Email newsletter campaigns are a staple in digital marketing strategy because they're a cost-effective way to boost brand awareness and client engagement, convert subscribers into buyers, and overall market your brand or e-commerce project further.
To be fruitful, every element in an email newsletter has to be crafted to hit the target: from opening the email, to reading it, to clicking on its call-to-actions. And no element is more assertive than images.
Pictures are key for your email to grab attention, drive it right to your CTAs, and compel viewers to click. Visual content also makes people engage and remember your brand or product better, they convey a certain mood and personality like nothing else can. And don't just take our word: it's proven that images increase engagement by 650% compared to text-only content!
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Now, let's talk about how to pick the most successful and converting newsletter images.
Get High-Quality Images for Newsletters
Email marketing is all about strategy and calculation, and thus planning an email campaign can be time-consuming without adding the burden of sourcing great images to use.
Even more, the Royalty-Free license issued with these images is commercial-ready, perpetual, and unlimited, meaning you pay a very small fee for the image once, and you get to repurpose it within your marketing campaign as much as you wish. You could use the same images in your newsletters, your social media posts, your web page, and so on!
Plus, there are very user-friendly tools that make it dead simple to design newsletters, such as Adobe Creative Cloud Express (formerly Adobe Spark). And if you're not a fan of Adobe products but like this kind of functionality, you can explore this long list of Adobe Creative Cloud Express alternatives here!
Still, paid royalty-free images are totally safe for sending messages to your customers or potential customers, and won’t break your bank. Learn more about royalty-free license terms!
Have a quick look at the best stock photos sites to get high-quality newsletter images at budget-friendly rates:
Photocase – Authentic & Fun Images
Based in Berlin, it opens up a highly-curated library of authentic, out-of-the-box styled images. Learn it all in the Photocase review and get 5 free credits + 10% off with the Photocase coupon code.
Stock Photo Secrets – Affordable High-Quality Photos
The most budget-friendly stock photo site for small and medium-sized businesses. Beautiful images, low prices, and flexible plans. Get the full scope in the Stock Photo Secrets review and grab 200 images for $99 with the Stock Photo Secrets' 99club.
Shutterstock – Largest Stock Photo Library
The giant in stock photos, with over 230 million images available. A titanic library with uber-commercial style and affordable rates. All details are inside the Shutterstock review. Save up to 15% or even 20% with special promotions using the Shutterstock coupon code, or try it without spending with the Shutterstock free trial!
iStock – Exclusive Stock Images
A classy stock photo catalog divided into budget photos and exclusive, high-end shots, both affordable and royalty-free. A complete walkthrough is in the iStock review. Unlock up to 15% in saving with the iStock promo code.
Adobe Stock – Great Photos for Adobe Fans
Adobe's proprietary stock photo service is available within Creative Cloud and as a stand-alone. Superb image quality and subscription plans for every need. Find out more in the Adobe Stock review. But, before buying, use the Adobe Stock free trial.
123RF – Cool Images with Flexible Prices
A well-established company with professional images and flexible pricing options for everyone. Get an insightful look at the 123RF review. Save up to 20% on your photos with the 123RF coupon code
Dreamstime – Stock Images for Every Need
A reputable stock photo site offering millions of beautiful images both on-demand or with a subscription. Find out everything about them in the Dreamstime review
Use Images to Boost Up Your Newsletter's Impact
Email images aren't just about being pretty and eye-catching, you need them because they are a highly effective way to get your subscribers to understand what you’re conveying in your email message and to behave the way you want them to (i.e. to click-through and convert).
Photos, illustrations, and even motion imagery say a lot more than a thousand words can, and you can use them to hit on various email marketing goals, such as:
- Convert: The number one goal of almost all newsletters is to get the recipient to take a step further – go from subscriber to buyer, from one-time buyer to member, etc.
- Engage readers: Blocks of text aren’t enticing, no matter how great the copy is. Images make everything more exciting and easy to understand.
But consider your target carefully! The images that attract millennials are very particular and different from the kind of photos that appeal to baby boomers, for example.
- Enforce a message: A very powerful message can be lost in a flavorless, blank email. Backing it up with images can bring it up to the center stage
- Boost up brand image and personality: Images are great mood-setters, choosing the right photos you can portray your brand’s tone a lot better than any keyword ever could. Get the best tips for visual branding!
