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How to E-Mail Photos

Believe it or not, this is one of those “most-asked questions,” and I guess it’s because there are no official guidelines for e-mailing photos. Perhaps there should be, because there are photographers who routinely send me high-res photos that either (a) get bounced back to them because of size restrictions, (b) take all day to download, or (c) never get here at all because “there are no official guidelines on how to e-mail photos.” In the absence of such rules, consider these the “official unofficial rules.”

Step One.
Open the photo that you want to e-mail. Before you go any further, you have some decisions to make based on whom you’re sending the photo to. If you’re sending it to “friends and family,” you want to make sure the file downloads fast, and (this is important) can be viewed within their e-mail window. I run into people daily (clients), who have no idea how to download an attachment from an e-mail. If it doesn’t show up in the window of their e-mail client, they’re stuck, and even if they could download it, they don’t have a program that will open the file, so basically, they’re stuck. So in short, make it fit in their e-mail browser.


Step Two.
Go under the Image menu and choose Image Size. To play it safe, for “friends and family,” use a resolution of 72 ppi and a physical dimension no wider than 8 inches and no higher than 5 inches (but the height isn’t the big concern, it’s the width, so make sure you stay within the 8” width). By limiting your e-mailed photo to this size, you ensure that friends and family will be able to download it quickly, and it will fit comfortably within their e-mail window.

Step Three.
If you’re sending this to a client who does know how to download the file and print it, you’ll need a bit more resolution (at least 150 and as much as 300, depending on how picky you are), but the photo’s physical dimensions are no longer a concern because the client will be downloading and printing out the file, rather than just viewing it onscreen in their e-mail program (where 72 ppi is enough resolution).

Step Four.
As a general rule, the file format for sending photos by e-mail is JPEG. To save the file as a JPEG, go under the Edit menu and choose Save As. In the Save As dialog box, choose JPEG, then click Save. This brings up the JPEG Options dialog (shown here). This format compresses the file size, while maintaining a reasonable amount of quality. How much quality? That’s up to you, because you choose the Quality setting in the JPEG Options dialog. Just remember the golden rule: the higher the quality, the larger the file size, and the longer it will take your client to download it.

Step Five.
Your goal is to e-mail your client a photo that is small in file size (so it downloads quickly), yet still looks as good as possible. (Remember, the faster the download, the lower the quality, so you have to be a little realistic and flexible with this.) The chart shown here gives you a breakdown of how large the file size and download time would be for a 5×7 saved with different resolutions and different amounts of JPEG compression. It’s hard to beat that last one—with an 18-second download on a standard dial-up modem.



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