioned photos may be viewed as a slideshow.
Like Caption Pro, it supports editing of already applied captions, but the captions are only visible with the image using the CaptionViewer application - they are stored in the Windows Title metadata field, but not embedded in the image pixels. The default caption is the date on which the photo was taken if present. Selecting one file from folder loads other files whose names appear before it if the folder content is sorted by name.
Caption View costs US$24, with other programs in the suite costing US$12. Demo mode allows viewing of fewer than 30 photos and replacement of every 4th caption. The application is copyrighted in 2015 but the company website is accessible and mentions CaptionViewer, so support may be available even though the application has not been updated for some time.
My Rating: 1.5 Stars
This a Universal Windows Program that only runs on Windows 10 from Fotonice, and is available from the Microsoft Store at a cost of US$2.95. It allows the addition of a frame around any image in JPEG, BMP or PNG format, as shown below.
Foto Tag allows different amounts of padding of selectable colours to be added to an image. A block of multi-line text, using a selected font may then be added anywhere in the image, including in the caption bar as shown below.
However, the text block has to be positioned manually and although the text font, style, and alignment can be selected, the font size cannot be changed. The font outline and fill colors can be selected only from the range of pastel shades shown in the bottom RH corner. The Settings screen does not access any program settings.
No support or company contact details are provided. The most unfortunate feature of Foto Tag is that selecting a different photo to process crashes the application.
Despite its flexibility in adding an area in which a caption can be written, and in framing a photo, Foto Tag is an immature product with numerous defects.
My rating: 1 star
SnipTag runs on MacOS 10.12 and higher and comes from the drolly named Hong Kong/Thailand company App Initio via the Apple App Store. The free version of SnipTag is limited to 3 exports per day. Unlimited licenses are available for a week, quarter or year (costing AU$1.49, AU$9.99, AU$26.49 respectively). A permanent license costs AU$34.99.
As its name suggests, SnipTag has two areas of functionality. The first is to automatically crop and edit multiple photos appearing in a digital image via the Snip function. The second is to edit digital image file metadata and add visible captions to images via the Tag function. On opening SnipTag and loading a file the following screen appears.
On selecting a file and clicking Edit-> Metadata, the metadata editing screen appears, showing some of the file metadata.
Entering text in the description field (or using the dictate function) adds text to the Description field and clicking Save adds the text to a caption bar below the image, prepended by the image date taken from the metadata.
The caption can be edited via the Edit button below the image. In order to embed the caption in the image pixels, the File->Export option should be used. This offers to save the image with or without the caption in a selected location, which appears as below when opened in another application.
If this captioning functionality is all that is required, SnipTag does it OK. Double byte characters, such as Chinese, are supported, as are emojis. The application supports image files in PNG format as well as JPEGs, and probably other image file formats.
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The white border added around the image is aesthetically pleasing. The use of IPTC metadata means that other programs can access metadata set by SnipTag. The User Guide is somewhat terse but included in the installation. FAQs are accessed via the Web.
However, there are quite a few limitations. The image height used for the caption is fixed, so if you need to create a multiple-line caption (which has to imported via copy and paste, as the description and caption edit input boxes ignore Enter characters), the font size will be reduced to make the caption fit into the caption bar height. There does not seem to be any way of changing the caption font or background color. Applied captions are not editable once the image has been exported.
SnipTag is well-suited to applying short, simple captions, but the product lacks the range of features available in Windows applications such as Caption Pro and the editable captioning provided by Caption Pro for Mac. It is not particularly intuitive to use for visible caption applications, but there should be few difficulties after initial use.
My rating: 3 stars
This program from Chimera Creative Studio, in Hungary, is intended to facilitate the process of moving from physical photographs to a digital album. It incorporates functionality for processing a scan of a number of paper prints (such as might appear on an album page) to generate a set of individual digital image files with individual captions.
Each image is automatically cropped and straightened and can have a caption applied to it. Captions are added in a bar below the digital image, thus retaining all the image pixels. AutoSplitter costs US$19.99 for a permanent license, but with upgrades only available for 30 days. Upgrades are available for 2 years with a US$29.99 license. The unlicensed version adds a watermark to all images, but is fully functional otherwise.
The interface after loading a scan of a photo album page and rotating each of the detected images is shown below. AutoSplitter can also connect directly to a scanner.
The right-hand panel of the interface contains numerous controls for controlling the process of splitting an image containing multiple scanned photos and for enhancing these images.
Clicking on a single split the captioning interface appears. Caption text with a maximum length of 250 characters can be added in the purple highlighted box.
