Simon has been involved in software development since the days of paper tape. He has developed niche software for information management.
Nearly every flatbed scanner comes with sophisticated control software for cropping, removing dust and scratches, de-skewing images and many other functions. However, many flatbed scanners (particularly multi-function devices that also serve as printers) treat scans of multiple photos as a single image. Such images may come from scanning a photo album page, or from scanning multiple photos placed directly on the scanner.
A common task is to turn each of the multiple photos into a separate digital image, and optionally to add a description and edit the image itself. Although this can be done manually with supplied scanner software or easily available image editors, such as Windows Photos or IrfanView, it’s laborious.
The latest release of the Epson Perfection software (Epson Scan 2) has built-in functionality for automatically creating separate images from separate photos placed on the scanner in Photo Mode but as of May 2021 is only available on Macs.
Automating this process requires that the application detects the boundaries of photos contained in an image, with minimal or no parameter adjustment. This is a difficult image segmentation problem, as photo backgrounds may not be easily distinguishable from the photo content.
With the exception of ImageMagick and Caption Pro, applications do not give any indication of how they achieve this, but any algorithm will fail on some images, and a manual option for defining the boundaries of photos is desirable in this case. It is difficult for applications for devices using touchscreens to achieve this level of interaction with images, so they rely on automatic segmentation, which works successfully for the majority of cases.
Either a scanner or a camera can be used for creating digital images from existing physical images. The two methods and many other issues are discussed in detail on Ken Watson's excellent website All About Digital Photos.
1. Using a Scanner
Small A4 flatbed scanners are readily available, and may even be incorporated into multi-function devices mainly used for printing. Individual hard-copy prints can be placed on the scanner bed and the scanner directly accessed from image splitting software.
Good results are usually obtained in this way as the background to the multiple photos is highly uniform and easily distinguished from the photo content, provided the photos are well-separated.
If the photos are on a photo album page, the process is more difficult as photo albums commonly have a patterned background, and the pages may be yellowed around the edges, making the background non-uniform and the extraction process more difficult. A reflective transparent layer to protect photographs from handling may also be present.
Mounting corners for photos may also be used, making the photo content non-rectangular. The page size may also exceed A4 dimensions.
2. Using a Camera
Taking a photograph of a number of individual photos is much easier than using a scanner, and may be the only option if the photos are within a glass-covered frame with a matte, such as shown below or a photo album with large pages.
The extraction process is more difficult for already grouped photos, as the background may be patterned or non-uniform, and the oval mattes often used give make individual photos non-rectangular.
Where the photos are behind glass, reflections may degrade individual image quality. These can be minimized by illuminating the grouped photos brightly and making the camera as dark as possible using oblique, directional illumination from at least two light sources.
3. Using Smartphone Camera Apps
The availability of high-resolution smartphone cameras has encouraged the development of apps for processing images of paper photo prints taken with the device. These apps generally offer auto-cropping, and de-skewing of a photo placed on a uniform background, and may offer glare removal and perspective correction.
Individual photos can be saved as individual files, but the resolution of these will be limited by the resolution of the smartphone camera and the number of photos included in a single image. An A4 flatbed scanner scanning at 300 dots per inch creates a 29-megapixel image—more than twice as many pixels as images from a 12-megapixel camera (such as is found on the iPhone XS and Google Pixel 3) and is clearly preferred for high-resolution scans.
Consider Pixel Dimensions
Pixel dimensions for smartphone cameras are not necessarily an indicator of image quality. Pixel dimensions may be much larger than that required by the image produced by the optical system, as storage is cheap and pixel dimensions are a good marketing feature. In one case, 48-megapixel images from a smartphone could be resampled to 8 megapixels with no loss of image quality, with a 6-fold reduction in image size.
Apps may also offer easy grouping and sharing of extracted photos via social media and the web.
Most smartphone apps suggest restricting the number of photos included in an image, as the number of pixels used in each extracted image will be somewhat less than the camera pixel count divided by the number of images.
Large Batches of Small Images
For images containing large numbers of small photos (such as old photo albums), pixelated extracted images may result from processing an image of the whole page. In this case, sections of the page or even single images should be used. If only single photos are included in the image many photo scanning apps are available, such as Google’s PhotoScan (Android and iOS) and Best Cool Apps’ Photo Scanner (iOS only). These generally offer the same facilities as the multiple photo apps reviewed here.
