email-imageryResearch tells us that when people read information, there’s a good chance they’ll only remember 10% of the detail three days later. However, pair said information with a relevant, engaging image, and the same people are likely to recall 65% of what they saw three days later.

When it comes to email marketing (or any form of promotion, for that matter), leaving a lasting impression is absolutely vital. Clearly, one way to do that is with imagery.

However, unless you have constant access to a graphic designer, professional photographer or expensive stock imagery, how do you A) decide upon the best visuals for your email campaigns, and B) find them?

Writing the copy for an email marketing campaign isn’t easy, but sourcing the right imagery can be a real stumbling block for the uninitiated.

In this post, I’m going to pick one of my favourite free image sites and then offer 6 ways to use the visuals it’ll provide to increase those all-important click-throughs on your campaigns.

Firstly, though…

…a word of warning

Don’t head for Google Images when looking for photos to use on your emails. Although you’ll find what appears to be a treasure-trove of usable images, many will be copyrighted and not free for public use.

Google Images is by far the easiest route, but it could land you in hot water further down the line.

Thankfully, there are alternatives.

A great, royalty-free image site

Instead, try Pixabay. This brilliant website has a vast, growing library of photos and images that are free for anyone to use. They’re all filed under Creative Commons CC0, which means they can be downloaded, modified, re-distributed and used on anything you wish.

Most importantly, images obtained on Pixabay can be used commercially. All I recommend you do is reference the source of the image in the footer of your email by including the text ‘Image source’ containing a link to the URL of the image in question.

So, now we’ve got our free image site, let’s consider how to pick the best images for that next email campaign.

1. Don’t be afraid to experiment

Ok, the meerkat thing has been done to death, but this email from a web analytics firm makes great use of the furry creatures:


It’s cheeky, cute and immediately engaging. And their train of thought is clear to see; they wanted to make an impact with an amusing image of an animal that is, by its very nature, always seemingly surprised, but they wanted to ensure it also chimed with the central message. Their product will surprise you. One of the meerkats in particular is – you guessed it – surprised.

Experiment with images that feature objects and animals that, on the surface, have nothing to do with your brand. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s likely to leave a longer-lasting impact on your subscribers.

2. Go colourful

Colour attracts, and vibrant imagery with bright, bold colours will be a magnet for your subscribers’ eyes.

Remember – if you find the perfect photo but it still needs a dash of colour, the fact you can alter those found on Pixabay means you can always fire up Photoshop and use the digital paintbrush to really bring it alive.


3. Always go for quality

As great as Pixabay is, because it’s a free service, there are a few less-than-impressive examples of photography and image creation on there.

Never opt for a visual that is less than stellar because you’re in a rush. Keep flicking through the pages until you find something of real quality – it’s worth the effort.

4. Think like a photographer

Professional snappers opt for low angles, silhouettes, shallow depths of field (i.e. sharp-focus subjects/blurred backgrounds) and long exposures. When sourcing images for your email campaign, think like a photographer and opt for the stuff that wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy magazine.


5. Feature your target audience

Nothing speaks to your subscribers quite like imagery that appears to reflect them. If you can, try and find photos featuring your buyer personas.

If you can’t find specific photos of people that match your target audience, opt for imagery that they can relate to, whether it be the types of clothes they wear, favourite hobbies or the kind of things they’re likely to get up to at the weekend.


6. Use just one image (but make it a good one)

With so many free images to choose from, you may be tempted to place as many as possible into every corner of your email campaign. Unfortunately, in doing so, you’ll only bamboozle subscribers.

Instead, focus on choosing one eye-catching image. Pick the right one and you simply won’t need anything more to get people clicking.


And finally…

Exhausted Pixabay and still can’t find what you’re looking for? Why not do it yourself? If you’ve got a modern smartphone in your pocket, you’ve got a camera capable of taking high-quality photos befit for any email marketing campaign. Experiment and find the image you need by leaving your desk and heading out into the great outdoors.