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Aside from convenience, the great thing about using an iPhone as your primary camera is the sheer quantity of metadata captured with each image. In addition to date and time, you’ll always know where photos were taken, not to mention ISO, exposure, and other settings.
But what about pictures taken prior to the advent of digital photography? Scanned prints, negatives, and slides get embedded with the current date and time, and have no knowledge of where or how those photos were originally taken.
SnipTag is a macOS utility designed to help shutterbugs prep photos in two important ways. First, by cropping scanned pages containing multiple images in a single click, and then tagging the resulting digital versions (or other image files) with metadata and keywords that make them searchable in Apple Photos or other apps.
One benefit to proper tagging is that it allows viewing photos in chronological order, so scanned pictures show up alongside digital images taken at the same time. We’re sticklers for keeping our Photos library organized this way, although the built-in tools don’t always make it easy to do.
When launched, SnipTag splits the app window in half, with Snip mode at left, and Tag on the right side. The app doesn’t actually scan photos; this must be done with software bundled with a scanner, the Preview app, or third-party solutions like the excellent VueScan ($40). Scan up to eight photos at once, taking care to leave a small gap between each to help SnipTag identify the edges.
After saving in JPG, PNG, TIFF, or BMP format, import the file into SnipTag, where it is quickly analyzed, automatically cropped, and individual photos are added to an image gallery on the right side of the window. Now you can rotate images, refine cropping, add metadata, delete, or export as new files with or without captions.
SnipTag applies artificial intelligence to determine how photos should be cropped using two engines: Apple Vision or Computer Vision. There’s no guidance offered as to which method is best. In my tests, despite defaulting to the former, Computer Vision provided more accurate (but not always perfect) results. The developer recommends switching between engines as necessary, but this is an awkward solution since the setting is only accessible via Preferences.
Although designed with traditional print photos in mind, SnipTag includes a metadata editor used to add or change filenames, month/day/time, description, and geolocation data for digital images. There’s also a keyword field for entering comma-separated text, which makes photos easier to find after adding to a library.
All of these features are fairly straightforward to use, with a dictation option in the description field to reduce the amount of typing involved. Less frequently used metadata is tucked away in the Advanced panel, along with an option for photographers to add IPTC contact information. However, these features (and many others) are better implemented in MetaImage, a competing standalone app which has the advantage of integrating with images saved in Apple Photos.
SnipTag delivers what it promises, although the clunky user interface could use further refinement. For example, filenames can’t be edited by simply clicking in that field and typing. Existing text must first be removed before a new name can be entered. Although you can select and tag multiple photos at a time, there’s no way to copy and paste existing metadata between images.
UI oddities also extend to Snip mode, where image thumbnails are confusingly reduced in size while manually cropping an image, making it harder than necessary to get accurate results. Worse yet, there’s no adjustable marquee selection box, and the area you want to keep appears dimmed, the opposite of how it works with other apps.
Topping it all off, SnipTag has a somewhat controversial pricing scheme. Although free to download, there’s no trial period. You have to blindly subscribe right out of the gate before ever trying it out, starting at $1 per week (three-month and annual options are also available). There’s an option to buy once and use forever, but the current set of features aren’t worth the $25 asking price.
Between imperfect auto crop and a mixed bag when it comes to editing metadata, SnipTag doesn’t yet pack enough punch to justify its business model.