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Downsize Photos for E-Mail

January 9, 2001

I've been getting New Year's "resolution" calls lately, which tells me that a lot of new digital photographers are snapping and e-mailing photos to family and friends.

The typical question goes something like this: "My son-in-law sent me a photo of the kids, but when I call it up on my screen, it's so big that I can't see anything except a little corner of it. Is there any way to make it smaller?"

The answer is yes.

First things first. When you take a digital photograph or scan a snapshot, the image is converted to a grid of tiny dots, or pixels.

The number of dots used to record an image is its resolution. The first digital camera I used could resolve an image into a grid of 640 by 480 dots. That's 307,200 dots if you're not a math whiz. (I cheated and used a calculator.) The superb Olympus Camedia digital camera I use captures 2,048-by-1,536-dot images, which comes out to, ummmm, 3,145,728 dots.

What happens if I e-mail one of those pictures to Aunt Rhoda? She's using a 17-inch monitor, and the resolution of her screen is set to display 800 dots across by 600 dots vertically, which is typical for screens that size.

If my photo is 2,048 dots wide, she'll see less than half of it unless she scrolls around.

What to do? If you're on the sending end, you probably have photo-editing software. Call up the photo and change the size so that it will fit onto a screen. For example, at 30 percent of its original dimensions, my Olympus photo will be 614 dots across by 416 pixels deep, small enough to squeeze onto Aunt Rhoda's display. Just remember to save the resized photo under a different file name so you don't overwrite the original.

Another possibility, particularly if you're sending photos to several people, is to post your images in an online album at a free photo-sharing Web site such as, or Then, invite everyone to view the collection. If you upload a full-size image to a photo Web site, it's automatically resized for comfortable viewing.

If you receive a giant image via e-mail, you have some finagling to do. The first step is to save the attachment by clicking or right-clicking on its icon in your e-mail header and writing it to your hard drive. Your best bet is to save it to the My Documents folder. Write down the file name for future reference.

That done, it's time to call up Windows Paint, a little graphics program that comes with the operating system. To find it, click the Start button and then choose Programs-Accessories. When Paint starts up, click on the File menu, choose Open and select the picture file you've just saved.

The image will appear on your screen in its original size. Now click on the Image menu at the top of the screen and select Stretch-Skew. A small dialog box will pop up. In the Stretch portion of the box, you'll see two blanks labeled "horizontal" and "vertical." In each one, type in the percentage reduction you want. Make sure to type the same number in each box, or you'll get a distorted picture. Then click OK.

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