Article © 2005-09 by Jenna Caplette, with tips from the staff of F-11 Photographic Supplies
These days telling someone about the trip you took, or about a particular day of skiing or snowshoeing, often involves sharing images of that experience. The simplest and quickest way to do that is by passing a stack of prints or a photo album around with friends and family. Prints also provide tangible records of the story of your life that will never get lost in a hard drive crash or technology change. However, in the digital age we also want to share the times of our lives as they happen or over long distances by using e-mail. But how?
If you have a digital camera, the editing or browsing application that came with it most likely has a handy e-mail function that automatically re-sizes the photograph you want to send and attaches it to your message with a couple mouse-clicks. Alternately, some digital cameras create small, web-size duplicate photos sized for emailing right in the camera; attach these to your message and Voila! E-mail done! If you don't have one of these options available, here are some tips:
Whether you scan a printed photo, or you work with a digital photo file, first save the images you intend to email as small JPEG files to make it simpler for your intended recipient to view them. Make sure you use a different name when you do this so your large original files are not overwritten and lost forever (like "my new file.jpg"). The reason you want to use JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format when you save the photo file is that it is a format that can be opened on any computer, and JPEGs “compress” the image for sending and receiving in the shortest amount of time. No one likes waiting twenty minutes for an email to come through (yes, many of us are still using the internet over regular phone lines), then discovering they can’t open the file anyway because it was saved in a specialized format.
Most emailed photos are intended to be viewed on a computer screen, not printed so choose a size like 640 by 480 pixels. An image sized as “4X6 inches @72 DPI” (dots per inch) will give you similar results. 72 to 96 DPI is the maximum resolution of most computer screens, so saving the files at a higher DPI doesn’t make them look any better on screen. A photo sized to these specifications fills about a quarter of the screen, but will print soft and blurry – so remind your recipient that they are for on-screen viewing. Do both you and the person you are sending to have with DSL? Then you can send larger files, perhaps a full screen image, sized to 1024 by 768 pixels. If you want friends and family to be able to get high quality prints of your photos, consider using an online print and share service like that at F11 drop box, instead of email.
You can experiment with all this by sending images to yourself and seeing how they come through. Remember, though, depending on things like computer screen resolution settings, and various email systems, your recipient may not see exactly what you do.
Don’t have a digital camera or a scanner? Most photo labs offer scanning services to get your negatives, slides or print images on to CDs. Many labs include email sized files automatically with your scanned images, so ask for this service if you are emailing and save yourself some time. Or use a photo-imaging program and you can use those files in the same way you would files from a digital camera. If you don’t have a program and you have a Windows computer, here is the location of a good free one. Just remember, scanned photos are only as good as the equipment and the person doing the scan, so you can see a difference in results from lab to lab, or between photos scanned in a lab, and those you scan yourself.
Whether you are working with scanned or digital images, at some point you’ll be handling CDs. Here are a few tips on selecting and storing image CDs: Label your CD with a description that will remind you of their content – the name of the trip you took, or have a lab print an index of all the images on a CD. Use caution with labeling. There are special water based pens for writing on CDs just like there are special pens for writing on photographs. Write on the CD with a regular sharp-point permanent marker, and the ink may eat in to the disk.
Store CDs in a cool, dark, mostly-dry place, just like you would photographs. Remember too that blank CDs are not created equal. CDs are made in a variety of formulas with gold lasting the longest and costing the most. Low-quality CDs degenerate and after a few years may not be readable, so the spindle of CDs that are almost free after rebate may not be the best choice for storing your precious memories.
Do not use CD-RW’s for permanent image storage. DVDs hold many more images than a CD and appear to last better than the cheap CDs but not as long as the high quality gold CDs.
Feeling intimidated by it all? Full-service photo labs can e-mail photos for you and most of those will have high speed internet access. Or, go for some good, old, tried and true prints sent by snail-mail. Either way, think of how great your recipient will feel about receiving something real; not junk or spam. Make someone’s day.