Discover how to turn your photographs into personal postcards that you can send to friends and family via e-mail.
By Judee Stalmack, F235840
Buying and sending postcards while traveling can be quite expensive. But with a little bit of effort and one inexpensive click, I’ve found that I can e-mail unique and very personal digital postcards. Best of all, the same click can send the card to as many people as I want.
Since we travel often, I take a lot of photos. I feel that I need to establish a real and personal connection between my photos and the people I send them to. My digital postcards fill this need.
Even if I put one or two photos on the card, add a splashy title, and write a short note, I still can keep the file size small (40 to 90 kilobytes). Best of all, the personal photos that I take are getting a life of their own outside the computer; my creativity is being flexed; and I am able to keep in touch with family and friends while we’re on the road.
It’s very easy to put more than one photo on a card, although a collage of photos will add up to a somewhat larger file size (112 to 130 kilobytes), which is no problem if your recipient can handle the slightly larger download.
The “how-to” for making a digital postcard is easy. I’m sure it can be done in a graphics editing program such as Adobe Photoshop. Personally, however, I find it quite easy to create a postcard with a slideshow application. Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a good choice for both Macintosh and PC users. Macintosh users should try the new and very easy-to-use Keynote program (my favorite).
Although I use a slideshow application, the postcard I e-mail is not a slide. A slide is a large file and takes more time to both send and download. Although each of my digital postcards begins life as one slide, the method of saving the slide is what determines the file size. In the end, the slide is saved (or exported) as a single graphic file (the all-important step 9 below).
Each computer, as well as each slideshow application, behaves differently, but I hope the instructions below are generic enough to follow.
Just one other thought before you start. Although it’s nice to use several photos for a collage, when you make your first card, use just one photo. That way you can concentrate more on the process than on the design.
Here are the basic steps:
1. Select the photo that will go on the card and use Photoshop or a similar image editing photo program to improve the photo. Even a photo that looks good at first glance can usually be improved by correcting the color, improving the contrast, and sharpening the detail.
2. Save this photo in a small size (4 inches by 6 inches or smaller) with a low resolution (72 dots per inch). There is no need to waste bytes (and add to the file size) on a higher resolution. Your digital postcard is meant to be viewed on the recipient’s computer screen, not to be printed. What you want “” and what the sender will appreciate “” is a file that will download quickly. If you have trouble resizing a photo on your own, perhaps your program (under the Save command) can help you to automatically downsize a photo for e-mail or the Web.
3. Open the slideshow application in Power Point or a similar program. Choose to make a new slideshow or presentation, and opt for a blank slide (no title bar or bullets). If you have a choice of backgrounds, start with a simple white background. You will be looking at a blank rectangle.
4. Move the photo onto this blank slide. Copy and paste it into the photo box, or drag-and-drop it inside the rectangle.
5. Position the photo where you want it on the slide. Don’t forget to leave room under the photo or along the side to write your message. To make adjustments to the photo, select it by clicking the pointer on it. Then use the little boxes that appear on the edges of the photo to resize it; or set the pointer in the middle of the photo to pull or drag it where you want it to be. (In the future, when you’re designing a photo collage, use the HELP query for your particular slideshow application to find out how to put the edge of one photo in front of or behind another photo.)
6. To write your message on the postcard, add a “text box.” (Use a HELP query if you’re not familiar with using text boxes.) You can include several text boxes. For instance, I use one text box for the title, another for the message, and often a third for the signature. Experiment with different fonts and sizes, but don’t use too many. Short titles can be in a bigger, fancier font, but for the longer message, choose a font that is easy to read in small print. I like a simple, almost childlike “handwriting” font. This design step is important. It’s what turns the photo into a postcard that’s as attractive as any you can buy.
7. When you think your postcard is finished, look at it in slideshow view. Does the overall design look good to you (pleasantly balanced, even margins all around)? You can fine-tune the position of a photo or text box by selecting it and using the up and down arrows to move it in small increments.
8. When you’re certain you’re finished, save the slideshow. Give it a name, and add the word “slide” to the name. You’re not done yet; the slideshow is NOT the postcard, but it’s a good idea to keep it, because you may want to make other modifications later, such as changing the message and sending it to someone else. The most important step is next!
9. This step explains how to convert the slideshow into a smaller file size using two different programs “” PowerPoint and Keynote. Here you will turn the postcard into an image file that your recipient can receive via e-mail and view.