A high-resolution digital camera may also be used to create files which are then processed by a desktop application. As most desktop applications are built for use with flatbed scanners, they will not have the perspective correction.
All applications provide guidance on the scanning process, the major point being to keep individual photos well separated.
A Summary of the Applications Reviewed
1. Caption Pro (Windows) 4.5 stars
Access via a scanner as well as from files, optional manual splitting controls, good performance with individual photos, excellent captioning, face recognition. Well-suited to large projects.
2. Caption Pro for Mac (Mac) 4 stars
Similar capability to Caption Pro but without face recognition.
3. RansenScan (Windows) 3.5 Stars
Optional manual control of splitting, direct scanner access, single-line captions. Good for individual photos placed on the scanner but not for camera images or scanned album pages. Slow operation. Simple interface but best suited to tech-savvy users.
4. ScanSpeeder (Windows) 4.5 Stars
Direct access to flatbed scanners, optional manual control, highly robust splitting algorithm, and simple interface. Works well with photographs of album pages as well as scanned images.
5. AutoSplitter (Windows) 4 Stars
Optional manual control of the splitting process, direct access to flatbed scanners, robust splitting algorithm, and control of splitting parameters. Clunky interface. Captioning facilities are very basic.
Like Autosplitter, but without any manual control or scanner access. Extraction algorithm not robust. Good metadata setting in SnipTag.
7. PhotoMyne ( iPhone, iPad, Android)—5 Stars
Simple, slick, powerful, and expensive. Provides many of the facilities of Google Photos.
Similar products are suitable for well-conditioned images. PicScanner Gold offers a range of extra functionality.
9. PhotoShop, Photoshop Elements (Mac, Windows Desktop)—2 Stars
Great for image editing and metadata set, but slow and bulky to install. Bundled products may not be desired. Poor extraction performance and no parameter control.
10. GIMP with Divide Scanned Images Script (All platforms)—2 Stars
Free, multi-platform but poor performance. Only suitable for software enthusiasts.
11. GIMPScan (Mac only)— 3.5 Stars
Reasonable performance but installation and GIMP interface daunting. The best option for Mac Users prepared to deal with GIMP.
12. VueScan (Windows, Mac)—2 Stars
Very basic: no captioning, skew correction, or manual frame definition, but may be able to access scanners that other applications cannot.
If you are placing individual photos on a scanner, Caption Pro (for Windows or Mac) is accurate for automatic splitting, has excellent captioning facilities, and is well-suited to large projects. RansenScan gives is also very accurate, but processing may be slow. ScanSpeeder detects photos well for uniform backgrounds, but may not perform de-skewing accurately. Autosplitter may not detect all individual photos.
If you are scanning album pages or using camera images containing multiple photos, different products have widely differing performances on different images. If you are keen to optimise processing on images of this type, different products should be evaluated. RansenScan appears to require a non-patterned uniform background to individual photos and is not suitable for album pages or camera images.
Smartphones and tablets offer convenience, but extracted individual images from apps may lack resolution when used with common devices. Photomyne has outstanding performance but its automatic image enhancement may not always be desired. PicScanner or PicScanner Gold may be adequate at a lower price, especially if only a few photos appear in images.
The Products in Detail
Note that the scanner interfaces of desktop applications were not tested, due to the wide range of scanners available.
Caption Pro (v 3.1.112) Windows
Caption Pro, from Aleka Consulting, is a newcomer to multi-photo extraction. Similar to ScanSpeeder, Autosplitter, and RansenScan in its automatic photodetection and split definition capability, it has many superior captioning capabilities and can generate captions using face recognition.
It can add two-part captions which can be edited after application, and it can use images from the backs of photos as captions. Caption Pro comes with a free 30-day, 25-caption, or splits save limit demo license. A license for permanent operation and 1 year of major updates costs US$29. It runs on 64 bit Windows 7,8.1 and 10, but face recognition is only available on Windows 10.
Although the product is called Caption Pro, the photo extraction is performed by a separate application called ImageSplit, which is accessed via Caption Pro. Input can come from a scanner or from an image file.