And this is just scratching the surface!
What we have to clear is that, by all means, using images in newsletters is a proven strategy to help hit your campaign’s goals. Learn more about what makes the best images for marketing!
Pick Hit Newsletter Images That Are Comprehensive and Current
Email images that convert have a logic behind them, to select them wisely. Remember, they are there for a purpose and not just to add art to an otherwise blend screen.
The main cue to choose great newsletter images is to stay deep within the topic. Let’s say your email is about a new tropical cocktail mix; an image of a lady relaxing on her lawn chair with a fruity cocktail in her hand is a perfect fit, a photo of an attractive bartender working a cocktail mixer could work as well, but pictures of a young number of people dancing in a club, or of a busy bar downtown, are going to be less evocative.
Another super important tip is to use photos of people, all the better if they convey specific emotions. It's proven that viewers respond better to pictures that show people than those without them. In this case, an image of a daiquiri glass against a sunset would technically be on-topic and might work well as a product image, but in terms of converting your email receiver into a paying customer, you're better off with the photo of the lady drinking in her backyard.
Also, you need to consider your target audience carefully. The above picture is perfect to address baby boomers, but it's not the best fit to target millennials, for example.
Next point, you need to think about colors. As the psychology of color tells us, each color connects to different emotions and concepts. Selecting color combinations that trigger the right responses from viewers is the way to make your visuals drive results. For example, red is linked to excitement and action, plus it's an appetite opener and stimulant in general. A red cocktail drink is a great choice in this case.
Finally, it's a matter of style. Today’s best stock photos have the particularity of not looking like stock photos at all. There are millions of authentic-looking, more artistic, and intimate-styled photos available to license that will resonate with your audience a lot better than any dated, overly-produced, picture-perfect shot. Final tip: focus on diversity and inclusion, it’s THE visual trend of our days.
Design with Mobile and Email Clients in Mind
We’ve covered what the best newsletter images are, now let’s talk about the ultimate ways to use them to ensure email campaign success.
Firstly, you need to make your whole design mobile-friendly. Most people read emails using a Smartphone –iPhone or similar– or tablet. Plus, what looks good on a mobile phone screen will likely look good on a computer screen, but vice versa isn’t the case. So making sure your images and text will look nice on a mobile screen should be your priority.
In terms of image size, most email marketing services and email clients set up the width to a max of 600 pixels. The best practice is to comply with this maximum 600px width to avoid a weird-looking design and images getting visually cut. But it’s also important not to go wild with the image height; remember many subscribers will see the newsletter on mobile and if you make an image too long, when resized for smaller screens they’ll become un-viewable. Learn all about standard image sizes for marketing materials!
If you’re going to create images with text overlays, it’s smart to choose a font size that will still be readable when resized for small mobile screens.
Next and equally relevant, is file size. Email images must be as small as possible to retain definition and pass under the email clients’ file size limits, which are a maximum of 1 MB. However, you should aim at keeping your files at 100 KB or less for good measure. If you use PNG or JPG files, you can easily compress them with tools like tinypng which is web-based and free. In most cases, this compression doesn’t affect image quality almost at all.
Finally, carefully consider the design of your email image header, especially for the first 2 inches that are immediately visible on-screen upon opening. It’s the ideal placing for a simple but eye-catching banner that presents your subject, or your brand, and visually invites people to read the rest of the content.
Keep a Balance Between Images and Text
It’s best practice to compose newsletters with one-third committed to images. Not one-third of a whole block, but spread across the whole text.
Image blocker: do not design image-only emails. Today, most email clients have image blockers that remove all images from massive-sent emails, and not all users disable this filter. Design your email with this in mind, do not put the most critical information in images only, back it up with an attractive copy. Same for call-to-actions, they should be texted with a link, or buttons, not images.
Alt-text: If your images are still blocked by the image blocker, you can use the alternative text (alt-text) in your image, which will be displayed if the image can’t be loaded, as a bit of informative copy in its place, even as a call-to-action.
Add Motion Fun with GIFs and Videos
A lot of email clients don’t allow emails with videos embedded. Even the ones that do, would still classify that as spam due to the large file size. But there are options to bypass this, and you should really take them because motion imagery is a goldmine!
