Size Matters

The other day, a representative of a digital camera manufacturer unwittingly sabotaged our computer network. Anxious to show us what her client's best and newest models looked like, she sent us an email with several photos and a large Acrobat document attached. Because we don't yet have high-speed Internet access out here in the country, it took nearly a half hour for our system to download the pictures and memo. During that time, everything else slowed down to a crawl, and we couldn't send or receive any other email.

In this economy of super-sizing everything, even photography can suffer from the attitude that more is better. We have explained before how the number of megapixels a camera is capable of capturing is primarily an issue of volume, not of quality. It is precisely that excess volume of data in large image files that can cause problems on the Internet—both for email and for Web pages.

Not only will large photo files slow down email, but posting a picture onto a Web page that is too big bogs down access, increasing the amount of time it takes for the page to open. In addition, if the files are too big for the Web page, the computer will either have to throw away data to make it fit or will display the picture as too large, often overflowing the space available on your screen. Even if the Web site automatically resizes any picture when it is viewed, giving the system too large a picture to handle means that the person viewing the page will have to be patient while the software does its job preparing the photo to be viewed. Many Web sites resize the photos only once, when you upload them, so your viewers' patience isn't taxed. But that is still allowing a machine to make qualitative decisions about your photos. (See the section on optimizing later in this chapter.)

In other words, taking control over the size of your photo files matters a great deal when they will be used, viewed, or sent via the Internet.

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