What’s Unsplash, and why I will not use it

Recently there has been a lot of going on about Unsplash. All the photography websites and some bloggers are talking about the platform that is currently gaining traction. I decided to take a look at it and see what all the fuzz is about.

So what is Unsplash?

Let me first explain what the website is. On Unsplash photographers can upload their photo’s, just like on any regular stock-photography website. The difference is that users can commercially license the photo for free. So there is no need to pay or even credit the photographer. However, it is encouraged to mention their name.

It’s a great tool for marketers looking for low budget but quality visuals to use. Publishers working on a story can bring it alive with some photos. And useful for social media managers looking to diversify their posts.

What does Unsplash do for amateurs?

Most of the discussions happening online are with professional photographers in mind. These discussions forget the huge amount of amateur photographers that make quality images. So let’s talk about their possibilities first.

It’s free and popular

Amateurs can get their photos out to people without having to pay for it. Now, iStock and other websites are free to use too. But you need to have a VAT-number to get paid. So with Unsplash, that problem is bypassed.

The platform is quite popular too. I uploaded eight photos and got over 80.000 views on my photos within two weeks. I wasn’t even active on the platform. Is was just an upload.

Easy and motivating way to start in stock photography

Getting into stock photography is often a bit annoying and hard. Applying to the right sites, getting your photos approved, having model releases, property releases, and so on. With Unsplash, there is no issue. You get approved fairly easy and the photo selection isn’t too harsh. It’s also not necessary to include your property or model release. With that, there is an issue which I will discuss later on in the article.

What does Unsplash do for professionals?

There are a lot of articles written about this perspective already. So I am just going to list some of them up and link you to my favorite articles and videos.

Unsplash gets your work out there

Often you make photos in your spare time too, and those photos sit on your hard drive, never to be used again. Which is unfortunate. So why not allow others to use them? Even better, in the article below, the photographer actually got a recurring client out of those photos. How cool, right?

What I’ve learned after sharing my photos for free on Unsplash for 4 years on Dpreview.com

Unsplash gets your name out there

You post your photos on the platform with your name on it. Just like with Instagram. The difference is that people can also use your photos and share them. They are encouraged to add your name, and there is even a button they can embed to make sure their readers follow you.

The biggest ‘However’: Pitfalls for amateurs and professionals

Unfortunately, I am not as positive about Unsplash and their advantages. I hope you kept reading up to this point and didn’t go an account after reading the positive possibilities I mentioned earlier.

You’re giving away your work for free

I already mentioned this one. But it’s a tough one the consider. You won’t get any money for it and even the exposure isn’t necessarily given. People are enabled to mention you, but they don’t have to. They can just post your photo anywhere without any credentials.

The legal issues

It’s not necessary to upload a property or model release. However, you still need it. If you don’t have one, upload a photo of someone, and they see their face in a magazine. Well, first of all, they won’t be happy. Second of all, you are fully responsible for the use of the photo. Even if the publisher didn’t mention your name. So make sure to be aware of this.

Read more about the issues with Unsplash on Fstopper.com.

A bigger reach than Instagram.

Without any real investment of time or money, I gained a bigger reach on my photos than on Instagram. So why isn’t it better to post there? Well, none of the brands on Unsplash care about you. They need a photo, you provided one. That’s that.

On Instagram, you can build a community that comes back. The brands there will hire you for your great work, and not just use a photo of you for a quick hit. It’s also a better place to get influencer work done.

I got +650 downloads, not a single mention

In two weeks time, more than 650 people downloaded a photo I made. None of them mention me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or their website. That kind of sounds like a crappy deal to me. I have no idea who they are or why they want to use my photo. So yeah, let’s hope none of my photos don’t end up somewhere on a bad, bad website.

I’m keeping my account online and leave the photos up there. I want to keep following the evolutions. However, I will not add any new photos to my library. I don’t think it’s worth the time or energy.

What are your thoughts on this platform? Are you using it as a publisher or a photographer? Let me know in the comments below!

Related blog posts:

2 thoughts on “What’s Unsplash, and why I will not use it”

  1. Hi Frederic,

    that is very on point written. As a professional photographer myself and a founder of free image bank – Pixbuster.com I would like to notify also the other dark side of the free image banks.

    They get all content for free from photographers but no one talks about the fact that biggest free image banks makes millions of income with the ads and affiliate marketing. They do not share any of that to the contributors which makes that business possible. That is very unethical for my opinion.

    Why I started free image bank is that my sales in biggest image banks have declined for over 10 years straight and I’m struggling. I was full time stock photographer 8 years ago but today I can manage only by paid gigs. I have tons of stock photos and I founded Pixbuster to share those for free and hopefully someday would generate some income from the ads. What makes it more ethical is that all photos are my own so I’m definetely not ripping of it from other photographers pockets.

    Free Image Banks have come to stay and the volume is so massive that I think most people just does not care the legal issues despite it is a big warning sign to use people images with their faces without model releases. In Pixbuster I have atleast model releases to confirm the safe use of people images.

    All the best and stay safe,


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.