GIFs: animated GIFs are a much lighter way to add motion imagery to emails, plus they are effective bite-size clips that drive results: according to a case study by Marketing Sherpa, GIFs can increase email conversion rate by 103%!
GIFs are relatively simple to create thanks to online tools, too. The best practices? Make them less than 1 MB in size, no more than 600px wide, and don’t overuse them.
Still image + video link: you can use a still image that simulates to be a video, with a click-to-play invitation, and link the video there to another platform (like YouTube) so when readers click they are sent to see it there. Learn more about how to use stock photos to make videos!
User-Friendly Editing Tools for Beautiful Newsletters – Add Text, Use Templates, and More
Email marketing services aren’t the only ones with design solutions for newsletters. Several simple design tools –aimed at the non-designer– offer templates for things like newsletters, email banners, etc. They’re rather simple to use, they help to achieve a high-quality final result, and in most cases they’re free.
So when it comes to editing your newsletter images, these tools can be a real-life-saver.
Shutterstock Create (Part of Shutterstock Creative Flow)
Our favorite, by far, is Shutterstock Create. A user-friendly and very effective design tool offered by Shutterstock as part of their Shutterstock Creative Flow platform, which is full of AI-driven, online tools for creatives.
This editing service comes with lots of customizable templates for newsletters, plus simple features to change colors, fonts, sizes, and other elements to make the design unique. Of course, you also have access to Shutterstock images to use in your creations.
Shutterstock Creative Flow has a free-for-all version, albeit with limitations in functionality and stock media resources. The full, premium version is Creative Flow+ and it comes at $12.99/mo… but it's included FOR FREE with any Shutterstock subscription! A great added value, especially since you can now get a Shutterstock download plan at a cut price using our Shutterstock coupon code!
Even better, you can try both Creative Flow+ and Shutterstock images (10 of them) entirely free for a whole month, with the Shutterstock free trial!
Check Shutterstock's Email Trends 2021 for inspiration!
Another of our go-to tools is Canva. They have not only emailed header templates, but also whole newsletter templates within a very user-friendly editor. Canva it’s free, and you also have Canva Pro with a lot of additional value for businesses and a super low price!
See our Canva Pro review for more details, and check here for more on Canva Pro pricing.
Last but not least, we really like Visme, a web-based and very user-friendly design platform that focuses on brand visuals, and comes with a simple yet effective Online Newsletter Maker that lets you design and share a newsletter in a few clicks. Parting from premade templates that are fully customizable with your proprietary elements plus a collection of free resources (images, icons, fonts, etc.), you can have newsletters for printing, emailing, and social media ready to go in a matter of minutes.
The best? It's free to try it out and design as much as you like. You only need to pay if you decide to download your creations, and even then, the prices are super affordable. Check out Visme's Newsletter Maker right here.
You can also use a variety of free design tools to do quick edits, such as adding text to images. Snappa and DesignBold are two of many, many options for this.
See our updated list of free design software tools!
BONUS: Use Email Marketing Services to Make Your Life Easier
There are marketing platforms that make every marketer or business owner’s life easier by handling and automating tedious processes such as a massive email campaign and periodic newsletters.
Besides managing the output and input, and collecting and reporting data like open rates, click-through rates, and more, most of these services include email templates that take care of image-to-text ratio, design, buttons, responsiveness across different screens and platforms, and other relevant UX aspects. Here are some top recommendations:
Mailchimp is an all-in-one marketing platform for small businesses that includes email marketing, digital ads, social media management, statistics, and more.
MailerLite is an email marketing expert service that handles everything from campaigns and landing pages to automation and surveys.
Active Campaign is a company offering comprehensive and scalable email marketing solutions to plan, segment, automate, send out, and track results from newsletters.
Tap On Images to Boost Up your Email Newsletters
In conclusion, although images have no effect on your email open rates, they do have an impact on the effectiveness of your newsletters overall, and they are a handy resource to add power to your message, as long as you:
- Use on-topic, trendy, professional photos
- Design for mobile screens and don’t overdo the visual side of things
- Use design and marketing services to simplify the creation process
So off you go, we’ll love to see what awesome newsletter images you come up with next!
Header image: Copyright by Marie Maerz/Photocase.com, all rights reserved