iOS 6 and e-mailed photos: it’s complicated

The recent release of iOS 6 introduced a lot of new features, many of which are somewhat hidden away. Some of the changes, however, can come as something of a surprise. And if you like to share your photographs by e-mail there’s one change in particular that you need to note.

If you use the default Photos app to browse and share your images, you may be used to seeing a little “action sheet” pop up each time you choose to e-mail an image. Something like this:

(You’ll notice that this is a pretty big original file—that’s because it is an uncompressed TIFF taken with 645 PRO and then copied to Camera Roll.)

The nice thing about the choices offered here is that you can decide whether to send anything from a tiny file, to give the recipient a flavor of the image, through to the original, unmodified file.

[edit, with additional information]

However, in iOS 6 it’s not the same.

If you’re using iPad, it doesn’t asks you what size image you want to send. Instead, it decides for you. It always sends the photograph at its original dimensions, but compresses the image if it considers its file size is “too big”. (Under iOS 5.x, iPad didn’t ask either, but it did sent the image file unmodified.)

Meanwhile, your iPhone does give you the choices, but if it decides the file is “too big” it compressed it substantially first, so you still can’t send out your original files if they’re of high quality.

This might not have been an issue a year ago, when pretty much any picture on your Camera Roll was likely to be a standard quality JPEG of under 3 MB. But following on from the launch of Jag.gr’s 645 PRO, many more iPhoneographers are saving higher-quality files (in both TIFF and JPEG formats) of a size that Photos regards as “too big”.

Oh, and that’s not all. If the “too-big” image is a TIFF, it actually sends it as a JPEG but—really annoyingly—then gives that JPEG a file extension of .TIF. So you send (or think you send) a 14.4 MB TIFF but your recipient gets a 1.1 MB JPEG that (because it is described as a TIFF) they may not even be able to open!

If the image is below the “too big” threshold, on the other hand, it does get sent as an actual TIFF. The trouble is, when dealing with larger files, you don’t know what’s actually going to happen from image to image. And that’s confusing at best

[edit ends]

So, if you want any control over exactly what you’re e-mailing, it’s clear the new version of Photos is not the tool to use (even if its simplified—one fewer click—interface may suit a lot of people a lot of the time).

So what other options are there for e-mailing high-quality TIFFs?

Using the Mail app

The obvious choice may appear to be the default e-mail client, Mail. After all, it now allows you to insert an image directly into an e-mail (just tap-hold on the message you’re creating):

The good news is that this does actually end up e-mailing a “clean” copy of the original file. The bad news is that a TIFF called (say) 20120924091036.TIF arrives as image.png. That’s right, not only does the filename get changed, it also appears to be a PNG rather than a TIFF. Only, once again, it isn’t what is appears to be, it really is a TIFF and—just like the JPEG pretending to be a TIFF above—this “PNG” needs to be renamed as a TIFF before most software will be able to read it.

OK, so what if you copy and paste from Photos into Mail. You can tap-hold on any picture in Photos, select Copy, then go to Mail, create a new message, tap-hold again, and select Paste:

Amazingly, this actually works. As with Insert Photo or Video, the file gets renamed, but this time it arrives as image.tiff, and can be opened straight up by your image editor of choice.

So, for now, this seems to be the best way to share TIFFs by e-mail.

Mailing TIFFs from 645 PRO: coming soon!

Why aren’t we just suggesting you mail your TIFFs straight from 645 PRO? After all, that’s where you probably took them, and there is an e-mail option.

Unfortunately—and this is where it gets slightly embarrassing—it turns out Apple’s not the only one capable of making a bit of a mess of e-mailing photographs.

645 PRO does a great job of mailing JPEGs—we think you should use it for that whenever possible. And while 645 PRO will certainly e-mail your TIFFs intact it, currently, takes an inadvertent leaf out of Apple’s book and renames them as JPEGs (you can name them back as TIFFs, but that’s still annoying). This will be fixed in Release 2.1 of 645 PRO which is coming very soon…

And once it is fixed, we really do advise using 645 PRO for TIFFs as well as JPEGs, because—just as in older versions of Photos—you get an action sheet letting you choose which size you want to send, so you have the choice between sending the full-sized TIFF or a reduced-size image, as you prefer!

Comments

  1. bik0z says:

    I do not know if this is related but I still have no clue why most apps copy TIFFs from Camera Roll as JPEGs…

    In my experience, only DropBox manages to copy TIFFs from Camera Roll. Other apps that I have tried just do compressed JPEGs.

    • Mike says:

      It’s a lot easier for the software to load the image and then save it back out in a single “default” format than it is to manage multiple formats from end to end. So this is why I guess most apps do just that.

      As far as Photos is concerned I think Apple is deliberately removing a choice that some users may have found confusing (“I don’t know! Just send it at the RIGHT size, dammit!”).

      However, I suspect the issue with image import into Mail is based on a false assumption (“we—Apple—only ever save JPEGs and PNGs to Camera Roll so if it’s not a JPEG we’ll assume it’s a PNG”).

  2. Mike R says:

    Thanks for the update Mike. I hadn’t noticed this yet and may very well have sent an file the end user wouldn’t have been able to open.

  3. Teri Lou says:

    Very useful information. Thanks so much.
    I teach students about the importance of keeping file size for processing and printing, with this info it will take much of the research and confusion away.

  4. Michael says:

    So, I guess I’m not the only one who has had trouble mailing my large files from my iPhone to the ipad. Going through mail just seems like a total pianos I think I’ll just wait until everyone sorts out the glitches and I can just send my files to the ipad. Leave it to Apple to make it difficult for third parties. I’m looking forward to the 6×12 back and the ability to send tiffs directly to my ipad. Thanks for a grea app!

  5. Wendy says:

    I can’t believe how many people are duped into thinking they are shooting tif files with this app. All it does is save the original iphone .jpg picture as a tif which bloats up the size so people think they have a bigger file with more information (uncompressed) but it’s not possible to actually intercept the iphone .jpg before it’s compressed. Don’t go by file size, LOOK AT THE PICTURES – the tif’s are full of compression and are identical to the plain jpgs.

    • Mike says:

      It is completely possible to intercept the image data (which is not a JPEG at this point) before it has been compressed. We’ve been doing it since the launch of 645 PRO, and we’re not alone in doing so (although the number of apps that do just that has increased quite substantially since 645 PRO was launched, and we explained the outline of what we were doing).

      The TIFF images have been through no lossy compression stage (if saved to the camera roll they are LZW-compressed, but LZW is a non-lossy compression algorithm, so does not affect picture quality in the slightest). They, consequently, have no compression artefacts.

      What they can have, especially at high ISO settings, is quite a lot of sensor noise; JPEG compression—and, if Apple’s standard “save to Camera Roll” technique is used, the addition of quite substantial sharpening—can actually disguise that, meaning that JPEGs may, subjectively, “look better” than TIFFs. However, the TIFFs have substantially greater image integrity and contain a lot more information—something that can be seen quite easily by manipulating a pair of otherwise identical images in a professional tool such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

      The TIFFs produced by 645 PRO allow photographers to control, to a much greater extent, how their unprocessed images are made to “look better”. Rather than the random (and destructive) changes wrought by auto-sharpening and JPEG compression they may, for example, choose to minimize the sensor noise through the use of overlaid film grain and the judicious use of an Unsharp Mask.

      If that difference isn’t important to you, just shoot JPEGs. As we have pointed out (repeatedly!) they’re just fine for most people most of the time. However, for those situations where greater image integrity is of value, 645 PRO offers something extra.