Unlike most other dedicated applications, the documentation describes the algorithm for separating the photos from the background and indicates its limitations and how they can be minimized. The screen after automatic photodetection is shown below.
Automatically detected photos (or splits) are outlined in red and can be adjusted for size, position and rotation and splits can be added manually if photos are not detected. Splits can be rotated, inverted, sharpened and have their contrast and brightness adjusted individually or collectively. The position of the background pixel (which should be outside any photo) can be adjusted by dragging a circle, and the sensitivity of the detection can be adjusted in the settings screen.
After the definition of the splits, the splits can be saved. Captions can then be added, optionally using the name of the split file created. The separation of the captioning from the splitting operation allows bulk captioning of any number of splits obtained from multiple scans. Captioning is highly flexible, providing unlimited length and the ability to edit captions after application. Images can be used as captions, and logos added if required.
Captions can be created from detected faces to which names have been added which are recognised in images. There are two options for face recognition. Standard mode processes all data locally and is included in the basic license.
Premium mode uses a commercial web service for detection and recognition and requires an Internet connection. It offers improved speed and accuracy over Standard mode. 50 Premium face recognition transactions are included in the Basic license, with additional Premium transactions costing between US$0.02 and US$0.03 per transaction.
The aspect ratio of the splits can also be adjusted to ensure that all of the splits are included in hard-copy printouts.
Context-sensitive help is provided via a local Windows help file. The help includes detailed advice on getting the best results from scanners and cameras.
Caption Pro is well suited to automatic processing of multiple photo images with uniform or slowly varying background, using a scanner or a camera. It performs less well where the background is patterned, as is the case for many modern photo albums. The separation of splitting and captioning features makes Caption Pro particularly suitable for large-scale projects requiring the digitization of hundreds of paper prints and the face recognition feature is useful for large collections of family photos.
My rating: 4.5 stars
Caption Pro for Mac (v 3.1.4 Mac)
Caption Pro for Mac from Aleka Consulting has most of the functionality of Caption Pro (Windows) but lacks face recognition and manual definition of splitting regions when processing images of multiple paper photos, but parameters of the photo extraction process are editable and the process gives accurate results. A license for permanent operation and 1 year of major updates costs US$39.
Splitting can be performed using the Mac scanner interface software or the Apple Computer Vision rectangle detection software. Detailed help suggests methods of improving performance with black-and-white images, which are often poorly handled by multiple photo processing software. The scanner interface requires MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra) or later, but other features will work on MacOS 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
My rating: 4 stars
ScanSpeeder (v 2.19 Windows)
ScanSpeeder comes from the Canadian company NitroLogic and has a very similar interface to Autosplitter; which product came first is not obvious. The start screen is shown below.
Pro and Standard versions cost US$39.95 and US$29.95 respectively for permanent licenses. Both versions include updates for 1 year. The Pro version includes support for 48-bit colour and 16-bit black and white scans.
ScanSpeeder can operate directly from a scanner, or from files containing images of multiple photos. After loading a file, extracted photo boundaries are marked in green and the extraction can be performed by clicking Extract Photos, to give the results shown on the right-hand side of the screen as shown below.
The extraction algorithm is very robust, working successfully on images with a non-uniform or patterned background using auto-background detection as shown below. However, it stumbles when the background is a smooth image gradient and de-skewing may not be accurate if individual photos are placed on a scanner.
Manual adjustment of background is also possible by selecting a background region via the gear icon beside the Detect button, but this was not necessary even for the range of backgrounds shown above.
The Help text for adjustment of the automatic extraction parameters does not refer to controls visible in the current version. Selecting a different background colour using the dropper function did not appear to work.
Photo boundaries can be adjusted by clicking within the frame. Sides can then be dragged, or the entire frame rotated or deleted. New frames can be added via the Add Frame button. Captions can be added to extracted photos by adding in the [Add optional text/tag] area. Text is saved in the Windows Title and Subject field when the tick icon is clicked.
Caption size and font and colour can be set in the Settings area accessed via the gear icon to the right of the Extract Photos button. The area used by the caption is increased with caption length and font size, but multiple line captions are not supported—all caption text is displayed continuously. Unicode captions (as used for Asian languages) and emojis can be shown, although emojis lose their colour.
