The ultimate guide to finding the perfect background image for your landing page

By Josh Ledgard

Mar 21st, 2012

You have decided that a jaw-dropping background image for your web landing page is the right idea. Great! But how and where do you find one that fits your business?

There are several things to take into account for choosing the right background image. In this article, you’ll learn what to look for, where to find, and how to optimize your background images.

Follow along as we go over each step, in addition to providing some great advice you won’t want to ignore.


A great background image is a powerful way to boost any value proposition.

What to Look For in a Background Image

Selecting the perfect background image starts off with knowing what to look for in a great background image. Sure, you could choose any old picture for your landing page, but a carefully selected image is proven to give you far greater results.

Before you get down to searching for that perfect image, you’ll need to make a few considerations to ensure you’re picking the best image possible. Here are some of the best practices for choosing your perfect background image.

You’ll want to make sure your image:

Draws the eye

You only have a few mere seconds to really grasp your visitors attention. Your pictures are there to incite initial interest and get your viewer to read your sales copy.

An eye-catching image will compel people to stay on the page and can be used to direct them to take a desired action.

Eye-catching background image for CRO

Yum! That looks tasty! Use images that are irresistible to your target audience.

Just don’t make it too distracting

You need to strike the perfect balance between beautiful and distracting. If the image is too bold then it could pull attention away from your main call to action, having a negative effect on your conversion rate.

Matches your identity

Consider the color scheme you’ve chosen for your landing page. Is the image going to clash? Or is it going to complement the overall design?


Notice how KISSmetrics uses a blue overall color scheme for their landing page.

You’re better off keeping your background image coherent to your landing page and brand color scheme. That way you’ll focus attention to the CTA and build brand recognition along the way :)

Contrasts with your text

Sometimes image backgrounds can clash with font colors and make it difficult to read what’s on the page. Your copy should be easy to read against your background image.


This background image can work great if it had a shaded box around the text or darkened / blurred the background image to increase the readability of the copy.

Compliments your layout

Layout is incredibly important for increasing conversion rates. With careful placement, your image will draw attention to certain aspects of your copy.

coherent background image color scheme

Use a background image that compliments your layout and emphasizes the CTA.

Don’t center your form on the focal point of the image. What you want to avoid is your image taking attention away from your main call to action or sign up form.

Conveys a message

Don’t pick an image that draws more attention than the primary objective of the page.

Instead choose a background image that can complement or even help explain your business without taking away from the main call-to-action. Use your background image to reinforce the overall message, not as an attempt to communicate all at once!


This page does a great job of showing visitors what the product is about without making it too distracting.

Uses real people

Depending on the nature of your product or business, including people (or basically anything with a face) in your images can be a powerful influencer.

There are several reports and tests that can confirm human photos have positive impact on visitor’s first impression of trustworthiness.


The new study claims that faces don’t always attract as much attention as we think they do…


Example: a hotel search website, featuring an incredibly happy couple with clearly visible faces. Yet users only seem to care about the search box and the call to action in the center.

While it’s a great study, I happened to notice one key trait in most of the images: The faces are looking at something!

As humans, we have a tendency to look at faces (they can be very powerful and convincing), but more influential to us is the direction that people are looking at.

Think of it as a form of social proof: where the person in the image is saying with their eyes “hey! this product is great!”

Use this kind of directional cue to your advantage when choosing a background image and direct your visitors attention to your primary objective.


Notice the direction the guys are looking in? BOOM! Enter your email address.

Carefully selected images of real people adds a human element to the page and can help to increase visitor trust levels.

One word of advice when using images of people; avoid using stock images and favour non-paid or self taken images, it comes across as more genuine.

No image? No problem.

Maybe you don’t need one. Use the power of compelling copy to get your message across.


You can create some striking effects using basic typography with a soothing, solid background color.

I actually kind of like this route, because it forces you to put extra effort into writing your copy.

