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How do I optimize images to send over email?

Sending pictures over email has become popular in recent years. Unfortunately, pictures coming directly from a digital camera or from other sources may be too large or too high-quality for Internet viewing.

Large, high-quality pictures are perfect for printing out, but they take a long time to download over a 56k connection, and may be too large for easy viewing on a monitor.

The solution for email images is to resize and compress pictures so they can be sent quickly, and are small enough to fit on most computer monitors.

A. Selecting a Program

The only graphics program that comes installed with Windows is Paint, which is insufficient for resizing and compressing images. There are a number of software programs, both commercial and freeware, that provide acceptable image manipulation.

Note: emailMyName provides information on the following products and services as a courtesy to emailMyName members. emailMyName does not endorse, nor is it affiliated with these products or services in any way. emailMyName members who choose to use these products, do so with the understanding that emailMyName is not responsible for providing technical support regarding the use of these products. All products are subject to price changes without notice.

Product Name
List Price
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0$99.99
Adobe Photoshop Album$49.99
Microsoft Photo EditorFound in Office 97
and higher ($500.00)
Microsoft Picture It! Photo Premium 9$34.95 (with rebate)
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8$79 (download)
$87 (boxed)
Jan's Formati 11Freeware

B. Resizing Images

Before sending images to friends and acquaintances, it's a good idea to keep images small, usually no bigger than 600 pixels (dots) wide or 500 pixels tall.

Shrinking images:

  • Allows pictures to be seen more easily
  • Reduces a picture's file size considerably
  • Allows for quicker downloads

Take the following example:

Image 1 - 250x220
Image 2 - 125x110
File size: 23k
File size: 8k

Image 1 is 250 pixels wide by 220 pixels tall. At its current JPG compression quality (see the next step for explanation), the file size is 23k. Image 2 is the same image shrunk down 50% (125 x 110), and at the same compression quality, it is nearly three times smaller (8k).

Each program may handle resizing images slightly differently. You can refer to your product's documentation for help.

C. Compressing Images

One way to lower the file size of an image is to make the image physically smaller. Another method is to use JPG compression to lower the quality of an image, which reduces the file size.

Take, for example, the following images:

Image 1 - High Quality JPG (70%)
Image 2 - Low Quality JPG (1%)
File size: 23k
File size: 4k

Both images are exactly the same size, but Image 1 is nearly 6 times larger (23k) than Image 2 (4k). If you look closely, however, you will notice that Image 1 is much sharper than the fuzzy, distorted Image 2. That's because Image 1 (70% quality) uses much less JPG compression than Image 2 (1% quality).

The trick to compressing images is finding the lowest quality setting that does not distort the image too much. Usually, 30-40% quality is acceptable.

Most image programs allow you to save images as JPG and alter the quality level to reduce the file size. You can refer to your product's documentation for help.

D. Regarding File Size

How small should the file sizes of images be? Remember that most Internet users have a limited mailbox size (as low as 2 MB). 1 MB is approximately 1000k, so to avoid clogging mailboxes and for quicker downloads, try to keep images under 100k per attachment.

To find out how big your file size is, just right click the image icon / filename in Windows and select Properties. Look for Size or Size on Disk to determine your picture's file size.

Remember that the bigger a file is, the longer it will take to upload to emailMyName in order to send it. You will notice a significant delay while trying to send large files with emailMyName on a modem connection, so try to keep your file sizes small to avoid this problem.

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