Captions are toggled via the T option visible in the extracted photo:
An Enhance button increases brightness and contrast for selected extracted images. Selected Images can also be rotated by an arbitrary angle using the Rotate button. Selected images can also 90, 180 or 270 degrees via the menus in the image shown above.
Extracted files can be saved in either JPEG or TIFF format
Somewhat terse help is available via a local file rather than via a URL, making ScanSpeeder easily usable without an Internet connection, and there are a number of online tutorial videos, articles and blogs available.
ScanSpeeder is an excellent product, with a highly robust automatic extraction algorithm allowing it to work with photographs of old photo album pages as well as scanned images of multiple photos. Its captioning facilities are good and a simple interface makes it suitable for non-technical users.
My Rating: 4.5 stars
RansenScan (v 4.1.4—Windows)
RansenScan comes from Italy-based company Ransen Software, which offers a number of CAD and Graphics programs for Windows. It costs US$29.99 for a permanent license. The demo version adds a watermark on any extracted photos but is otherwise fully functional.
As the installer for the demo version does not use a code-signing certificate, a warning message appears during installation on Windows 10. The website may also be incorrectly flagged by anti-virus software as containing adware.
The RansenScan startup screen has a combination of a conventional text menu structure and a row of buttons for common functions as shown below. Tips are optionally shown on startup.
RansensScan can import directly from a scanner or from already scanned files. The File menu options to select a scanner and to initiate the scan are separate, which may cause confusion.
The same device may also appear multiple times. Loaded images are rotated as specified by the EXIF orientation flag, if present. Images are automatically split into sub-images, which are straightened and displayed on the right of the screen as shown below.
Automatic recognition options allow specification of the minimum and maximum size of photos and a maximum aspect ratio.
Clicking on a sub-image highlights the region automatically selected, which can then be adjusted if required:
If no sub-images are detected automatically, selection regions can be defined manually by clicking and dragging over the displayed image as shown below.
Clicking the ‘A’ Button or selecting the 5th button from the left creates a sub-image from the defined area:
The process of selecting an area and creating a sub-image can be repeated as often as required.
Sub-images can be rotated or have frames and captions added by in various positions by right-clicking and selecting from a context menu, as shown below. Caption text is shown as a single line, truncated if the text at the selected caption size exceeds the photo width:
Colour adjustments to the image can also be made via the context menu.
Although RansenScan automatic extraction is intended to work on images from scanners, it will work with uniform background images from cameras (as found on mobile phones) but the process may be very slow.
Extracted sub-images can be saved via the File menu in a number of common image formats. Bulk processing of multiple images and watermarking of extracted images are also supported. Comprehensive help is available via a web link.
RansenScan works well for processing scans of individual photos, with a fairly simple interface. The automatic extraction is not robust enough to deal with scanned album pages. However, the ability to manually define photo boundaries makes it usable where automatic extraction fails. The addition of frames makes for more pleasing results, but captioning facilities are limited.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
AutoSplitter from Hungarian company Chimera Creative Studio is a sophisticated product for processing scans of multiple photos. Permanent registration costs US$19.99 for 1 year of upgrades or US$29.99 for 2 years of upgrades.
The unregistered version has full functionality but all image displays are watermarked. The start screen is divided into an area showing the loaded image, and the extracted photos (or splits):
AutoSplitter can obtain images directly from a scanner, as well as from a pre-existing file. Selecting the Scanner options shows a list of available scanners and gives advice on scanner settings.
However, some scanners may not be detected. On loading a file obtained by scanning a photo album page, photos are automatically identified and marked by framing them with a rectangle, and large de-skewed thumbnails of each photo (splits) are shown in the right-hand panel as shown below. EXIF image rotation flags are ignored.
The splitting algorithm is robust for detecting individual photos within the image. Images with a non-uniform background (such as from a faded photo album) can be processed, although all images may not be detected. However, de-skewing may not be accurate for images with a white background resulting from placing individual photos placed on a scanner as shown below:
Better results may be obtained using a contrasting colour background. Frames can be adjusted manually.
Although AutoSplitter users are recommended to only use images from a flatbed scanner, photos will be recognized in a photo of paper prints against a plain, uniformly lit background, but individual photo de-skewing may not work and images may have an unexpected colour cast.