Clicking the Caption It box shows a larger screen for caption entry:
After caption text (and optionally date) definition, the date and caption are added in a bar below the image, which can then be displayed at a larger size by double-clicking on the image:
Different Captioning Options
Captions come in 5 preset font sizes, with a selectable font, foreground and background colors via the Options->Caption Settings. Caption Settings are defined per split, rather than for all splits. Text can optionally be included in Windows Title and Subject metadata fields. Captions are left-justified and the height of the caption bar expands to accommodate the font size and length of the supplied caption.
Multiple line captions are not supported—only the text before the first line is included. Double byte text (such as Chinese characters) can be displayed and emojis, but not with emoji colours. Bulk captioning is available for groups of photos to be assigned the same caption. Captions are not editable after application.
The split images can only be saved in bulk by clicking Save All either in the menu bar on the top right of the split panel. The save folder is defined by Options-> Output Folder.
If a single image is loaded which does not contain multiple photos, no splits may be found and a warning message appears:
In this case the entire image can be selected by clicking Add Split->Create a Full Page Split and a caption can then be applied.
An incorrect split may be found, such as as shown below:
A full-page split can be generated by right-clicking in the split rectangle and selecting Full Page Split from the context menu.
Selecting a folder of single images shows an additional panel of images, which are copied to the output folder
Double-clicking on any of the images loads it into the input panel in the same way as selecting a single file. A split can then be defined, and a caption added.
Help is available online and includes a number of videos.
AutoSplitter works well for its primary purpose of turning hard-copy photos or albums into individual digital images and adding simple captions to these images, but it has a significant learning curve. For captioning born-digital photos, it is difficult to use. The captioning facilities lack the flexibility provided by other Windows products, but are adequate for short, simple captions.
My Rating: 3 stars
Web applications for captioning are most commonly online image editors, offering much of the functionality of their desktop cousins free of charge, and with similar limitations. As free applications, they may carry advertisements that vary in obtrusiveness.
There are also a number of dedicated online captioning applications. Like web applications, they will take some time to upload images for processing, but some have single-button posting to social media. The precise appearance of the applications will depend on the browser used. Major features of some of the leading offerings are summarized below:
Comparison of Captioning Web Apps
|Application||Rating (Stars)||Caption Position||Non-Latin alphabetic Languages||Caption Editing after Application||Social Media Posting|
Anywhere on image
Anywhere on image
Anywhere on image
Anywhere on image
Caption Pro Web
Below Image in caption bar
Top and bottom of image
Lunapic is a free online photo editor providing many image editing functions as well as captioning. It supports updating of images in the application session and positioning of captions in a number of preset positions. The image is displayed at full size rather than being fitted into the screen area, which can be awkward for large images on a desktop.
Caption size, color and font are selectable and results can be posted to a range of social media as well as saving to the local machine in JPEG format. However, when posting to Facebook, the image is truncated at the top and bottom in the News Feed view. It has a dedicated mobile interface, with a streamlined captioning and saving interface functionality.
My rating: 4 Stars
Fotor is a freemium online photo editing application including the addition of multiple text labels. The advertisements and user help are highly intrusive, and the process of actually adding a caption requires some exploration—headings have to be dragged onto the image and then have font, size and color settings.
There is a custom mobile interface, but navigation is not straightforward. Sharing to a range of social media is supported, but the Facebook posting truncates the image at the top and the bottom as with Lunapic. The Pro version (no ads, cloud storage, and additional features) costs US$39.99 per year.
My rating: 3 stars
AddText is the most easily found of the online captioning applications. It has a simple, understandable interface but upload speed is noticeably slower than Fotor or Lunapic. It has a good mobile interface. Images in GIF, PNG and JPEG format can be uploaded, copied from the clipboard (for browsers other than Internet Explorer) or dragged onto the application but downloaded images are in JPEG format.
However, there were problems with some GIF and PNG files. Multiple-line captions are supported, but captions are truncated to a maximum of 50 characters in length. Double-byte characters are supported, but not emojis. A large number of font styles are offered, some restricted to the premium version.
Various font size options are provided, including Auto, which sets a font size to the minimum of 60 or the value required to spread the caption over the width of the image. Captions are always centered within the text block. Text blocks can be positioned automatically at various locations on the image or dragged to the desired location. Multiple text blocks can be placed on an image.
Captioned images can be posted to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+or downloaded. The Premium version (costing US$19.95 per year) has no watermarks on the captioned image and provides access to a wider range of fonts,
My rating: 4 stars
Roflbot has a somewhat cluttered interface, with text and links to other products. The mobile interface requires magnification to use successfully. Images in JPEG, GIF, BMP format were processed successfully, but it is not clear which image formats are supported.
