September 24, 2023

How to add captions & subtitles to Instagram Reels in 6 steps

Learn how to add captions to Instagram Reels to improve your overall accessibility and reach a wider range of viewers.
September 24, 2023

How to add captions & subtitles to Instagram Reels in 6 steps

Learn how to add captions to Instagram Reels to improve your overall accessibility and reach a wider range of viewers.
September 24, 2023
Chloe West
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Transcriptions


Nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they’ve watched video with subtitles in the past, and 50% of them do most of the time (including yours truly; I can’t hear without my captions). 

And it’s not just people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In fact, 80% of those aged 18-25 say they use closed captioning, even though just 10% of that age group reported being hard of hearing.

People just want the extra aid when watching TV shows, movies, or online videos. Especially since most people watch online video content without sound.

Captions are a must in any video content these days, but especially in short-form like Instagram Reels. In this article, you’ll learn how to add captions to Reels so you can capture a wider audience for your videos.

What are Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are short-form videos on the Instagram app. Reels were introduced to the social media platform in 2020 to help Instagram compete with the wildly popular app TikTok.

Since adding Reels, Instagram has put a major emphasis on video content in the feed. And pretty much all Instagram videos come in Reels form these days, probably because Reels get more views and engagement than any other type of post on Instagram. So it’s a good idea to incorporate Reels into your overall Instagram marketing strategy.

Why you should add captions and subtitles to Reels

There are four main reasons you should add captions and subtitles to your Instagram Reels (and pretty much any online video you create and share).

Enhanced accessibility

Adding subtitles and captions to your video content is one big way to make it more accessible for your viewers. Whether someone is deaf, hard of hearing, or processes text better than sound, using the captioning feature lets more viewers access your content. 

Improved engagement

Captions also allow more viewers to watch and engage with your video content. If someone is on public transportation or trying not to wake up their kids by keeping the volume on mute, they can still view your videos.

Improved comprehension

Sometimes, people speak quickly, and it can be difficult to pick up the exact words they're saying. Captions combat that by providing a written transcript of the audio, which allows viewers to read along and not miss any important information or nuances. 

Improved SEO and discoverability

Lastly, including captions in your videos can boost your SEO, making it easier to rank in search and algorithms and helping more people discover your content. 

Simply put: use captions. It’s more than worth it.

How to add captions and subtitles to Instagram Reels

Now that we understand how important they are both for your brand and your viewers, let’s walk through the six-step tutorial for adding captions to Reels.

Step 1: Open your Instagram app and select “Reels”

First things first, boot up your Instagram app to get started. Tap the plus sign in the center of the bottom bar or slide the home feed to the right. Select Reels from the creation options. (Other options include Post, Story, and Live.)

Opening a new Reel on Instagram

Step 2: Record your Reel

Next, it’s time to record your Reel. If you have a video you’ve already put together, just swipe up and upload it from your camera roll. Otherwise, you can easily record and edit your Reel right inside the Instagram app. 

There are templates you can choose from if you want a starting point for your Reel.

Selecting an Instagram Reel template

You can also take advantage of some of the other recording tools available, like filters, effects, grids, or a green screen, which can make your Reels more engaging.

Adding special effects to your Reel

Once you’ve chosen your preferred tools, click the recording button to get started. You can record multiple segments rather than a single continuous video before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Click “Next” to edit

When you're done recording and satisfied with your Reel, tap Next in the bottom right corner. That will take you to the editing interface with your recorded video in the background.

Editing a Reel in the Instagram app


Tap Edit video to mess around with the video timeline, or use the editing tools in the top right corner of the screen to make other adjustments.

Step 4: Click on the Sticker icon

If you add on-screen video captions, you need to click the Sticker icon (the one with the smiley face on it) to open up the menu.

You can incorporate many different types of Stickers into your Reel, including animated GIFs. Scroll through or search to find some fun ways to engage your audience, or move on to the next step to generate subtitles.

Step 5: Choose the “Captions” sticker to add subtitles

Tap the Captions sticker to access the auto subtitle functionality. If there’s audio in your video, the app will start transcribing it. It’ll pull from your video audio or voiceover if you have one.