Each extracted photo (or split) is labelled with a file name obtained by appending a numerical suffix to the loaded file name, and allows entry of a date and caption for each split. However, the file is not created until Save All is clicked.
Moving the mouse over one of the splits shows processing options for rotation and inversion and an optional pop-up with additional information about the split:
Clicking on the Caption it button at the bottom LH of the split shows a larger caption entry box, with the caption length restricted to 250 characters on a single line. Caption font, colour and size can be controlled via the Options->Caption Settings option.5 preset options for caption size are provided. Captions are added below the image as shown below.
Caption text can be added to the Windows Title and Subject fields via the Annotation Options combo box shown above the splits. The Caption All Splits button allows the same caption text to be applied to all splits.
Captions existing in saved images cannot be edited, and caption data is lost once AutoSplitter is closedClicking the Full Size button shows the split at full resolution, with various scaling options.
Clicking the Save All button in the Splits pane or the menu strip at the top saves all the splits as individual files using the output folder specified below the splits panel. The save action is recorded for each split by the green tick changing to a file icon.
Image contrast and saturation adjustments can be applied to all splits using the options at the top of the splits panel. The changes made by different colour correction options are not clear.
Only photos completely contained in the scan are automatically framed, but new frames can be created by clicking the Add Split button, which adds a new frame as shown below.
Moving the mouse into this frame (or any frame) shows a red control button for deleting the frame and a blue one for rotating it. Dragging the rotate control rotates the image in the direction of drag, and frame boundaries (but not corners) can be dragged vertically or horizontally.
AutoSplitter provides context-sensitive help, via ? icons on various screens. Help is in the form of hints about common problems, which are optionally shown on startup. The focus is on screens to provide relevant assistance rather than a section of a manual.
There are some tutorial videos on YouTube, but these are very short. There is a sophisticated support system rather than a simple email contact.
AutoSplitter is a solid, mature product that has doubtless benefited from being on the market since 2013. Its segmentation algorithm is robust, and the option for editing photo boundaries manually makes it usable on any image.
With its abundance of controls and options, and a somewhat clunky interface, it is best suited to the technically minded. However, it has some limitations. For captioning, the largest font size option available may be too small for some users, and the 240 character limit and lack of multi-line options may be irksome.
Users may feel overwhelmed by the frequency of pop-up window display, although these can be turned off.
My Rating: 4 stars
The Israeli company of this name offers a number of photo apps including one which offers scanning and splitting of images of multiple photos. When installed on an iPhone, the app is named PhotoMyne rather than Photo Scan and it appears as Photo Scanner App when searching for the company name on the Apple App Store.
This search in Google Play Store on Android devices will not show any results if the app is not supported on the device. The app could not be installed on a Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet running Android v 15.5.1, due to device incompatibility. PhotoMyne claims that the app is compatible with Android 5.0 and later, but this does not seem to be the case. The app appears to be accessible from devices running Android 7.0.
Despite the confusion of names, PhotoMyne is a highly sophisticated product, claiming over 160 million photos scanned (presumably to its online repository). It has a free option with the limitation that saving scanned photos is only possible during the 3-day evaluation period.
The addition of photos to existing albums or the creation of new albums is also restricted without a paid license. A 3-month license costs US$14.99 per month, an annual one US$49.99, and a 5-year one US$62.99. 3-month and 1-year licenses offer a free 3-day trial.
Licenses for period subscriptions are automatically renewed. The paid version offers online storage and a number of other additional features. PhotoMyne appears to be aiming to service the entire scan-to-digital photo area with its range of mobile apps, which include colorization, slide, and negative scanning.
Operation of PhotoMyne is straightforward, simply involving pointing the device camera at single photos or multiple photos on an album page and holding a button down for 3 seconds. The startup screen showing already created albums is shown below:
After an album has been created, photos can be added via the Import function, which can either use photos already existing on the device or use a new one created subsequently:
Clicking and holding the red button for 3 seconds initiates processing, whereby multiple photo images are split into multiple individual images. The extraction of the multiple images operation was fast and the most robust of any of the reviewed products, thanks to its AI-based segmentation algorithm.
It worked successfully on an album page with a lightly patterned background of varying colour as shown above, but only extracted two of the eight photos from the image shown below.