Where to Find Images

There’s a number of places online where you can find potential images for your landing page. As with most website or business options, there are paid and free versions.

There are pros and cons to each, but ultimately the benefits for paid images (at least from a business perspective) far outweigh the disadvantages.

It Pays to… Pay?!

Let’s look at the paid options available, namely because our customers have had a lot of success with the following services. Going with a paid option has a distinct speed and simplicity advantage:


  • Save time – Images from many paid services are often separated into categories and tags making it extremely quick to filter your chosen area.
  • Right sizing – Most of the paid options offer the images in a variety of sizes. Most of the time you really only need the medium-sized version that’s roughly 1600×1200 pixels. No need to try and optimize, crop, or resizing the image yourself.
  • Quality and resolution – Generally speaking, paid services will have a higher number of higher quality images in various sizes, making design a lot easier. The resolution will very high quality so you don’t need to worry about blurry, pixelated images.
  • Test Images – Most of these services let you download a small branded version of the image… so you can test to see if the full size one will look good.
  • Usage rights – What if you accidentally misread the usage guidelines or if one day you’ll be hit with an unexpected fine? Nah. You paid for it… no fuss, no muss.
  • Smarter search and browsing – Needless to say the paid image providers aim to offer a better service than their free counterparts. Most of these marketplaces offer the ability to look for similar shots once you find some you like. If you value your time you’ll value this compared to the free approach.


  • Not exclusive – A lot of the stock images have been seen around the web before and are played out. People can tell if your using the same ol’ stock images.
  • Predictable –  Sometimes stock photos look, well like stock photos.
  • It costs money – You have to pay for it :), but if you’re really in business this shouldn’t be an issue.


_Who’s a good stock photo?



Boasting a library of over 35 million images, vectors and footage clips shutter stock is a popular option. For on-demand pictures ($19 for one, $49 for five – or a $249/month subscription) Shutterstock has reasonable prices and plenty of flexibility for larger operations.

Big Stock Photo

At $12.99 for xl/vector pictures, Bigstock offers yet another choice for landing page images. A nice feature with this is additional categories, such as typography.


Another site with images numbering in the millions. Payment varies based on whether you pay-as-you-go or use cost-saving subscriptions (as with many other sites). This site has a strong community, as plenty of ratings and reviews are present for pictures.


Just over 16 million pictures are available at our final featured site, Fotolia.com. Compare low prices along with tags, categories, and other perks makes this another worthy stop on your royalty free stock photo search.

Getty Images

The library at Getty features millions of stock images and illustrations with thousands of hours of video. Not a cheap option as price can be worked out on a number of variables such as time you intend to use the image for, however the selection is great and the UI very easy to navigate.

Freedom from Fees

Not so crazy about spending money for an awesome background image? I don’t blame you, we know what it’s like to keep it lean.

Getting your landing page background for free doesn’t mean you’re cheap – you’re just a do-it-yourself kind of a person. Well, at least you’re finding the pictures yourself:


  • No cost – All images are free and will usually remain that way providing you properly sourced them.
  • Increasing choices – The free image selection is still not as large as its paid counterpart, however, there are increasingly more sites that offer free images significantly increasing your choice.


  • Takes time – No way of sorting through images. Prepare on spending tons of time sorting through images that aren’t as relevant to your vision as you’d like them to be.
  • Make adjustments – In order to get your background image “pixel perfect”, you may have to do some additional cropping or scaling of the image.
  • Complicated licensing – Have to deal with different licensing and attribution types. Free doesn’t come without a cost. Take a look at the intricate Creative Commons licenses.

As you can imagine, this option involves a lot more legwork. It will certainly require more time and hunting for the perfect picture.

Try searching Bing or Google Images for “<Your Theme/TOPIC> Wallpaper” images for a good start.


Both search engines have options to filter by size (You want X-Large), color (match your scheme), and type of image.