PowerPoint users: With the slideshow already named and saved (and the slide still showing on the screen), go to the File menu and choose “Save As.” Change the name slightly (for example, replace the word “slide” with something else). Then go to the Format box and from the list of options choose “Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPG).” Make sure the file extension is appended. Then, select Options. In the Options box, under the section for saving files as graphic files, select the option “Save current slide only.” Now, choose “Save.” Check the postcard file to make sure the file size is small enough to send through e-mail and that the .jpg extension is attached to the name.
Keynote users: With the slideshow already named and saved (and the slide still showing on your computer screen), go to the File menu and choose “Export.” From the format options that appear, choose “Image,” and select the “Next” step. Keep the format “JPEG – Variable Quality” (around 40 percent). Using the next command box, change the name slightly (e.g., erase “slide”); tell the file where to go (I like the desktop); and click on “Export.” Check the postcard file to make sure the file size is small enough for e-mailing and that the .jpg extension is attached to the name.
10. Open up your e-mail application. Write a short note if you want. Then attach your postcard just as you would attach an ordinary photo. You can address your postcard to as many people as you want, but if you are sending it to more than one person, remember to use the bcc (blind carbon copy) function in the address line. There is nothing more impersonal to the recipient than seeing a long list of addresses on the e-mail. Using the bcc function is also a matter of courtesy and privacy. Some people on your mailing list may not like the idea of their e-mail address showing up on a general list.
It helps to have a specific person or audience in mind when you’re designing a card. I started designing my postcards for our grandchildren. Every card I make for them includes the now-familiar closing line: “Hugs, from Mimi and Grandpa.” The kids have dubbed the cards their “HugCards.” I have found that the kids’ cards, changed slightly, can be sent to our adult friends, too. Just remember, if you are going to make any changes to a finished postcard, you cannot do it on the .jpg file that you send. You must go back to the original slideshow file and modify it; then, re-save it.
While we’re on the road, creating digital postcards has made sight-seeing more meaningful and snapping photos that much more fun. Our family and friends appreciate this new way of showing how often we’re thinking of them. No more off-the-shelf postcards from touristy locations. Plus, I no longer buy impersonal, $2 to $4 birthday or anniversary cards or have to follow directions on those go-and-get-your-own-card Web sites.
Best of all, I don’t even need a special reason or occasion to send a card or postcard. It doesn’t matter whether a photo was recently taken or has been hibernating in my photo library. If a snapshot triggers a memory of someone, it can be used for a postcard that simply says “Thinking of You.” And if it’s a photo of a 6-year-old grandchild who is now 11 or 12, just using the line “Remember when?” is fun to send off “” and even more fun to get.
Take Your Postcards Up A Notch!
A card with a little animation has a lot more pizzaz. Once you feel comfortable making a digital postcard, you might want to try a “movie” card. I enjoy using them for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
A movie card starts out much like a photo postcard (steps 1 through 8), but I get the words to “bounce in” or “type in” or “slide in” or “fade in” using the various “Build-in” commands in Keynotes or the “Animation” commands in PowerPoint. Don’t confuse build-ins or animations with transitions. A transition takes you from one slide to the next slide. A build-in or animation affects only the slide you’re working on. Remember that the more movement you incorporate in a slide, the larger the file becomes. You want to keep your card size small enough so that it can be sent by e-mail, so think of using only one or two animated effects.
Next, consider the timing of your animations. You can have one happen automatically or with a mouse click. Most often, I choose automatic, because I don’t want the recipient to have to do anything. But sometimes it’s fun to start with a text box on the postcard that tells the recipient to click on a flower or some other object in the photo and that when they click, another text box bounces or spirals in with the words “I love you” or “Surprise! Just want to say Happy Birthday!”
Play around with your application, including the timing for each action, until you get an effect you like. Then, if you still want to take your card up another notch, use the music or recording commands in your slideshow application to attach a snippet of music; or, even better, record and attach your own voice. But remember, adding sound will make the file size escalate, and many e-mail programs and/or e-mail providers restrict the size of attachments. You also want to be sure your intended recipient’s computer has the ability to download a file this size.
Other than these few general instructions, I can’t give you any specific “how to” information for designing your own animated card. The final step, once your slide is animated to your liking, is to ensure that the fancy effects can be seen by your recipient. Once again, save your work as a slide. This will save your new animated effects on one slide. Then save your slide again as a QuickTime movie. (PowerPoint users will use the “Make Movie” command; Keynote users will use the “Export” command.) QuickTime is a free, downloadable application, and most computers have it already installed. Test your new card by opening it up in QuickTime. You may have to fine-tune it by going back to the slideshow drawing board. (I always have to!)
To see several examples of animated cards, go to http://web.me.com/judee1/Animated_cards.