Contrast enhancement and image sharpening (which may result in images appearing excessively grainy) are applied by default, as shown below. The screen was captured during the processing as a horizontal bar moves down the image, with the processed part of the image above the bar.
Photos can have text information added via the screen shown below:
The description can have multiple lines, and face recognition allows labelling of recognised faces in other photos. Date and location are entered separately. Audio descriptions can be added, and automatic orientation is applied. There is no control of caption font or size.
Emoticons can be included, and a PhotoMyne watermark is added at the bottom right of the caption area in the free version. Captioned images are as shown below, with the text added in a bar below the image as shown below:
Images can be shared via various channels, including saving to the local device and dedicated cloud storage via Web albums. There are many image enhancements available. Photos are stored in albums (either on the local device or the web), allowing editing of caption information if required.
Photos can be imported from the local storage for processing. PhotoMyne performs perspective correction to images photographed obliquely, and face recognition allows users to automatically generate captions when the same face appears in different photos. Colorization of black and white photos can also be applied, and photos are rotated automatically.
PhotoMyne can create a video from selected photos rather than a slideshow, but this functionality is online rather than native. Collages can also be created.
Setting controls only support turning various features on and off. There is no help, but there is a fairly extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions, and a slick video tutorial.
Online storage, easy Web access and broad functionality make PhotoMyne a competitor to Google Photos. Multiple platform support and a slick interface make it the Rolls-Royce of multiple photo scanning software. Its AI-based segmentation is based on thousands of photo album examples. Its only limitation is that scan resolution will be limited by the device camera, unless higher resolution images are uploaded.
The scanner software is easy to use and suitable for non-technical users. Some review commenters have not been happy with the support level, but this may be an effect of a large user base. The company did not provide responses to a number of email queries arising from the review process.
My rating: 5 stars
PicScanner Gold is an iPhone/iPad app from Hong Kong/Thailand-based Mac developer App Initio. It is only available via the Apple App Store and costs US$7.99 for a permanent license. It uses images of multiple photos on a plain background acquired via the device camera. The home screen for the app shows 4 areas: Albums, Goodies, Scanner and Gallery as shown below:
The e Scanner option shows a camera image with and OK button superimposed at the center (presumably if the image is judged as possible to scan) and an aperture image below the photograph as shown below:
Clicking the aperture icon initiates processing. It is not possible to process images already stored on the device. When it is complete, square thumbnails of extracted photos are added to the Gallery shown as below:
Photos from the Gallery (which contains processed images) can be added to Albums which can be opened by double-clicking:
Individual photos can then be edited via Photo Editor, or captioned as shown below:
PicScanner Gold is less forgiving than PhotoMyne when scanning photo album pages with a lightly patterned background—sometimes images are omitted or the OK button does not appear.
The Export option from Gallery photos offers export of images with or without captions to the usual range of iPhone/iPad options:
Selecting Save Image writes the processed image to local storage, where it appears in the Camera Roll album. All caption text is concatenated into a single line, and a white border is added as shown below:
The Setting option on the home page offers only a choice between normal and high resolution scanning mode.
The Goodies area offers incorporation of processed gallery images into shareable albums, greetings cards and slideshows.
Pic Scanner Gold is well suited to non-technical users. It makes full use of the linkages to Apple facilities for features such as saving, but if it fails to operate as desired there are no parameters to tweak. What it gives you on first use is all you will ever get. Image resolution is fixed by the device camera and may be insufficient for anything other than a computer display.
The algorithm for detecting photos in an image is not robust. No help is provided, but other reviews have mentioned that support for this app is excellent. Captions in a saved image cannot be edited after they have been applied, but because images are stored within the Gallery, they can be changed and the photo saved again. The captioning facility only adds single lines to the image.
My rating: 4 stars
PicScanner is the ancestor of PicScanner Gold, first released by App Initio in 2013. It is suitable for older devices with lower resolution cameras and less processing power, such as the iPhone 4 or iPad 5. It costs US$5.99 from the Apple App Store.
It lacks some of the features of PicScanner Gold such as image editing, shareable albums, greeting cards and slideshows, but its basic mode of operation is very similar.
