Why Images in Email Don’t Display Automatically

… and What You Can Do About It

<Update: I forgot some images in the first posting. Doh!>

I worked for Constant Contact®, a leading email marketing company, for  a period of time in customer support. During that time, we would get a frequent request:

“How can I force my images to appear as soon as the reader opens my newsletter?”

The answer was always, “You can’t. It’s a function of the email program the recipient is using to read their email. Only they can control it.”

Frustrating answer, I know.

Microsoft Outlook has the best explanation for why images are blocked by default:

“Blocking pictures in email messages can help protect your privacy. Pictures in HTML email can require [the download of] pictures from a server. Communicating to an external server in this way can verify to the sender that your email address is valid, possibly making you the target of more junk mailings.”

Therefore, before opening or downloading the images, make sure you’re opening email from a trusted source.

How You Can Change Your Email Configuration to Display Images

What I thought I would do, though, is find out if there is a way to change this default configuration. So I did some poking around with some common email programs.

The images below and the explanations may not exactly match your experience as we could be using different versions of the applications. However, they should be close enough that a smart person like you can work through the differences.

My apologies to Apple users.


Gmail also disables images to protect you from unknown senders, like spammers, who use images and links to verify that your email address is real.

You can choose to display images from trusted addresses by clicking on the link at the top of the Gmail message: “Always display images from <email address>”.

Per Google Support, as of this writing:  “At the moment, you can’t set Gmail to display all images from any sender; you must do this on a per-contact basis.”

You can change your mind and disable future images by opening the message, clicking on “Show details” and clicking on the link “Don’t display from now on.”

Yahoo! mail

If images are not displaying automatically after opening in Yahoo! mail,

  1. Click on the Options label in the upper left corner of Yahoo! and select “Mail Options” from the drop-down menu.
  2. Find the Spam Protection section and the “Show images in emails:” label.
  3. Choose either “Always, except in Spam” or “Only from my contacts or certified senders” from the drop-down selections.
  4. Click the Save button, to save your changes.
Yahoo! email configuration changes

Yahoo! email configuration changes

AOL mail

You can selectively allow images in AOL by clicking the link “Don’t block this sender” at the top of an open email. Or you can allow images from all senders by clicking on the link “Turn off image blocking,” also at the top (right) of the message.

Alternatively, you can reset the global settings:

  1. Click on Options in the upper right corner of the AOL window (under your login name).
  2. Under Options, click on Settings.
  3. Find the “Reading” section under General Settings and click in the box next to “Hide images in mail from unknown senders” to enable or disable this functionality.
  4. Click the Save Settings button at the bottom of the page.
AOL email configuration changes

AOL email configuration changes


Hotmail always blocks content from suspicious-looking senders, but you can control what they do for senders that have good reputations but who you haven’t marked as safe. To update your settings,

  1. Click on Options in the upper right corner (under your name or alias), then click on “More options…”
  2. On the Hotmail Options page, find the section labeled “Preventing junk email,”, then click on “Filters and reporting” (obvious, right?).
  3. On the “Filters and reporting” page, under the heading “Block content from unknown senders,” select your preference.
  4. Click the Save button.
Hotmail configuration changes

Hotmail configuration changes

Outlook email

To display images automatically,

  1. Click on: Tools > Options > Security tab > Change Automatic Download Settings… (in the Download Pictures section).
  2. Click in the boxes in the pop-up window to activate or de-activate the settings to your preference.
  3. Click OK to save, then click OK again.
Outlook configuration changes

Outlook configuration changes

Any messages with images should now display them when opened.

Is the Graphic Format Supported?

Another reason images may not display in your email: the email program may not recognize or be capable of displaying the image’s format. .jpg and .gif formats are broadly used and accepted formats. However, another format that’s becoming popular is .png (Portable Network Graphics), but AOL, for example, does not support it!

What If It Still Doesn’t Work?

These instructions should work for most of the people, most of the time. If they don’t work for you, there are two other possible reasons: your browser configuration and/or the security software you use. These are 2 whole other discussions, neither of which I feel qualified to start.

Which sort of brings us back to the reason the images were being blocked in the first place: Security. Just sayin’…


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