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Email, the internet and your digital pictures

Your pictures should be sent or uploaded at the right size.

When you have a particularly funny picture, it's natural to want to share it with friends in an e-mail. But, make sure it is sent in the right size for trouble-free viewing.
When you have a particularly funny picture, it's natural to want to share it with friends in an e-mail. But, make sure it is sent in the right size for trouble-free viewing.

The internet is unquestionably responsible for much of the rapid growth in the popularity of digital photography. Digital image files are constantly being uploaded to websites, and are regularly attached to and included in emails. A picture taken with a digital camera can be displayed within seconds on the world wide web or shared with family and friends through an email.

There are right ways and wrong ways involved in displaying pictures on the internet. The most frequent serious mistake many of us make is to upload or email a picture that is larger than it needs to be.


Perhaps you have received an email containing a large picture that took much too long to download and view, especially if you did not have high-speed internet service.

Although there are a number of factors affecting the speed with which you can download an email or open a website's pages, perhaps the most common delaying factor is the size of an image file you insert in the email or place on the web page. Too large a picture can cause your system to s-l-o-w way down, tying up your computer until the image is fully downloaded. The problem really becomes noticeable when there is more than one overly-large image in an email or on a web page. Sending someone an email containing half a dozen very large image files can cause the recipient to become annoyed with you because your images cost them so much time waiting for the images to appear on their computer's monitor.

You may also have received a very big image via email that was too large to view on your monitor without having to scroll. Or worse, you may have been unable to even open an email because it contains a picture that is too large.

You can avoid causing these problems by sending properly-sized pictures that will download quickly. The good news is that you can send or upload smaller image files without a quality loss when they are viewed on a computer screen. (Note that pictures that are intended to be made into prints may need to be sent in a large file size to ensure their print quality. But, most emailed or website images are not going to be printed, and don't need to be sized as large.)

A good rule of thumb is to send image files that are only a few hundred kilobytes in size for recipients whom you know don't have high speed internet service. If you wish to send a large picture to be printed or to be used as desktop wallpaper, be sure it is around 1 MB (megabyte) in size, and definitely no more than 2 MB for folks who have high-speed broadband internet service. But, when sending more than one picture, be sure that the entire size of your email attachments doesn't exceed a reasonable two or three MB, since many email providers, such as Yahoo and gmail, have email attachment size limitations. And some email servers have a limit of only 1 to 2 MB for the entire message. Many photo sharing websites, blogs and social networking sites have picture size limitations, too. Some websites will automatically resize large images that you upload, but unless you are sure that this feature is available, you should not upload large image files.

How do you ensure that your pictures are properly sized so that they don't exceed a reasonable 300 to 500 KB, which is generally suitable for downloading and viewing on any system, whether it has slow or fast internet service?

To begin with, you should know that the resolution of the average computer monitor is around 72 to 96 ppi (pixels per inch). If you make a copy of your picture and save the copy at 75 to 100 ppi before sending or uploading it, the picture will have close to the same resolution as many monitors, and will be viewed perfectly well.

Now, you need to decide how large you wish your picture to display on the monitor. That decision is dependent on several factors,including the size of the monitor itself. Your picture may be of a family group where you want everyone's face to be recognizable. So, it doesn't make sense for it to be displayed at, say 1 inch by 1.33" inches on a 15-inch monitor. The faces will be too small to recognize anyone. A more practical size for a family group so that everyone's face can be seen would be 3" by 4" or even 3.5" by 4.7" at 100 ppi.

At 72 ppi (pixels per inch) and 1.75
At 72 ppi (pixels per inch) and 1.75" tall, this picture is too small to clearly recognize everyone.

Resized to a height of 3-inches, the picture clearly shows everyone's faces.
Resized to a height of 3-inches, the picture clearly shows everyone's faces.


You will be pleased to know that it is easy to resize your digital pictures on your computer before uploading them to a web page or sending them by email, using an image editor such as Adobe PhotoShop. Although all image editors provide you with the ability to resize your image files, the procedure in PhotoShop is as follows. (Most image editing applications will have a similar process, although some may call it by a different name. For example, in Corel PhotoPaint you would click on "Image" > "Resample". )

(1) Select and open the pictures you wish to resize in your image-editing software;

(2) Make a copy of the picture. A quick way to do this is to click "File" > "Save as" and then give it a new name, which can simply be done by adding the word "copy" to the filename. By resizing a copy, you keep the original photo from being changed.

(3) Now, you could select "File" > "Save for Web & Devices...", which will cause a dialogue box to open that allows you to optimize a picture for the web. It contains a good deal of information about the picture. The important area for you, without explaining everything else you can do here, is entitled "Image Size". It will give you the current dimensions of your image in ppi (pixels per inch). Simply clicking within the W (width) or H (height) fields will allow you to change the dimensions. Choosing a maximum of say, between 640 and 800 ppi for the biggest dimension, will resize your picture.

But, there is a quicker way when all you wish to do is to resize your picture.

(1) Click "Image" > "Image Size".

(2) A dialogue box opens that shows the images dimensions and document size.

(3) Click in the "Resolution" field to change the pixels/inch value to 75 ppi.

(4) Click in the "Height" or "Width" field where the highest value in pixels appears. For example, it may say the image has a height of 1280 pixels and a width of 1024 pixels. Click in the field with the higher value, 1280 pixels, and change it to 640 pixels for a small size picture (which is perfectly acceptable for most pictures) or to 800 pixels for a slightly larger image that will still download quickly. Click "OK".

(5) You'll notice that the other dimension (height or width) has also changed. If you chose 640 pixels, the other dimension will now be 512 pixels. If you chose 800 pixels, the other dimension will be 640 pixels. At 75 ppi, both these image sizes are fine to upload to a web page or send in an email. You can send or upload a number of pictures in these sizes without slowing down an email or a website's page downloading time.

This image is 170 KB (kilobytes) in size.
This image is 170 KB (kilobytes) in size.

This picture was cropped and saved at 75 ppi and 800 pixels wide. It is close to the size limit for uploading to the web or sending in emails.
This picture was cropped and saved at 75 ppi and 800 pixels wide. It is close to the size limit for uploading to the web or sending in emails.

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