SnipTag (from App Initio) has similar functionality to AutoSplitter and is available from the Apple App Store. The free version of SnipTag is limited to 3 exports per day. Unlimited licenses are available for a quarter or a year (costing US$6.99 and, US$15.99 respectively). A permanent license costs US$24.99. The App Store converts these prices to local currency.
SnipTags' Snip function can automatically divide up images containing multiple photos (such as from a photo album page) into multiple individual images. These images can then have metadata set and captions added via the Tag function. This division of functionality is clear from the start screen:
Importing a scanned photo image displays the image in the left panel and the extracted and straightened individual images on the right:
Some limitations are immediately evident. The top left photo was not detected at all and the top right photo has been incorrectly de-skewed.
SnipTag does not offer a direct connection to the scanner—photos need to be scanned and then saved before they can be imported. The ability to process multiple input files is useful, but the failure to extract some photos is difficult to remedy.
Clicking on one of the extracted photo images shows the metadata entry screen, allowing entry of a file name, a date, description and keywords. Clicking the Advanced button allows entry of further metadata, including IPTC fields.
Clicking the Save button saves the metadata but not the image. There is no Back button for the Advanced screen – only a return to the Home screen. After adding a Description, the text (and date) appear in the translucent overlay at the bottom of the screen.
Descriptions can be added via speech rather than typing. All caption text is displayed as a single line. Selecting File-> Export allows export of the file, but the export options (with or without the caption/description/date) are not visible:
The exported file has the text added in a bar below the image, with a white border added:
There is a brief User Guide available, and Preferences are restricted to which cropping algorithm to use and which fields to use in a caption. The Apple Vision algorithm did not detect some black-and-white photos or photos with a black background. The Computer Vision algorithm was successful with black and white images on a white background. With a black background, photos were detected but not accurately. SnipTag collects extracted photos cumulatively in a Gallery, which persists between runs. Extracted photos can also be cropped.
SnipTags’ automatic image extraction does not work as well as other products and there is no option for manually defining photos within an image. The captioning functionality is very basic - a single line with no control of font size or colour. However, it is simple to use and provides access to a wide range of metadata.The gallery feature is useful for large projects. Its simplicity of operation has been somewhat sidelined by mobile phone apps where the camera replaces the flatbed scanner.
My Rating: 3 stars
This application from App Initio is the auto-cropping part of SnipTag, running only on Mac desktops. The free version is only available from the Apple App Store and is limited to 3 exports per day. A license with no restrictions costs US$8.99.
It has a very simple interface, and can accept JPEG, PNG, TIFF and BMP format files. Photos extracted from multiple images are accumulated in an output gallery. There is no captioning facility for extracted photos. Snip offers a choice of Apple Vision or Computer Vision (presumable a custom algorithm) for detecting photos but neither works as well as those of competing Windows products. The custom algorithm often caused the application to hang. The custom algorithm was more successful for black and white photos and photos with a non-white background.
Using a test image, one option resulted in photos not being detected and another resulted in a single photo being split into two. The lack of a manual crop frame definition means that these problems cannot be rectified. There are no parameters for controlling the split operation. The Help is fairly terse.
My Rating: 2.5 Stars
This venerable photo editing application from US company Adobe Systems shares with Google the distinction of having become a verb as well as a noun. The full version is part of Creative Cloud and a license costs US$9.99 per month with a 7-day free trial.
Installation first installs the Lightroom product and Creative Cloud Desktop, from which Photoshop can be installed. The process is quite slow. Photoshop Elements, which costs US$99.99, includes the Crop and Straighten option. The free product Photoshop Express does not include this functionality.
After loading an image of multiple photos and selecting File-> Automate-> Crop and Straighten Photos the screen below is shown:
New tabs are created with the extracted photos with the names copy, copy 2, copy 3 etc appended. Selecting these tabs and clicking Save As allows the extracted images to be saved as required.
The extracted images are shown below. The extraction, cropping and straightening has worked well for 3 of the images, but not for the 4th, which has been split into two. There are no parameters to control the process.
In view of the poor quality of the extraction, Photoshop cannot be recommended for this purpose, despite having given satisfactory performance for at least one other reviewer. The comprehensive editing facilities of Photoshop allow caption information to be added, but the process is not straightforward.
