Digital Focus: E-Mail Your Digital Photos

Feature: E-Mailing Your Digital Photos

E-mailing a digital photo sounds so simple. After all, few tasks are more elementary in this high-tech world than sending an e-mail. But e-mail can still confound. When my dad first got a PC, for instance, most of his attached images arrived in my in-box as digital gibberish--page after page of letters and numbers embedded in the e-mail message. After making a few phone calls to his personal tech support (that would be me), he now sends images without any glitches.

Size Is the Problem

If you ever have difficulty e-mailing images, the crux of the problem is almost always the size of the image files that you've attached. When I talk about size in this context, I don't mean the number of megapixels or the dimensions of the image. I mean the file size, usually measured in kilobytes or megabytes, which is how much space it takes to store the image.

Here's why file size matters: Most e-mail services support messages of up to a certain size, like 2MB or 5MB. If you send a message that's larger than the upper limit, then the message will be rejected by the server (resulting in an error message in your e-mail program) or will arrive at the recipient's PC looking like digital spaghetti, extruded into alphanumeric gobbledygook in the e-mail message.

Even if the message makes it all the way through--thanks to a very generous file size limit at your ISP--the results may not be pretty. If you send a huge 5MB image to someone with a dial-up connection to the Internet, it can take them an hour or more to receive your message, tying up the phone line the whole time. Your recipient won't be pleased.

XP Makes It Easy

If you have Microsoft Windows XP, preparing an image for the e-mail journey is pretty simple. Just open the folder with your images and select the ones you want to send. (I usually hold down Ctrl while clicking to make multiple selections.) Then, in the Task Pane on the left side of the screen, click "E-mail the selected items" from within the "File and Folder Tasks" section. You'll see a dialog box that asks if you want to make the pictures smaller or keep the original sizes. Choose to make them smaller if need be; the original images are unaffected when Windows makes e-mail-friendly smaller versions.

After a few moments, you should see miniaturized versions of the selected images appear in a blank message window. Just complete the message and click Send--that's all there is to it.

Resize Using Paint Shop Pro

You can also use your favorite image editor to resize images. To resize a photo in Jasc Paint Shop Pro, for instance, load the picture into the program and then choose Image, Resize from the menu. You'll see the original dimensions at the top of the Resize dialog box. Make sure that the "Lock aspect ratio" option is checked. Enter smaller dimensions in the Pixel Dimensions Width box; the height will adjust automatically if the aspect ratio is locked. (For e-mail I use about 800 by 600 pixels or less.) Save the image as a JPEG--and I suggest that you save it on the Windows desktop with a different file name so you won't accidentally overwrite the larger original. Then attach the file you just resized to your outgoing e-mail.

Of course, to shrink a bunch of photos you could use the batch editing technique I discussed recently.

And if you want to send a full-size image to someone, you can do that as well--just plan ahead so your recipient knows it's coming. And if it doesn't work, it's because one of the e-mail servers along the way balked at such a large file.

Dave's Favorites: Recover Lost Pictures With ImageRecall

Have you ever accidentally deleted a slew of pictures from a memory card before you transferred them to the PC? Or formatted a card in the camera, only to realize that your vacation pictures were still on board? That's the stuff that nightmares are made of. Fortunately, FlashFixers' ImageRecall ($40) is on hand to save you from yourself.

Like the cover of Douglas Adams' famous novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, ImageRecall's box bears the words "Don't Panic" in large, soothing script. And that's good advice. In testing, this program effortlessly allowed me to recover digital images and audio files from a wide array of memory cards, giving me the confidence to trust ImageRecall for those times when I'll genuinely need it.

In Video: How to Recover Photos Deleted From Your Camera

The program's interface is simplicity itself. One click starts the recovery process, and you can direct the program to work its magic on any drive letter connected to your PC. Recovered images are relocated to a folder on your PC, and you can write those images to CD if you wish. ImageRecall can also securely erase a memory card, rendering the data unrecoverable, or test a card for errors.

Since ImageRecall can retrieve lost or damaged images from any drive letter, it isn't limited to memory cards. I successfully used it on a removable hard disk and on a USB-connected digital camera with internal memory. It cannot help you if your memory card has genuinely failed, though. I futilely tried recovering data from a dead 256MB CompactFlash card, for instance. But if you use the program to recover deleted or corrupted images, it works like a champ.

Q&A: Are My Digital Images Safe at the Airport?

I've been into 35mm photography for 30 years and now I've finally decided to go digital. The first question on my mind is how digital media cards handle the modern X-ray systems at airports. Do I need to take precautions to protect the cards or their pictures?

--Bruce D. Boyce, Decatur, Georgia

It's obvious why a 35mm film photographer would be worried about X-ray machines. Since 9/11, security systems at airports have been upgraded, and that sometimes means higher doses of radiation for your luggage. The Transportation Security Administration claims that the radiation exposures are not harmful to film below ISO 800, but the reality is that on any given trip, your film will be exposed to repeated does of X-rays--and the result can visibly fog your film.

But digital photographers don't have to worry about that. Digital cameras and memory cards are completely unaffected by the metal detectors and X-ray machines used at airports. You can pack memory cards in your carry-on or your checked baggage and not worry about any damage in transit.

However, there's a potential risk when you send certain kinds of memory cards through postal mail. Two years ago, the CompactFlash Association issued a warning that the irradiation techniques put in place in the wake of the anthrax scares could damage CompactFlash cards. Not a lot has been said about the subject in the intervening time, but it's best to err on the side of caution: Don't send CF cards through the U.S. Postal Service.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Stillwater Pond," by Fowler F. White, Torrington, Connecticut

Fowler says that he took this photograph with his Olympus C-50 while on his kayak in Stillwater Pond, Connecticut. He adds: "I am an 83-year-old retired M.D. and not a commercial photographer (darn it)."

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