Transcribing audio for captions in Instagram

Once the transcription has been finalized, your captions will appear on your phone screen.

Step 6: Finalize your captions and publish

This is where you make sure your captions are accurate. The auto-generation tool doesn’t always get every word 100% correct, so you’ll need to do some touch ups. Just tap to edit captions and make sure they perfectly match the words in the video.

Next, you can choose one of four styles for your captions. You can also drag them to a specific place on your screen, make them bigger or smaller, and change the color.

Example of caption font in Instagram

Once you're happy with how your captions look, tap Done, then tap Next. Here, you can select a cover for your video, write a caption to go along with it, tag people or locations, and share.

How to add captions to Instagram Reels with Descript 

If you’d prefer not to use Instagram’s native caption tools, no sweat. You can also create captions using software like Descript. Our AI-powered captions offer better accuracy than Instagram and can help streamline your workflow. 

For example, Descript’s AI transcription generates right after you record, so you don’t need to re-upload anything. To add captions with Descript, follow these steps.

1. Record your video

Launch Descript on your computer and create a new video project. Plug in your mic, turn on your best camera, and record directly into Descript. You’ll get uncompressed tracks and up to 4K video quality stored safely and progressively to the cloud. 

2. Generate captions 

The next step is to create captions for the video. Simply click the “Captions” button on the right hand menu. The captions will automatically appear on your video. 

Choosing stylized captions in Descript for a TikTok video

3. Stylize your captions 

Customize the font, colors, and style of your captions to match your brand, or choose from one of Descript's ready-made templates. Save your custom styles as templates to resume across projects or share with your team.

Three Descript templates showing different styles for TikTok videos

💡 PRO TIP: Got an international audience? Easily translate captions into multiple languages in your dashboard. Under the Repurpose section, choose Translate Captions and select the desired language for your captions.  

Descript’s subtitle translation tool in dashboard

4. Download your video

After you've checked your captions to make sure they're perfect, export and download your video. Save the video to your computer or transfer it to a mobile device.

5. Upload and publish 

Last, you’ll need to upload your video. If you’re uploading a Reel from your desktop, head to Instagram.com and log in to your account. Click the Create button on the left-hand toolbar and upload your file.  

If you’re using a mobile device, open the Instagram app and select the + icon. Tap Reel, then choose the video from your device camera roll. 

Why don't I have captions on Instagram Reels?

Adding captions to Instagram Reels is only available on Android or iOS, not desktop. If you're trying to edit content on a desktop browser, that might be the reason you can't access this feature.

If you’re using the mobile app but still can’t see captions, you might be in the wrong country. Auto-generated captions, which appear on every video by default, are only available in select countries and languages. For now, the supported languages are English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi, Indonesian, and Japanese.

The captions sticker, which lets you customize your video’s captions, is also not available everywhere. Instagram states that this feature may not be available in Japan and select countries in Europe.

Instagram is always updating and rolling out new features across the world. Keep checking back to see if you can access the captions feature. In the meantime, consider using a third-party app like Descript to create manual subtitles before you upload your video to Instagram.

The best Instagram editing app

Want to create amazing Instagram Stories, Reels, and other videos that grab attention and engage your audience? Take advantage of an Instagram video editing app that can help make that happen—an app like Descript.

With intuitive, AI-powered video editing capabilities and transcription options that make adding Instagram captions to your content easy, Descript has everything that companies and content creators need to create amazing Instagram videos.

Add captions to Reels FAQ

How do I make text appear on Instagram Reels at different times?

To make your text appear at certain times, tap on it and select the duration and the time period in your Reel from the video timeline.

Why can't I add captions to my Reels?

You may be using the desktop version, or live in an area or speak a language not yet supported by Instagram. Keep checking back, as the platform often does slow rollouts with features.

What is the best app to edit Instagram Reels?

There are a number of great video editing apps to use for your Instagram Reels. One of the best options is Descript’s Instagram Video Editor, which gives you access to an easy-to-use and collaborative video editing tool.

How to embed captions to Instagram Reels?

Get automatic captions to appear on your Reels using the auto-generated captioning feature available under “Advanced Settings.”

