How to reduce the size of a photo for email

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There are many ways to reduce the file size of an image. Many of you will have compression options already installed on your computer as part of Microsoft Outlook or Office.

There are many ways to reduce the file size of an image. Many of you will have compression options already installed on your computer as part of Microsoft Outlook or Office. Any photo editing program will be able to these actions – including the software that came with your digital camera. If necessary there are free tools you can download.

Before we start lets get some definitions settled. It can get confusing because when you see talk about ‘size’ sometimes it means the dimensions of an image 640×480 pixels, 6×10″ etc OR is can mean the file size of the image (1MB, 4.4MB etc). We’re going to be consistent through this article, though that doesn’t mean other publications (even in Office Watch) will use the same terminology.

For our purposes:

Dimension‘ means the height and width of an image.

Size‘ means the file size of the image.


Reduce with Outlook

Recent versions of Outlook have a quick and easy way to reduce the file size of an image to be emailed without changing the original photo.

Go to the image/s you want to send in Windows Explorer, right-click on one or more images and choose Send To | Mail Recipient.

You’ll see an option pop-up that offers to make all the pictures smaller or keep the original sizes. Click on ‘Show more options’ to see the choices of dimension ‘Small’ 640×480, Medium 800×600 or Large 1024×768.

When you click OK a copy of the image has the dimensions reduced and then added to an email message as an attachment. The file name is the same as the original, but the size will be smaller. From that point it’s just like any other email, add the text you want just like any other email then click Send.


Reduce with other programs

Even if you don’t use Outlook there are tools in recent versions of Office and any other photo editing program that will help you reduce the file size of an image.

Whenever you edit an image be careful NOT to overwrite your full size / quality original file. It’s easily done so make sure you have a backup of all your pictures.

The Microsoft Picture Editor comes with Office 2003 and has a basic set of tools that you can use to shrink an image.

Right-click on an image and choose Open with … Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Or open the program then open the image. The first thing you should do is File | Save As so you know you’re working on a copy of the file not the original.

There are three features you can use to reduce the size of an image – all under the Picture menu:



  • Crop
    this lets you remove unwanted elements from the sides of an image.

  • Re-size
    use this to change the dimensions of an image to a smaller form. You can change the image to a pre-defined size, a set height/width or as a 50% of the original. It’s best to retain the proportions of the original (otherwise you can get some screwy looking people and objects) so I usually stick with the ‘Percentage of original’ option.

  • Compress
    this is a combination of reducing the image quality and forcing a re-size of the image to a pre-defined size. It’s good for a quick job but best avoided if you want to have more control over the result.

The fourth option is File | Export which lets you save a copy of the image and change the JPG quality settings to a lower standard – this will reduce the file size.

Any other photo editing program will have these options, possibly under different names and with varying options.

However you do it, the final result is a copy of your original photo but in a smaller file size. Use this copy to email off. You can also use a smaller version of a photo to put onto a portable device (Video iPod, Pocket PC etc) without taking up as much space.


Writing and editing in Word

You can write your email as a Microsoft Word document then copy it to an email. Or make the message in Outlook using Word as your email editor.

Within Word there are options to crop, re-size and compress images.


Converting to JPG

In all the above we’ve assumed that the original photos are JPG format, which is the most common used by digital cameras. If you have TIF or RAW images you can use ‘Save As’ or ‘Export’ features in photo editing software to convert to the much smaller JPG format.

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