Sending Raw Email via SES

Sending Raw Email via Amazon SES using PHP

We've been working on a web app for a client, in essence it's a mail merge app with some extra features (mainly attachment management - allowing them to send different attachments to everyone on the list). To send attachments via the SES API is a bit of work as you have to send a 'raw' email - i.e. boundaries, encoding etc. I struggled to find some examples in PHP, so after struggling through I thought I would write it down incase it could benefit anyone.

The web application was developed in the Laravel Framework, but for the purpose of this guide I've stripped it back to PHP so you can follow along or adapt for your framework of choice.

All code from this blog post available on GitHub.


You will need to have an Amazon Web Services account.

You will need an account, or an IAM role with permissions to send via SES.

You are familiar with composer (you can install manually, but it just adds more work)

Getting Started

You're going to need the AWS SDK for PHP:

The easiest way is via composer, in your composer.json file:


    "require": {

        "aws/aws-sdk-php": "2.*"



Then run:

composer install

Then we need to include the autoloader: (index.php)

require_once 'vendor/autoload.php';

And, then the Aws classes we want.

use Aws\Ses\SesClient;
use Aws\Ses\Exception\MessageRejectedException;

Sending Class

We are now going to create our main class to handle the raw email sending.

class SesRawMailer
	 * Our SES client
	protected $sesClient;

	 * Create a new mailer
	 * @param SesClient $sesClient The SES Client to send via
	public function __construct(SesClient $sesClient)
		$this->client = $sesClient;

	 * Getter for the ses client
	 * @return SesClient our client
	public function getClient()
		return $this->client;

	 * Sends out a raw email and returns the message id on success
	 * @param  string $to          The recipients email address
	 * @param  string $subject     The subject of the email
	 * @param  string $message     The plain text version of the email
	 * @param  string $from        The senders address
	 * @param  string $html        The HTML version of the email
	 * @param  array  $attachments The full file path of all the attachments
	 * @param  string $returnPath  The return path of the email, although in reality this is ignored in favour of from?
	 * @return string              The message id returned from Amazon
	public function send($to, $subject, $message, $from, $html = '', $attachments = array(), $returnPath = '')
		if ($returnPath)
			$returnPath = <<<EOF

Return-Path: {$returnPath}

		//Create a random boundary
		$boundary = sha1(rand() . time() . 'Arron');

		//lets get started, the headers come first. Pay attention to the blank lines, they are important.
		//Following the headers is our first part of the email. The plain text version.
		$rawEmail = <<<EOE
Subject: {$subject}
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-type: multipart/alternative; boundary="{$boundary}"{$returnPath}
To: {$to}
From: {$from}

Content-Type: text/plain;


		//if we have some html set, lets create a new part and add it
		if ($html)
			$rawEmail .= <<<EOE
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1



		//loop through our attachments
		foreach ($attachments as $attachment)
			//ensure we can access the file
			if (file_exists($attachment))
				//get all the meta information we need
				$contentType = $this->mimeType($attachment);
				$size = filesize($attachment);
				$attachmentName = basename($attachment);
				//base64 encode our attachment content
				$attachmentContent = base64_encode(file_get_contents($attachment));
				$rawEmail .= <<<EOE
Content-Type: {$contentType}; name="{$attachmentName}"
Content-Description: "{$attachmentName}"
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="{$attachmentName}"; size={$size};
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64



		//finish off our email with the boundary
		$rawEmail .= <<<EOE

		//set up the arguments to pass to the client. You can set 'Source' in
		//here, but I encountered errors. So found setting it in the headers worked
		$args = array(
			'RawMessage' => array(
				'Data' => base64_encode($rawEmail),

			$response = $this->getClient()->sendRawEmail($args);
			return $response->get('MessageId');
		catch (MessageRejectedException $mrEx)
			$this->log('Unable to send email: Rejected. ' . $mrEx->getMessage());
		catch (\Exception $ex)
			$this->log('Unable to send email: Unknown. ' . $ex->getMessage());

		return false;

	 * Really bad method to log stuff. Just a proof of concept really. 
	 * You should definitely replace this with a decent log.
	 * @param  string $message the message to log
	protected function log($message)
		echo '<p class="error">' . strip_tags($message) . '</p>';

