It’s All About Placement

People often ask us why one of their email recipients can’t see a picture they’ve sent. There are multiple answers to this question but we’re going to explore just one of them today.

Take a look at this screen capture of an email that’s almost ready to send:

Screen capture of an email with a picture inserted

As you can see, the picture is showing in the same area where you would type your message. The procedure to get a picture into the text area is called inserting. My email software gave me the option to “Insert a picture” and that’s what I did. If I were to send this email to numerous people, most would see the picture when they received it. However, there might be others who only see a X where the picture used to be or perhaps nothing at all. Why would that happen?

For most email services, the area where you type your message is written in HTML code – just like the coding for a website. The HTML coding allows you to insert pictures, use different fonts, change the size and color of the font and various other options. Using HTML coding makes your email look much more interesting than just plain old text.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this. Just as a picture can be inserted into the text area of an email, so can a virus or malware. An email that just looks like something “nice” could be carrying a payload of evil. For this reason, many large enterprises and companies use software (on the server which receives their emails) that strips out the HTML code and only leaves text. If I sent the above email to some of my friends who work in school districts, government departments and some large companies, they would only see an X (or maybe nothing at all). They would never see the picture.

Because most of us don’t know which organizations or companies strip out the HTML code, my suggestion is to always attach a picture instead of inserting it. Attachments can be scanned for viruses and malware and blocked if such software is found.

Here’s what my same email looks like when the picture is attached instead of inserted:

Screenshot of an email with a picture attached.

My advice: even though many email providers use software which allows you to insert a picture, attach the picture instead. Your recipient is far more likely to actually receive the picture, if you do.

Of course, attachments should never be opened unless you know that they are coming and you are sure they are safe. With this in mind, you might be better off scrapping the whole idea of inserting or attaching a photo and use a photo-sharing service instead. (More about that in the next blog post.)