Use Mail's Photo Browser to Add an Image to an Email

Photo browser can perform searches and export images

cursor arrow clicking on email icon

Gregor Schuster / Getty Images

If you use email to share images (and let's face it, who doesn’t), then you probably drag an image from the Finder, or from within the Photos or iPhoto app, to the email message you're writing. And while the drag-and-drop method works fine, especially if the image you want to share is just stored loosely in the Finder, there's a better way.

Apple’s Mail app includes a built-in Photo Browser that you can use to look through your Aperture, Photos, or iPhoto libraries. You can then easily select the image you wish to share, and add it to your message with just a click.

Using the Mail Photo Browser is a lot easier than opening Aperture, Photos, or iPhoto, and then dragging an image to the Mail app. It also has the added advantage of not taking up system resources just to launch one of the photo applications.

Using Mail’s Photo Browser

  1. Launch Mail, if it isn't already running.
  2. While you can access the Photo Browser at any time, it makes more sense to have a message open that you're editing, and to which you wish to add a picture.
  3. Access the Photo Browser by selecting Windows, Photo Browser.
  4. You can also access the Photo Browser by clicking the Photo Browser icon in the top right corner of the New Message's toolbar (it looks like two rectangles, one in front of the other).
  5. The Photo Browser will open, displaying a two-pane window. The top pane lists the available image libraries on your Mac. This can include Aperture, Photos, iPhoto, or Photo Booth.
  6. Select one of the image libraries from the list, and the bottom pane will be populated with thumbnail views of the selected library's contents.
  7. The Mail Photo Browser supports organizational structures that appear in the selected library. As an example, if you select the Photos library as the source, you can also pick from any of the Photos categories you have created within the Photos app, including the predefined categories, such as Moments, Collections, and Years, by clicking on the chevron next to the library name, and then selecting from the list of categories.
  8. There's also a search bar located at the bottom of the Photo Browser that you can use to search on keywords, titles, or file names to find the image you wish to use.
  9. Once the image you want is visible in the Photo Browser, simply click once on the thumbnail, and drag it to the message you're editing.
  10. The image will appear at the current insertion point in the message. If you would like to move the image to a different location, simply click and drag the image to the desired position in the message.

Additional Photo Browser Tricks

The Photo Browser isn't limited to dragging images to an email message. You can drag images from the Photo Browser to just about any app, including the Finder, for a quick way to export an image from any of your image libraries.

Other Ways to Add a Photo to an Email

You can click and drag a photo to an email message from almost any location, including the desktop, a Finder window, or an open document in another application.

You can also attach a photo to an email message. Click the Attach icon in the message window toolbar (it looks like a paper clip), locate the target image on your Mac, and click the Choose File button.

Keep Files Small

When you send files via email, remember that you may have message size limitations with your email provider, and the recipients may have message size limitations with their email provider. As tempting as it may be to send full-size images, it's usually better to send smaller versions.

To adjust the size of an image, click the Image Size pop-up menu on the right-hand side of the message window. The choices are Actual Size, Small, Medium, and Large. The Large option is often smaller than Actual Size, yet it's still big enough to make an impact. Don't overlook the Small and Medium options, especially if you're going to include more than one photo in a message.

Mail Photo Browser Troubleshooting

One common problem some users encounter with the Photo Browser is a failure to display the Photos app image library, or the failure to show an image you know is within the Photos app.

The two problems are related, with a common cause. The Mail app's Photo Browser can only view the Photos app's System Photo Library. The System Photo Library is the first library created when you launch the Photos app the very first time. If the System Photo Library is empty because you created additional libraries, and are only using those libraries, the Photo Browser won't show Photos as an available library to choose from.

Additionally, if the image you're looking for isn't within the System Photo Library, it won't be available in the Mail Photo Browser.

You can select which Photo Library is to be used as the System Photo Library by opening Photos with the library you wish to use, then opening Photo Preferences. Select the General tab, and click the Use as System Photo Library button.