	 * Simple, method to get mime type based on extension. Again, you really
	 * want to replace this with something better.
	 * @param  string $file the full path to the file
	 * @return string       the mime type, or null on failure
	protected function mimeType($file)
		if (file_exists($file) && $extension = pathinfo($file, PATHINFO_EXTENSION))
			//taken from
			$mimes = array(
				'hqx'   => 'application/mac-binhex40',
				'cpt'   => 'application/mac-compactpro',
				'csv'   => array('text/x-comma-separated-values', 'text/comma-separated-values', 'application/octet-stream'),
				'bin'   => 'application/macbinary',
				'dms'   => 'application/octet-stream',
				'lha'   => 'application/octet-stream',
				'lzh'   => 'application/octet-stream',
				'exe'   => array('application/octet-stream', 'application/x-msdownload'),
				'class' => 'application/octet-stream',
				'psd'   => 'application/x-photoshop',
				'so'    => 'application/octet-stream',
				'sea'   => 'application/octet-stream',
				'dll'   => 'application/octet-stream',
				'oda'   => 'application/oda',
				'pdf'   => array('application/pdf', 'application/x-download'),
				'ai'    => 'application/postscript',
				'eps'   => 'application/postscript',
				'ps'    => 'application/postscript',
				'smi'   => 'application/smil',
				'smil'  => 'application/smil',
				'mif'   => 'application/vnd.mif',
				'xls'   => array('application/excel', 'application/', 'application/msexcel'),
				'ppt'   => array('application/powerpoint', 'application/'),
				'wbxml' => 'application/wbxml',
				'wmlc'  => 'application/wmlc',
				'dcr'   => 'application/x-director',
				'dir'   => 'application/x-director',
				'dxr'   => 'application/x-director',
				'dvi'   => 'application/x-dvi',
				'gtar'  => 'application/x-gtar',
				'gz'    => 'application/x-gzip',
				'php'   => array('application/x-httpd-php', 'text/x-php'),
				'php4'  => 'application/x-httpd-php',
				'php3'  => 'application/x-httpd-php',
				'phtml' => 'application/x-httpd-php',
				'phps'  => 'application/x-httpd-php-source',
				'js'    => 'application/x-javascript',
				'swf'   => 'application/x-shockwave-flash',
				'sit'   => 'application/x-stuffit',
				'tar'   => 'application/x-tar',
				'tgz'   => array('application/x-tar', 'application/x-gzip-compressed'),
				'xhtml' => 'application/xhtml+xml',
				'xht'   => 'application/xhtml+xml',
				'zip'   => array('application/x-zip', 'application/zip', 'application/x-zip-compressed'),
				'mid'   => 'audio/midi',
				'midi'  => 'audio/midi',
				'mpga'  => 'audio/mpeg',
				'mp2'   => 'audio/mpeg',
				'mp3'   => array('audio/mpeg', 'audio/mpg', 'audio/mpeg3', 'audio/mp3'),
				'aif'   => 'audio/x-aiff',
				'aiff'  => 'audio/x-aiff',
				'aifc'  => 'audio/x-aiff',
				'ram'   => 'audio/x-pn-realaudio',
				'rm'    => 'audio/x-pn-realaudio',
				'rpm'   => 'audio/x-pn-realaudio-plugin',
				'ra'    => 'audio/x-realaudio',
				'rv'    => 'video/vnd.rn-realvideo',
				'wav'   => 'audio/x-wav',
				'bmp'   => 'image/bmp',
				'gif'   => 'image/gif',
				'jpeg'  => array('image/jpeg', 'image/pjpeg'),
				'jpg'   => array('image/jpeg', 'image/pjpeg'),
				'jpe'   => array('image/jpeg', 'image/pjpeg'),
				'png'   => 'image/png',
				'tiff'  => 'image/tiff',
				'tif'   => 'image/tiff',
				'css'   => 'text/css',
				'html'  => 'text/html',
				'htm'   => 'text/html',
				'shtml' => 'text/html',
				'txt'   => 'text/plain',
				'text'  => 'text/plain',
				'log'   => array('text/plain', 'text/x-log'),
				'rtx'   => 'text/richtext',
				'rtf'   => 'text/rtf',
				'xml'   => 'text/xml',
				'xsl'   => 'text/xml',
				'mpeg'  => 'video/mpeg',
				'mpg'   => 'video/mpeg',
				'mpe'   => 'video/mpeg',
				'qt'    => 'video/quicktime',
				'mov'   => 'video/quicktime',
				'avi'   => 'video/x-msvideo',
				'movie' => 'video/x-sgi-movie',
				'doc'   => 'application/msword',
				'docx'  => 'application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document',
				'xlsx'  => 'application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet',
				'word'  => array('application/msword', 'application/octet-stream'),
				'xl'    => 'application/excel',
				'eml'   => 'message/rfc822',
				'json'  => array('application/json', 'text/json'),

			if (array_key_exists($extension, $mimes))
				return (is_array($mimes[$extension])) ? $mimes[$extension][0] : $mimes[$extension];

You should be able to follow the class through - all it does it build the raw / multipart email in bits, then pass it on to the SES client. It's not the best structured class, purely just to show you what does what - I've left notes where you should consider improvements.

Sending Our Email

We've done all the hard work, so now we can just use the following to send a HTML email, with plain text alternative along with a couple of attachments:

//Consider replacing this with the newer credential profile
$client = SesClient::factory(array(
	'region' => 'eu-west-1', //replace with your own region
	'key' => 'Your key', //replace with your own key
	'secret' => 'Your secret', //as you guessed, replace with your own secret

$to = '';
$subject = 'Testing the blog';
//You'll need to be able to send as this address in SES
$from = '';
//our plain text message
$message = <<<EOF
Hi Arron,

Just testing the class works that you posted on the blog.


//our html message
$html = <<<EOF
<p><strong>Hi Arron,</strong></p>
<p>Just testing the class works that you posted on the <a href="">blog</a>.</p>
//our attachments - these are relative to the current file
$attachments = array(

$mailer = new SesRawMailer($client);
$messageId = $mailer->send($to, $subject, $message, $from, $html, $attachments);

if ($messageId)
	echo "<p>Successfully sent message: " . strip_tags($messageId) . "</p>";
	echo "<p>Something went wrong. :(  (check the logs)</p>";