Images in email are one of the most common sources of problems and frustrating aspects of email. Having problems with sending images is not at all unusual. In fact, there are so many different things that can go wrong that I’m surprised sending images works at all.
Unfortunately I don’t have a specific answer for you, but let’s take a look at some of the things that can possibly happen here.
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Where images in email live
Images in email actually come from one of two completely different places.
- The image itself may be included with the email. In other words, the actual bits that comprise the picture may be bundled in with your message and sent from machine to machine as the email leaves its sender and arrives in your inbox.
- The image may simply be stored on the web. For example, an image on a web page falls into that category. The email includes a reference to that picture to say, “When this message is displayed, go to this server, get the picture, and display it in the email.” That allows the actual email to be much smaller because it doesn’t actually include the image file; it just includes a reference to where the picture lives on the internet.
When images disappear
It sounds like the email program you’re using can’t find the picture that’s referenced by the email that you’re trying to forward.
When the image is out on the internet, it’s possible that it can disappear. In other words, if that image is taken down or the website that displays the image goes away, any email which says, “Go to that website and show that picture,” can’t show that picture. There’s nothing to show because the image is gone.
For example, in my email newsletter, there are two images in that newsletter: my logo (which is a picture of my face and the Ask Leo! logo) appears at the top and my signature (my first name in a handwritten font) at the bottom. Those aren’t actually in the email. They’re out on my web server. In fact, they appear at the top of every web page on the Ask Leo! website.
Now, if I did something to the image files – say I removed those images or changed their names – or those images were blocked for some reason, and you tried to open my email, you wouldn’t see the images. If you attempted to forward my email in this scenario, you may see the message that you’re seeing here.
I believe that’s one possibility in the situation that you’ve described.
Other reasons why images disappeared
Behind the scenes, email is incredibly and often frustratingly complicated because there are so many different ways of doing the same thing.
There are other possibilities why your images disappeared.
- While the reference to the image is correct, it’s encoded in such a way that it’s misinterpreted when you forward it. For example, if the name of the file contained a URL with a space in it, your email program may not reference that properly.
- The image is actually part of the email. But because email formatting is so complex, it’s easy for things like forwarding or replying to actually cause the image to not be interpreted properly anymore.
I don’t really have a good solution for you. If you can see the image in your email before you send it, try right-clicking on it and saving a copy to your computer. Then, compose a completely new message and include that image yourself. Hopefully you’ll be able to get out that all important piece of humor (I’m assuming that it’s a cat picture :-) ) out to your friends.