Photoshop has supports editing of a wide range of metadata (including IPTC) via the File-> File Info option. On Windows, IPTC Title data appears as Windows Title metadata in Explorer. Installation of Photoshop by downloading from Adobe includes the Lightroom and Creative Cloud products, which may not be desired and consume over 4GBytes of disk space.
My Rating: 2 stars
ImageMagick is a free software suite for displaying, creating, converting, modifying, and editing raster images, first developed in 1990 and now maintained by ImageMagick Studio LLC. Developed in the Unix/Linux environment, it is basically a command-line tool and as such is only accessible to highly knowledgeable computer users.
A number of scripts have been developed for it, including one by the redoubtable Fred Weinhaus called Multicrop which performs extraction and straightening of multiple photos in a single image. However, this script only functions in the Linux/Unix environment—it has not been migrated to work with ImageMagick in the .Net environment.
This product was not tested and thus cannot be rated. Unlike most of the other products, the Multicrop script does indicate how the process of extraction and straightening is implemented.
GIMPScan is a MacOS GIMP plug in from German developer Simul Piscator available free from GitHub. The binary is not notarised and installation on MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later requires accessing the Mac system preferences to install it. Once installed it is accessed via the File->Create->Scanner.. option. It uses the Apple Quartz ImageKit scanner interface and if the Auto Selection option is set to Detect Separate Items, it will detect and rectify individual photos and add them as GIMP images, which can be saved or edited as desired The detection algorithm works well for images without regions of white which touch the borders of the photo. The algorithm does not work well for black and white photos, where large areas of white are commonly found. GIMPScan is the best option for Mac users who are prepared to deal with daunting GIMP user interface.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Platform) is a free, open-source image editor with a scripting capability. Francois Malan has developed a script for dividing images of multiple photos. After installing this script, clicking the Filters->Divide Scanned Images shows the following screen:
The Help button does not appear to work, so adjustment of the parameters is a matter of trial and error. It seems likely that it uses a flood-fill algorithm to segment the images once a background colour has been defined.
Divide Scanned Images works for images with a uniform background (such as from a scanner) but does not work at all if the background is not uniform. Using the default settings on a scanned image of 4 photos, it successfully extracted the photos, but did not perform de-skewing very accurately. It also created a number of spurious images of parts of the photos.
Overall, its performance is not comparable with dedicated products, but it is the only free offering and will work on any platform.
My Rating: 2 Stars
VueScan (Windows, MacOS v 9.7.28)
This mature and highly successful product is the sole offering from US company Hamrick Software. Once bundled with scanner hardware, its main purpose nowadays is to provide access to scanners whose driver software is no longer available. The program is free to download but requires registration to remove watermarks from images and obtain updates.
It costs US$49.95 for the standard edition and US$99.95 for the professional edition. VueScan offers many of the features available in software bundled with modern scanner hardware, including the ability to recognize scans of multiple photos and save them individually. However, this functionality is very limited compared to more specialized products.
Selecting the Crop tab after startup shows the following screen;
Clicking the Options+ button at the bottom of the screen shows additional options:
After placing photos on the scanner and clicking Preview, the Overview tab is divided into multiple regions, one for each photo as shown below, with Auto options selected for Crop Size and Multi-Crop. Photos have to be well spaced to be detected.
An A4 scanner can only accommodate 3 6 x4 prints. Photo boundaries are shown by a dotted box within each region. Box boundaries can be moved sideways or upwards but not rotated.
If a region is clicked, the photo within it is shown in the Cropped Area tab as shown below and can be rotated by 90 degrees in either direction or flipped via options in the Image menu.
All crop regions have their edges aligned with the scanner edges, requiring photos to be correctly aligned on the scanner for good results.
Individual photos can be viewed in the default photo viewing application or emailed via the buttons at the bottom of the screen. The Auto-rotate checkbox has no effect in multi-crop mode.
Detailed Help is provided via a Web page, as would be expected for a multi-platform product. The company responded promptly to questions arising during the review.
VueScan is intended as a program for accessing a wide range of scanners, and this functionality has not been tested. For the purpose of extracting multiple photos from images, it does not compare well with dedicated products, as it cannot load existing files, requires a wide spacing for photos, and lacks manual crop region definition, de-skewing and captioning facilities, but it may provide access to scanners which are inaccessible from other applications.
My Rating: 2 stars
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.