Chloe West
Chloe West is a marketing writer for SaaS companies. She’s based in Charleston, SC, and when she’s not working, you’ll find her playing card games or watering her plants.
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How to add captions & subtitles to Instagram Reels in 6 steps

How to add captions & subtitles to Instagram Reels in 6 steps


Nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they’ve watched video with subtitles in the past, and 50% of them do most of the time (including yours truly; I can’t hear without my captions). 

And it’s not just people who are deaf or hard of hearing. In fact, 80% of those aged 18-25 say they use closed captioning, even though just 10% of that age group reported being hard of hearing.

People just want the extra aid when watching TV shows, movies, or online videos. Especially since most people watch online video content without sound.

Captions are a must in any video content these days, but especially in short-form like Instagram Reels. In this article, you’ll learn how to add captions to Reels so you can capture a wider audience for your videos.

What are Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are short-form videos on the Instagram app. Reels were introduced to the social media platform in 2020 to help Instagram compete with the wildly popular app TikTok.

Since adding Reels, Instagram has put a major emphasis on video content in the feed. And pretty much all Instagram videos come in Reels form these days, probably because Reels get more views and engagement than any other type of post on Instagram. So it’s a good idea to incorporate Reels into your overall Instagram marketing strategy.

Why you should add captions and subtitles to Reels

There are four main reasons you should add captions and subtitles to your Instagram Reels (and pretty much any online video you create and share).

Enhanced accessibility

Adding subtitles and captions to your video content is one big way to make it more accessible for your viewers. Whether someone is deaf, hard of hearing, or processes text better than sound, using the captioning feature lets more viewers access your content. 

Improved engagement

Captions also allow more viewers to watch and engage with your video content. If someone is on public transportation or trying not to wake up their kids by keeping the volume on mute, they can still view your videos.

Improved comprehension

Sometimes, people speak quickly, and it can be difficult to pick up the exact words they're saying. Captions combat that by providing a written transcript of the audio, which allows viewers to read along and not miss any important information or nuances. 

Improved SEO and discoverability

Lastly, including captions in your videos can boost your SEO, making it easier to rank in search and algorithms and helping more people discover your content. 

Simply put: use captions. It’s more than worth it.

How to add captions and subtitles to Instagram Reels

Now that we understand how important they are both for your brand and your viewers, let’s walk through the six-step tutorial for adding captions to Reels.

Step 1: Open your Instagram app and select “Reels”

First things first, boot up your Instagram app to get started. Tap the plus sign in the center of the bottom bar or slide the home feed to the right. Select Reels from the creation options. (Other options include Post, Story, and Live.)

Opening a new Reel on Instagram

Step 2: Record your Reel

Next, it’s time to record your Reel. If you have a video you’ve already put together, just swipe up and upload it from your camera roll. Otherwise, you can easily record and edit your Reel right inside the Instagram app. 

There are templates you can choose from if you want a starting point for your Reel.

Selecting an Instagram Reel template

You can also take advantage of some of the other recording tools available, like filters, effects, grids, or a green screen, which can make your Reels more engaging.

Adding special effects to your Reel

Once you’ve chosen your preferred tools, click the recording button to get started. You can record multiple segments rather than a single continuous video before moving on to the next step.

Step 3: Click “Next” to edit

When you're done recording and satisfied with your Reel, tap Next in the bottom right corner. That will take you to the editing interface with your recorded video in the background.

Editing a Reel in the Instagram app


Tap Edit video to mess around with the video timeline, or use the editing tools in the top right corner of the screen to make other adjustments.

Step 4: Click on the Sticker icon

If you add on-screen video captions, you need to click the Sticker icon (the one with the smiley face on it) to open up the menu.

You can incorporate many different types of Stickers into your Reel, including animated GIFs. Scroll through or search to find some fun ways to engage your audience, or move on to the next step to generate subtitles.

Step 5: Choose the “Captions” sticker to add subtitles

Tap the Captions sticker to access the auto subtitle functionality. If there’s audio in your video, the app will start transcribing it. It’ll pull from your video audio or voiceover if you have one.

