Preparing Images for the Web

by Sue Barthelow

I cringe every time I open my inbox to check my e-mail and see a message that has a large attachment. Most Internet users, my friends included, don't know about file sizes and download speeds. They know that some e-mail messages and web pages take longer than others to show up on their computer screens, but they have no idea why. If you don't know how to lower your image sizes, this tutorial is for you.

E-mail recipients need to open attached images fairly quickly, and web users need to download web page images at a reasonable speed. Many people have fast links today and don't notice their download speeds. They tend to forget that others cannot use a fast service to access the Internet. For those unfortunate few, attached images and web pages crawl onto their computer screens.

Mine creep. Several weeks ago, I started to download a friend's e-mail attachment. I got up from my computer, went around the house closing windows, got a cup of coffee and returned to find that I still had to wait. Ouch. I usually just delete messages with large attachments, but I wanted to see this one.

So, help your friends out and think about sizes before you attach an image to a message or upload it to the web. How do you solve the size problem? Use your photo processing software to save your image with the smallest file and quality that leaves you with a good looking picture.

Here's how to do it using your photo software. This example is for Photoshop Elements, but other programs have similar capabilities.

  1. Use the File | Save for Web option
  2. Change either the Width or Height box in the New Size area depending on which size is more important to you. Make sure that Constrain Proportions is selected so the height and width stay in proportion to each other. Your image will fit on most screens if its height is no more than 500 pixels.
  3. Click on the Apply button to complete the change. Changing the size this way only changes the size of the file that will be saved.
  4. Change the Zoom amount near the bottom left corner of the save screen by setting Zoom to Fit on Screen.
  5. Set the file type to JPEG and set the image quality. Since you want it to download as fast as possible, you want the smallest quality setting that still looks good. Start with Low and see how the image appears. Look at the edges of objects. Edges tend to look disfigured or smeared when the quality is too low. If you don't like what you see, bump the quality setting up to Medium and look again. If the picture is busy, you may have to go up to High before you're satisfied. The new file size shows up below the image.
  6. Click on the OK button to finish saving the file.
 

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