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Why Can’t I Forward an Image in Email?

Question: When I attempt to forward an email that has a picture, an error message pops up that says, “One or more pictures could not be found and will not be sent. Do you still want to send the email?” If I say yes, the email will go without the picture. Without the picture, the email loses its effect, the impact, or its humor. I’ve asked many people, searched everything I can think of, and cannot solve this problem.

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.

Image not found imageWhen 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.

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12 comments on “Why Can’t I Forward an Image in Email?”

  1. I have found in my email program Windows live mail when I’m sent pictures though email if I save a picture to my hard drive. When I send the email to someone else it will tell me that if I want to send the email because there is no picture to send the email. I run windows 7 pro. So now I don’t save the pictures before I forward the email.

  2. I am running XP pro and I have several email addresses. I find that most of my email
    programs cannot forward an inline image without some sort of problem that prevents
    it from happening. However when I use outlook express I have never had a problem
    so I can only assume that these other programs are not written properly to get the job done. Why I don’t know. Just too bad Outlook Express is not included in newer flavors of windows!

  3. I have experienced this exact same problem ever since I downloaded Windows Live Mail to my machine. I’m using the OS Windows7. I have complained about this inability on the M.S. Windows forums and received a few replies from their “mediators” assuring me that they were working on the issue. That was at least a year ago and the problem remains unchanged. I get around this by using my ISP’s e-mail program whenever I want to forward a picture(s). I haven’t tried but I see no reason this shouldn’t work with the likes of g-mail, Yahoo Mail or Hot Mail/

  4. I received ‘vintage photos’ in an email I thought were interesting.
    Attempted to ‘forward’ the message…with photos of course….But my contact replied back to me that there were no photos.
    But his reply still showed the photos!
    So I’m just not understanding the reason for that.

    • My guess is that he just didn’t know where to look. Perhaps his email program interpreted them as attachments and didn’t show them in-line. Some email programs and web interfaces convert in-line photos to attachments. Other email programs display photo attachments as in-line photos. There’s just no standard way this is handled.

  5. NONE–and I mean NONE of the people I try to forward messages to, and who forward messages to me have this problem.
    WHY ME?
    I cannot forward any message with or without graphics to anyone without it going out as a simple text. …the words without any effects or graphics the way they were forwarded to me. I am the bad link in this chain, and nobody knows why. There is a simple fix for this. What is it?

    • This probably qualifies as “A BUNCH OF B.S.”, but there’s no way we can help you without a LOT more information. Like what email program or service you’re using, what browser (if web based email) and even the version of Windows you’re running – for a start. It’s possible there may be more questions once we have those basics. Sorry, but that’s just the way diagnosis works.

  6. I have the same problem. I can’t forward a e-mail with photos or graphics without the photos or graphics disappear. I am on I have used a number of different computers with operating systems using windows 7 windows explorer the original version, and windows vista. Nothing I do makes any difference. I have tried to copy and paste to another e-mail with the same result. I don’t have any problem with other e-mail addresses only yahoo.

  7. I’m trying to help my mother who has the same problem. I’ve tried to determine the setting differences between my yahoo email account and hers and cannot find anything to explain why she can’t forward images and I can. I’d looked at the (rather limited) yahoo settings and there are no differences. I’ve tried accessing email on different Windows OS and different computers with the same results, so I know it is a yahoo issue. The ONLY thing I have noticed is that when she receives the original email (she decides she wants to forward), she must click on show images at the top of the message to get the imbedded images to display and I do not have this additional step. There must be a yahoo setting difference that has been set somewhere that she was unaware got set, that I cannot find how to adjust. Anyone have any ideas on what this could be?

  8. I just tried to forward an email to a friend with images and she said she got a world of words I didn’t send first. This is on my new Dell that came with Windows 10 but I like using Gmail for everything including Google. How do I change? – I don’t see any thing that says “show images”

  9. I have Windows 10. My husband has Windows 10. We both use yahoo. When he sends an email with pictures or just a regular email I receive it with a lot of arrows on the left side and no pictures. The email will be “miles” long with all of the arrows. Is it him, or is it me?


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