Although slightly less intuitive than Bing or Google Image Search, it’s still a goldmine of a library. This site will let you filter your search to include only results from certain sites. If you don’t like the UI on this site, you could always just head to the source site listed on their main page.


I’ve been noticing a strong trend in a lot of companies sourcing their images on Flickr. This (in my humble opinion) is possibly one of the best options for finding free quality images. Most of the content are photographs taken by real people – no stock photo cheesiness here.

Good places to start off are here and here.

More awesome free options

There’s also some really good suggestions from a couple users on Quora (where you can find me hanging out answering interesting questions):

Take it yourself

I’m certain that some of you are budding photographers. You may already have the perfect image in your library.  It might be worth a peek and the advantage is that it will be more personal to you.

With free images, you are getting what you pay for. It’s possible to find the odd gem but it’s likely that you’re going to be searching for a while. When using images from free sources, ensure to have proper accreditation to prevent any future backlash.

Exclusives for KickoffLabs Customers

If by now you haven’t found the right background image for your campaign. No worries, we’ve got you covered…

We recently added over 150+ FREE background images you can use on ANY landing page. There’s a great selection of people, places, blurred images, and amazing wood textures to choose from. No mucking about with paid or free search options necessary!

Login now to start using the bonus included images or upload your own.

How to optimize your images

You’ve followed the steps above and have chosen the perfect background image for your website. Optimizing your images for maximum conversion rate doesn’t stop there. Here’s what to do after you have the perfect image ready:

Shrink image size

Did you know that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less? It’s obvious that page load time has an enormous effect on your page conversion rates.

Especially since background images tend to be a lot larger in file size, this can significantly increase the time it takes to load your page.

Use an image optimization tool like Kraken.io or Yahoo! Smushit to reduce the file size.

In many cases I’ve been able to easily reduce file sizes by over 75%. Do your visitors a favor and shrink your images before your upload them to your page.

By the way, you should always be optimizing images for small file size regardless of whether it’s for a background image or not.

Name and tag your image

Your current image probably has a generic name like “person_standing_facing_front_1600x120.webp” or something of the sort. If you’re looking to get any SEO juice out of your newly chosen background image, you need to change the name of the image and the alt tags within your code.


Add a descriptive, keyword-rich title to both so that search engines can crawl your image file name.

A/B testing

If we’re being completely honest there are a number of different options and considerations to be made in ensuring your landing pages success. It’s going to take a short while and a bit of trial and error to discover what combination resonates best with your audience.

The best way to measure and improve your conversion rate is to implement some A/B testing. Create a few different pages and see which brings in the best results, tweak your less successful pages to get the best overall result.

What should you test?

Here are a couple suggestions to get you started:

A/B Test #1

If you’re looking to increase the trust factor of the page, try experimenting with human faces in your background images.

Look at how the folks over at Basecamp (formerly 37Signals) increased their signup rate by 102.5% using a large, person-based background image.


A/B Test #2

If the goal of the page is to direct people’s attention to a main CTA, I would experiment with different background images using directional cues to focus attention on the primary objective of the page. Whether that be the headline, CTA or signup form.


How can you get more insights as to how your images may be affecting the user experience?

Use heatmaps and user recordings as complementary data to A/B testing:

In Conclusion

You’re well on your way to conversion rate optimization bliss! But if your copy, CTA, form or page layout is lacking, an amazing background image WILL NOT save you from CRO failure. It’s just one piece of the conversion rate optimization puzzle.

A great background image, combined with good landing page design, is only one of the fundamental steps in achieving success from your landing pages, websites and marketing campaigns.

With all that… how do you look for the best images to use for your sites?

What else would you test for with your background images?

Did we miss anything? Let us know!


– Josh, Co-founder KickoffLabs


P.S. You now have your perfect, highly-optimized background image :) When you’re ready to start seeing more increase in your lead generation and conversion rates, give KickoffLabs a try. We give you DIY tools (landing pages, email capture widgets, opt-in forms & more) to stop building landing pages and start building smarter campaigns.

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