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Why are Pictures I Email Arriving Blurrier than What I Sent?

Question: In my camera, a Point and Shoot, and in Picasa 3, a shot of an array of admission tickets is sharp, but emailing them via Gmail to AOL, Yahoo produces somewhat blurred image. Any way to correct that? I did do some editing in Picasa.

In this excerpt from Answercast #79, I look at why emailed pictures might be showing up blurry for the recipients.

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Email pictures arriving blurry

Well, the short answer is it’s unclear.

It’s probably that somewhere in between (usually the email provider or your email program) is resizing the picture because it’s too large.

Large pictures

One of the issues that many email providers have with sending pictures between people is that the pictures themselves, especially lately, can be incredibly large – larger than you might actually fit on the screen. As a result, some email programs and some email providers in an attempt to be helpful will actually automatically resize the picture down to a smaller size.

So instead of being maybe 2k by 3k pixels in size, it gets resized down to 400 x 600 pixels.

Now the problem is of course that you can’t resize a picture smaller without losing some of the resolution – some of the clarity. So when people then look at the picture, maybe even enlarging it back to its original size, things look a little blurry.

Identifying the culprit

So, what I don’t know is exactly how to tell you what step of this process is causing the problem.

I would experiment with using different email programs to upload and send the mail. I would experiment with using different paths.

In other words, don’t use AOL; use Gmail to Gmail; use Gmail to your Yahoo account – whatever different accounts you have available to you to try and understand exactly where the resizing is happening.

Send image as an attachment

Another idea depends on how you are sending it.

So far, I’ve been assuming that you have the file on disk somewhere in its highest resolution – in the resolution that gives you the clarity you want. And, in your email program, you are explicitly attaching the file. In other words, you are telling your email program “attach” this file; include this file with this email message.

Most email programs at that point will not modify the file in any way. They’ll simply assume it’s a file and nine times out of 10, they won’t even bother to try and figure out what type of file it is.

Graphics programs “Mail-to” functionality

However, if in a program like Picasa (or some other image-viewing program) you are right-clicking on the file or using some mail-to functionality (where you are initiating the mailing by clicking on the picture – you’re not clicking on an email or composing an new email), those features often include an automatic resize functionality.

I would recommend don’t do that.

The best way, the most reliable way, to send a picture from one person to another via email is to first compose your email in your email program – and then attach the picture as a file. Those are the least likely to be modified along the way.

Do this

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2 comments on “Why are Pictures I Email Arriving Blurrier than What I Sent?”

  1. Why not upload to DropBox or some similar site and send a link to the recipient. That way the image can be any size and will not loose clarity.

  2. If sending as an attachment doesn’t work, you can create a Picasa album, and email your friend a link. That way they can download it from Google’s servers.
    In tools, in Picasa, you can choose the option to email image as original size, and Gmail will handle up to 25MB, but I have no idea what the archaic AOL side will handle. Likely not as large.


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