When was the last time you went anywhere and did not see at least one person stop to snap a picture?

I honestly can’t remember.

Not at a restaurant. Not on a hike. Not even walking down the street. Everywhere you go, someone is capturing the moment.

In 2017, 85% of all digital photos taken were on a phone. The impact of the iPhone and the smartphones that followed has been massive.

It’s how we communicate in this day in age. Our photos cross all language and cultural barriers. A picture is worth even more than a thousand words when you’re limited to 140 characters on Twitter.

Images Are Essential In Marketing

With the abundance of photographs in our everyday lives, it should come as no surprise to find out how effective images are as a part of a successful marketing campaign. We recently wrote about how much visual content matters.

You don’t have to believe me (though I’ve about I have an honest face). There is no shortage of data that proves just how important images are to your marketing efforts.

  • Blog posts and articles with quality images see an average of 94% more total views than those without them
  • Sending a press release with photos receives nearly 15% more online views than their text-only counterparts
  • When it comes to web search, 60% of consumers prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image
  • Almost 70% of online shoppers say that the product image is of the utmost importance when making a purchase decision

Not sold yet? Let’s use an image to demonstrate these points and more. Check out this MDG Advertising Infographic:
It’s All About the Images [infographic by MDG Advertising]

Infographic by MDG Advertising

Where You Can Find Great Images

Not every business can afford an in-house design team or professional photographer. Thankfully, you don’t need those if you know the right places to look.

You do, however, need to find quality images. There is so much bad stock art that is available to marketers out there. You also don’t want to be using the same exact images your competitors have on their website.

Shopify, who we have created a helpful email marketing integration with, created a list of many great free stock image sites. We compiled a list our favorite sites from their list that offer free stock images for you to use in your email marketing:

  • Startup Stock: Ideal for businesses in the tech space. This site features high res stock images that focus on startup photography.
  • Pexels: This site adds five photos each day and boasts quality images featuring nature, technology and even abstract photography.
  • ISO Republic: Great photos for eCommerce. Easy to sort through images by category.
  • Cupcake: Features photography related to landscapes and nature. This site is ideal for hero images. Commercial use of the images is free.
  • Buckelistly: This site has great photographs from all over the world, which is helpful if you’re selling globally.
  • SplitShire: If you need portrait-type images or even abstract photography, this site is great for you.
  • Getrefe: This site advertising real life photos. There are a lot of cityscape images, but there’s also a good mix of everything.
  • Function: Ideal for B2B businesses, as this site feature many overhead photographs of desks.
  • Picography: A great site to find lifestyle photography for your email campaigns.
  • Stock Snap: This is a very user-friendly site that has a powerful search engine to find the best images for your business.

What To Look For In An Image

Now that we know where to find great images, let’s touch on just what makes an image great. Here are three questions that you should ask yourself when choosing an image for your email campaigns:

  1. Is it relevant to your content? It seems like common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder. Your image should represent what your email content is discussing.
  2. Is it a captivating image? A great image will draw the eye in and demand attention. Remember, you’re only going to a get a small amount of time before a subscriber decides to check the next email in their inbox. Make sure the images in your emails demand attention when they are opened.
  3. Is it a high-quality image? If you’re selecting images from the sites I suggested above, you should be in good shape. However, if you’re grabbing photos from elsewhere on the web (be sure you have the right to use it!), it’s possible that the image will be of a lesser quality. Same goes for using images you may have taken with your smartphone.

The Best Ways To Use Images

Knowing where to get free stock photos and what to look for are only the first steps. Learning how to properly use them is just as important.

Here are a few important factors to keep in mind when using images in your email marketing:

  1. Maintain a ratio of 80% text to 20% images. There a few factors that play into the reasoning behind this. First, is that image only emails are far more likely to be delivered to the spam or junk folder. Second, many inbox clients or even subscribers may have images turned off. This means your email will not display correctly if it’s too image heavy (it also means that you should plan for how your email will be viewed when images are turned off). Lastly, image-heavy emails take longer to load.
  2. Make it mobile-friendly. It’s estimated that by 2018, 8 out of 10 email users will be checking their emails from a mobile device. That means that images which feature one clear subject than can be easily understood at a smaller size will be most effective. Otherwise, you risk your images feeling too dense or crowded when viewed on a smartphone.
  3. Understand the psychology of color. You have a short window of time that a subscriber will look at each email. Why not use science to make the greatest impact in that brief moment? Certain colors influence individuals in specific ways. Pink is calming. That’s why many sports teams will paint the visitor’s locker room pink. Red encourages appetite, so many restaurants will feature red on their menus or in their logos. Here’s a helpful infographic to learn more on the psychology of color:

Psychology of Color [Infographic]

Courtesy of NowSourcing, Inc

Find Inspiration

If you’re still unsure of whether or not you’re finding the best images and using them in the most effective ways, look to the companies that you think have captivating images. It’s perfectly OK to take inspiration from those around us.

Wayfair does a great job of designing email campaigns filled with images of well-designed homes that I’d love to live in. As I’m currently nearing the time when my girlfriend will be moving in with me, we have both perused these emails and fantasized about how nice our apartment might look with some of these items.


Viyet does an excellent job with the photography in their email campaigns as well. Take, for example, this email campaign that features the sofas that they sell. Rather than the standard box images we’re all used to seeing in email campaigns, they show each sofa and nothing else. There’s nothing to distract you from the matter at hand. Plus, it breaks up the flow and encourages you to scroll through to see them all.


Groupon does a great job with photographs on their Getaways list as well. Each photograph they pick entices me to want to experience that little slice of life from the given destination.

Groupon Getaways

Photos Cannot Be Denied

The power of photography in marketing is undeniable. That is the world we live in. Our marketing cannot thrive without great photography.

Just remember, using great photographs in your email marketing is a three part process. The first part is knowing where to find great photographs. Next, is gaining an understanding of what makes a photo great. Last, is implementing photographs in your email marketing campaigns in an effective manner. Put these steps together, and you’re ready to thrive.

Share What You Do

Did we forgot one of the free stock photo sites that you prefer? Share it in the comments! We want to learn about and share everything that is out there for marketers to put to use.

Tell us about the successes you’ve had with using photographs in your email campaigns. What lessons have you learned? Share your advice and spread the wealth.

If you’re ready to put what you’ve learned to use, login to your Benchmark account or signup for a free Starter Plan and get started today.