Transcribing audio for captions in Instagram

Once the transcription has been finalized, your captions will appear on your phone screen.

Step 6: Finalize your captions and publish

This is where you make sure your captions are accurate. The auto-generation tool doesn’t always get every word 100% correct, so you’ll need to do some touch ups. Just tap to edit captions and make sure they perfectly match the words in the video.

Next, you can choose one of four styles for your captions. You can also drag them to a specific place on your screen, make them bigger or smaller, and change the color.

Example of caption font in Instagram

Once you're happy with how your captions look, tap Done, then tap Next. Here, you can select a cover for your video, write a caption to go along with it, tag people or locations, and share.

How to add captions to Instagram Reels with Descript 

If you’d prefer not to use Instagram’s native caption tools, no sweat. You can also create captions using software like Descript. Our AI-powered captions offer better accuracy than Instagram and can help streamline your workflow. 

For example, Descript’s AI transcription generates right after you record, so you don’t need to re-upload anything. To add captions with Descript, follow these steps.

1. Record your video

Launch Descript on your computer and create a new video project. Plug in your mic, turn on your best camera, and record directly into Descript. You’ll get uncompressed tracks and up to 4K video quality stored safely and progressively to the cloud. 

2. Generate captions 

The next step is to create captions for the video. Simply click the “Captions” button on the right hand menu. The captions will automatically appear on your video. 

Choosing stylized captions in Descript for a TikTok video

3. Stylize your captions 

Customize the font, colors, and style of your captions to match your brand, or choose from one of Descript's ready-made templates. Save your custom styles as templates to resume across projects or share with your team.

Three Descript templates showing different styles for TikTok videos

💡 PRO TIP: Got an international audience? Easily translate captions into multiple languages in your dashboard. Under the Repurpose section, choose Translate Captions and select the desired language for your captions.  

Descript’s subtitle translation tool in dashboard

4. Download your video

After you've checked your captions to make sure they're perfect, export and download your video. Save the video to your computer or transfer it to a mobile device.

5. Upload and publish 

Last, you’ll need to upload your video. If you’re uploading a Reel from your desktop, head to Instagram.com and log in to your account. Click the Create button on the left-hand toolbar and upload your file.  

If you’re using a mobile device, open the Instagram app and select the + icon. Tap Reel, then choose the video from your device camera roll. 

Why don't I have captions on Instagram Reels?

Adding captions to Instagram Reels is only available on Android or iOS, not desktop. If you're trying to edit content on a desktop browser, that might be the reason you can't access this feature.

If you’re using the mobile app but still can’t see captions, you might be in the wrong country. Auto-generated captions, which appear on every video by default, are only available in select countries and languages. For now, the supported languages are English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi, Indonesian, and Japanese.

The captions sticker, which lets you customize your video’s captions, is also not available everywhere. Instagram states that this feature may not be available in Japan and select countries in Europe.

Instagram is always updating and rolling out new features across the world. Keep checking back to see if you can access the captions feature. In the meantime, consider using a third-party app like Descript to create manual subtitles before you upload your video to Instagram.

The best Instagram editing app

Want to create amazing Instagram Stories, Reels, and other videos that grab attention and engage your audience? Take advantage of an Instagram video editing app that can help make that happen—an app like Descript.

With intuitive, AI-powered video editing capabilities and transcription options that make adding Instagram captions to your content easy, Descript has everything that companies and content creators need to create amazing Instagram videos.

Add captions to Reels FAQ

How do I make text appear on Instagram Reels at different times?

To make your text appear at certain times, tap on it and select the duration and the time period in your Reel from the video timeline.

Why can't I add captions to my Reels?

You may be using the desktop version, or live in an area or speak a language not yet supported by Instagram. Keep checking back, as the platform often does slow rollouts with features.

What is the best app to edit Instagram Reels?

There are a number of great video editing apps to use for your Instagram Reels. One of the best options is Descript’s Instagram Video Editor, which gives you access to an easy-to-use and collaborative video editing tool.

How to embed captions to Instagram Reels?

Get automatic captions to appear on your Reels using the auto-generated captioning feature available under “Advanced Settings.”

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