Caption size and font can be selected from a small selection but the color is fixed. Multi-line captions are not supported. Multiple text blocks can be applied to the same image and positioned independently. Captioned files are saved in JPEG format. Roflbot can save captioned images to the local machine, Flickr, and Imgur.
Other share options (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email) do not share the captioned image or do not share any image at all.
My rating: 3 stars
17. Caption Pro Web
Caption Pro Web offers most of the features of its desktop cousin Caption Pro, notably 2-part captioning, and the ability to edit already captioned images, but only operates on single JPEG images less than 10 MB in size. It is free, but it asks users to purchase a license to hide a nag screen and remove a product label from the caption bar.
Caption Pro Web has options to select images from the Web or to paste images for captioning from the clipboard. It offers several advantages over AddText: captions can be of unlimited length and can be edited after application. Double-byte characters (such as are used in East Asian languages) are supported but not emojis.
Sizing and Remote Access
Sizing is fully automatic and sub-captions can be left-justified as well as centered. All pixels in the original image are preserved, as the caption is written below the input image. When using a mobile device, local images can be selected from (and downloaded into) device image storage. Remote access to the Caption Pro application via a server is available on request for non-Windows devices. The server application is integrated with Dropbox to automatically return captioned images.
My rating: 4.5 stars
ImgFlip is more like a photo-sharing site than a web application. It is dedicated to meme creation, either by allowing you to modify existing ones, or creating a new one from scratch by putting text at the top and bottom of images.
If you rate yourself as a meme creator, your memes can be picked up from here by anyone browsing the site. Upload speed is very fast, but image orientation is sometimes incorrect. You can vote for images and compete to be featured on the homepage. ImgFlip stores memes, but only if they get enough votes.
Downloaded files carry a small watermark, which can be removed in the Pro Version, which costs US$9.95 per month and offers additional functionality, including personal storage of your memes.
My rating: 4 stars
19. Mobile Apps
With the pervasiveness of mobile devices, apps for processing images from built-in cameras in-situ are numerous. Native photo apps such as iOS Photos for iPhone and iPad, and the equivalent application built into Android phones and tablets offer facilities for adding text to photos as part of their image editing capability.
The functionality offered is generally less than the dedicated apps. As mobile apps do not have to upload or download data, they operate faster than web applications and are generally better designed to accommodate the small touchscreen interfaces used by mobile devices.
After selection of the input image (from Photo Album, or direct from a camera) Phonto offers various filtering and cropping options as shown above (left). After tapping Done, a box with various options including Add Text at the left appears (center). Clicking this allows the definition of the various aspects of the text (right). Clicking the boxes beside Add Text shows the same screen, but with the text shown in the box.
Phonto is available as a dedicated freemium captioning app for Android and iOS platforms (iOS 9.0 or later). As a mobile-only application, it offers a clean interface with appropriately sized controls and a massive range of graphics options. The captioned image is included in the email body rather than as an attachment.
Posting to Facebook does not post the captioned image (at least from iOS), but the one from the main web page. Other posting options are Twitter, Instagram, and Messaging. As a freemium app, there an advertising banner at the top of the screen, which can be removed on payment of US$2.99 to the iTunes store (for iOS).
My rating: 3 stars
Typorama is a well-designed freemium mobile app (iOS only) offering photo editing features as well as text addition. It provides a set of stock photos as well as access to device Photo Albums as shown above (left). After selecting your image, you choose what to do with it (center). The captioning interface then appears (right), with a range of other options for the Pro (paid) version.
Once applied, captions can be edited within the application, resized, tilted and restyled. Posting to social media apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp with a single click is supported, as well as saving back to the Photo Album. Typorama is the only application to show images posted to Facebook in their entirety within the News Feed.
Payment of US$9.99 for the Pro version removes ads and a “Made with Typorama” watermark applied to all photos.
My rating: 3.5 stars
This is an iPhone-only app from Hong Kong/Thailand-based company App Initio, costing US$7.99 from the Apple App Store. Like its cousin SnipTag, it performs automatic cropping of scanned images of single or multiple photos and captioning of these photos.
The scanning and autocropping functionality is impressive, including correction of perspective distortion. This makes the app very useful for digitizing and annotating paper prints, although the scanned image resolution is lower than that obtainable with a flatbed scanner.
Loaded photos can also be edited with a range of functions similar to most photo editing programs. Unlike most other captioning apps for mobiles, the caption is added in a white bar below the original image, thus keeping all of the original pixels. Captions can also be applied to images stored directly on the iPhone.
After selecting Import from the start screen and selecting a photo from the photos stored on the iPhone, which are added to the photo gallery for the app, the following screen appears.
