Photos on Social Media

Adding text relating to images on social media is easy and free. Why should you bother with anything else? Well, there are a few gotchas…

Display of text relating to images is central to social media operation. Photos shown on Facebook can have a description and comments from any logged in viewers beside them as shown below. Arrow buttons allow movement through a collection of photos

Google Photos offers a similar facility, and also provides information from photo metadata, including the location where this is available. The user adding the photo can also add information. The major difference from Facebook is that viewers cannot add any text relating to the image or earlier comments.

Why would you want any other way of adding text relating to images beyond than what’s offered for free by social media on any platform via a web browser?

There are a number of reasons:

  1. Display Flexibility

With all social media, there is little or no scope for varying the presentation of the text relating to images. Some viewers may require larger text in order to read it, and increasing the browser font size to achieve this often disrupts the screen layout and makes other operations more difficult.

  1. Portability

The social media photo displays all require that viewers make use of the social media platform to view photos and associated text. This is understandable, as social media operations are funded by delivering eyeballs to advertisers. They have no interest in assisting users to display their photos on other platforms. This fact is only evident when attempting to download from social media sites. Images can certainly be downloaded, but any related text is either not included at all (Facebook) or included with difficulty as a separate file (Google Photos). Any social media platform could include downloaded photos and text in a versatile portable format such as PDF, but none find it in their interests to do so.

Whilst Internet connectivity is becoming as universally accessible as electricity, there are still computer users whose Internet connectivity is either absent, low bandwidth or intermittent. These users will find it difficult or impossible to use social media for viewing photos.

  1. Longevity

No social media platform lasts forever, as former users of Google Buzz, Friendster and FriendFeed will ruefully observe. The massive user base of Facebook and Google Photos means that they will be around for a long time but without the platform, any data becomes inaccessible and the limitations of portability will become evident to many more people.

What’s the Answer?

Genealogists and people interested in preservation of digital photos have looked at this problem and come up with ways of storing text in the digital image files as metadata. Ken Watson provides an excellent review here. All common digital image formats can store extensive metadata, but the process of adding the text as metadata is not for computer novices. Once it is stored, display of text stored in metadata is not straightforward either.

Embedding the text in the image pixels provides a robust solution – any software that can display the image can display the text as well. Native software for writing on top of photos (as shown below) is available on any device as part of the operating system. 

Using native software for captioning works well if you don’t mind writing on top of the original image pixels and choosing the text font size, color and location for each image. If you want to preserve all the image pixels and only think about the caption text then Caption Pro allows you to do just that. Captions are placed in a caption bar below the image, automatically centered, and fitted to the caption bar space as shown below. Captions can also be edited after application, and the program can also handle multiple images and pad out photos to common aspect ratios so that hard-copy prints don’t show a cropped image (see article here).

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