The real joy in taking photos is in sharing. Whether it’s a cute snap of your daughter playing with her first set of Lego blocks or a dazzling shot of Saturn’s rings taken through a telescope-mounted camera, your photos cry out to be handed around.

With your computer, you can give your prize snaps a far wider audience than just your geographically handy circle of friends, family and colleagues. Publish them on your Facebook page. Create an online album using one of the free or paid services. Or use the simplest method of all: email.

Windows provides two methods of sharing your photos via email.

Method 1: Load up your email program, create a new message, attach the photos and then send the message with the photos as attachments.

Method 2: Use the photo emailing tools built right into Windows. In this second method, you’re essentially doing the same thing as in Method 1, but you let Windows take care of some of the details.

Method 1: Attaching photos

When you send photos in email, the photos go along for the ride as attachments, just like any other file you add to an email.

To attach a photo to an email message in Microsoft Outlook:

  1. Click New to open a Message window.
  2. Fill in the To and Subject boxes as usual and type any message you wish to accompany the photos.
  3. Click Insert File (the paperclip icon – in Outlook 2010 it’s labelled ‘Attach File’), locate your file through the Insert File box, click the file’s name and then click the Insert button. If you wish to add multiple files from within the same folder, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking multiple files, then click the Insert button.
  4. Click Send.

To attach a photo using Outlook Express:

  1. Click Create Mail to open a New Message window.
  2. Fill in the To and Subject lines and type in your message.
  3. Click the Attach button, locate the file in the Insert Attachment box and click Attach. Use Ctrl-click to select multiple files.
  4. Click Send.

To attach a photo using Windows Live Mail:

  1. Click New to create a new message.
  2. Fill in the To and Subject lines and type your message.
  3. Click Attach and in the Open dialog box browse for the photo you want to send, then click Open. To attach multiple files, use Ctrl-click to select each of them.
  4. Respond ‘No’ to the dialog box asking whether you want to turn the message into a photo email (I’ll get back to this option later).
  5. Click Send.

Pitfalls of photo attachments

You need to watch out for two things when you attach photos to emails: the size and the format of the photos.

The size is a concern because most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) set a per-message size limit on email, typically around 20 megabytes per message. When you take a photo with a hi-res digital camera, the resulting file may well be 3 to 5 megabytes or more; add a bunch of those images to a single email and it’s easy to bump up against message size limits.

If you send someone an email which exceeds their message size limit (or yours – the restrictions apply to outgoing email as well as incoming) the email will be bounced. That is, you’ll get a message from the ISP (if you’re lucky!) saying the email was too large to deliver and the recipient won’t receive a copy. The really frustrating thing about bounced mail is that you waste time uploading the email and it’s not until you’ve completed the process that your ISP will inform you it failed to work.

So you need to limit the size of your photo attachments, either by:

  • limiting the number of photos you send per email;
  • using compressed formats such as JPG and PNG instead of uncompressed formats like BMP and TIFF;
  • reducing the resolution (size) of the images you send.

Most email programs display the size of files you’ve attached to a message, so you can check whether you’re over the limit.

Videos are big!

Video files are much, much bigger than still-photo files. Even a very short video can easily consume 100 megabytes. If you try to email videos, you’ll almost certainly run into problems. It’s better to upload videos to a sharing site such as YouTube or Facebook or use one of the many large-file delivery services rather than trying to email them.

As well as keeping an eye on attachment size, you need to be aware of the format of the images you’re sending. While you may be able to view images in TIFF, PCD, BMP and other formats, don’t assume your recipients can.

When sharing photos, stick to using JPG format unless you have an agreement with the recipient to use a different format. JPG is almost universally supported even by Mac and Linux users. It’s a compressed format, which means the same photo in JPG format is smaller than in BMP format. This is true even when you save a JPG file using minimal (‘lossless’) compression, but if you’re really trying to limit file size, you can save a JPG with varying degrees of compression. The greater the compression, the lower the image quality, so you’ll need to play around with various compression factors to find an acceptable result.

Using Live PhotomailPhoto emails in Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail provides an alternative method of including photos in messages, called ‘photo email’. Using photo email, instead of your photos being sent with the email message itself, Windows Live Mail inserts thumbnail images of your photos into the message and uploads the full-size images to the Windows Live Servers. Using this method, you can include hundreds of image thumbnails in an email; when your recipients click any of the thumbnails, they’ll have the option either to open and view the full-size version in their image viewing software or to download the image to their computer. If a recipient also uses Windows Live Mail, they’ll be able to download copies of all the full-size images with a single click. You can therefore use this method to store high-resolution backups of your photos online and share those images.

To create a photo email in Windows Live Mail:

  1. Make sure you’re signed in to your Windows Live account.
  2. Click New to create a new message.
  3. Fill in the To and Subject lines and type your message.
  4. Click the Add Photos button to display the Add Photos dialog box.
  5. Locate the photo you want to share, click its name and then click Add. If you’d like to send more than one photo, hold down the Ctrl key while clicking each image you want to send, click Add then Done. A thumbnail image of the photos will appear in the message window.
  6. If you’d like, you can add a caption to each photo: hover the mouse over the photo and you’ll see a message to “Click here to add text”. Click and type in your caption.
  7. You can also perform some basic editing on the images, select a layout, add a frame or coloured border, and elect to send high, medium or low-resolution images.
  8. Click Send to propel the email on its way and to upload the photos to the Windows Live server. You may be prompted to type in a ‘capcha’ word displayed to ensure you’re not a spambot (an automated program designed to send junk email).

Method 2: Using Windows built-in photo mailing tools

Ever since XP, Windows has provided a streamlined way to email photos directly from Windows Explorer. Using this built-in method, instead of opening your email program, creating a new message, locating and attaching the photos and sending your mail, Windows automates much of the procedure for you; you don’t even have to bother about opening your email program. Windows also automatically resizes the images so you don’t need to worry so much about the size of the resulting email. It’s particularly handy to use this method when you’re digging around in your folders and come across photos you’d like to share.

Resizing photosHere’s how to do this using Windows XP:

  1. Open the folder containing your photos, select one or more images (use Ctrl-Click to select multiple images), and click E-mail The Selected Items under File and Folder Tasks in the Task Pane. The Send Pictures Via E-mail dialog box will open.
  2. XP lets you reduce the size of your photos by reducing their resolution. Click the Show More Options button to see all your options. Once you’ve made your selections, click OK. (Note: XP does not change the size of your original photos; it merely creates copies in the new sizes and attaches those copies to your email.
  3. XP opens a new message window in your default email program, with the resized photos attached. Add a recipient’s address, change the subject if you like, and insert your own text in place of XP’s own terse message. Then click Send.

And here’s how it works in Windows 7:

  1. Open the folder containing your photos, select one or more images (use Ctrl-Click to select multiple images), and click E-mail.
  2. In the Attach Files dialog box, select the picture size you desire then click Attach.
  3. A new message window will open with your photos attached and a default subject line and message.
  4. Fill in the To box, edit the subject and message content and click Send.