Selecting Caption shows the following screen, allowing entry of a date, a caption and a description:
These parts are then combined to form a caption placed beneath the image and clicking Export allows a choice between the uncaptioned image the image with the three parts combined as shown below. The Save options include the normal range of iPhone destinations including email, Instagram, and the local Camera Roll.
PicScanner Gold stands out from most other mobile captioning apps for its ability to create captions in a separate caption bar thus keeping all original image pixels intact. The scanning/autocropping facility makes it particularly attractive for the task of creating annotated digital versions of paper prints.
My rating (for captioning only): 4 stars
Photomyne (from the Israeli company of the same name) is a very slick mobile phone application that can automatically segment images of multiple photos into individual images. Individual images are automatically rectified and a range of image enhancements are available. Albums of photos can be shared via a dedicated web repository.
Faces in photos can be recognized and labeled, and captions including the name added to any photo containing the recognized face. Captions are added in a bar below the original image, with separate entry fields for photo description, date, location, and names of people appearing as shown below. Descriptions can have multiple lines and can include emoticons.
Photomyne can be used without automatic segmentation. Monthly and yearly licenses with a free 3-day trial cost US$14.99 and US$49.99 respectively. Saving of photos is disabled after the free evaluation period. A 5-year license costs US$62.99. Licenses are auto-renewing.
Although PhotoMyne is available for Apple iOS and Android platforms, the Android version requires a version of the operating system newer than 15.1.
PhotoMyne is a sophisticated product with wide-ranging functionality including good captioning facilities, but this is a minor feature of the product and its pricing reflects these broader capabilities.
My Rating (for Captioning only): 4 stars
Cloud storage is one of today's buzzwords. It provides a way of making electronic documents available on any platform - mobile phone, tablet, or desktop. Make a change to a photo stored in the cloud from any one of these platforms and it will be available on all the others. The changes are propagated by synchronization, so the captioning program is always able to access a local file.
However, apps installed on mobile devices may not recognise images from cloud storage from another vendor: on an Apple iPhone 5 running iOS 9, locally installed web apps did not see Microsoft OneDrive cloud stores.
Whether the apps and Web apps can upload from Google GDrive and Apple iCloud was not tested. Web applications running on Safari did see the OneDrive stores but could not upload from them. On an Android phone and tablet, web apps could see and upload from OneDrive stores.
In summary, files in cloud storage synchronised with local folders may be visible to captioning applications on mobile devices, but this cannot be relied on.
If you live on your mobile, keep your photos there, and want to write on top of the photos, you have a lot of choices if the text markup facility in the native image editor isn't enough.
PhotoMyne lets you keep all the original pixels and provides a lot of other functionality, but at a substantial price. Typorama is slick, but you'll have to pay to get rid of the watermark. Phonto and Lunapic are close behind, and free.
For desktop or tablet users, any photo editing software will give you complete control of where you put the caption text and how it is formatted, but be prepared to climb a steep learning curve to find out how to do it. Outside Caption Pro, most dedicated Windows captioning applications are unsupported, so what you download and install is all you'll get.
If you want to use a web application, AddText is simple to use but captions are constrained to 50 characters and can only be written on top of your photo. Caption Pro Web keeps all pixels from your uploaded image and writes the caption below it. Caption length is unlimited, with automatic sizing, and captions can be changed after application and downloading. If you're making a meme then the ImgFlip web app makes it easy to make your work widely available as well as create it.
Caption Pro for Windows is the clear Windows desktop winner. As well as being able to automatically extract photos from scans or photos or paper prints (like AutoSplitter, SnipTags and PhotoMyne), it leaves your image and video pixels unchanged (which is ideal for a family or historic photos) and lets you just type the captions or use a region of another image as a caption. Face recognition allows names to be added to photos containing people.
The ability to edit text captions after you've applied them is a real bonus. It can also handle large numbers of images (such as holiday photos) in a streamlined fashion and put already applied metadata into the image pixels. Its re-ordering functionality makes it useful as a display tool - Windows Photos still has a few bugs when used for this purpose.
Support is readily available. Mac desktop users can choose between SnipTag and Caption Pro for Mac, with Caption Pro for Mac offering simpler operation and captions editable after application.
Don't let any software give you the impression you won't have to do any work. If you come back from a vacation with 5000 photos, just looking at each of them to make a smaller selection will take you hours before you even think about captioning.
If you're dealing with a box of parents' or grandparents' photos that you'd like to share electronically, using tools like Caption Pro, Autosplitter, SnipTag or PhotoMyne will streamline the process but not eliminate the work. But the reward is knowing that whatever information you put on your photos will remain attached to the image whatever channels it passes through.
If you answered 'Other' to any of the polls I'd like to hear from you so I can extend the scope of the review.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
John Risken on June 23, 2020:
Wow! Exhaustive! Thanks so much.