Free Photo Site Unsplash Reaches One Million Uploads and Recreates First 10 Photos

Free Photo Site Unsplash Reaches One Million Uploads and Recreates First 10 Photos

If I need a quick image for something that I don't already have a shot of, I often will head to Unsplash. All the images were uploaded by photographers with the intention of being used, so why deprive them?

Unsplash started in 2013 as a Tumblr blog promising 10 high-resolution photos every 10 days that could be freely downloaded and used for anything. There were no usage rights or complex licenses. Basically, if you used it and wanted to credit the photographer, great. If not, that was fine too. It is the share and share-alike feel of open source software finding its way into the photography genre that has been traditionally been very rights sensitive.

Six years later, Unsplash boasts a modern, polished site featuring a large, centered search box and a curated grid of featured photos. The team does a good job selecting contemporary photos fitting the latest trends. It also has a life well beyond the website alone via its API used by a number of companies like Medium, Trello, and Squarespace. While the downloads may be free, running such a large operation on the web is not. A recent Medium post by the companies co-founder, Luke Chesser, places the hosting fees alone at around $100,000 a month.

As a tribute to their humble beginnings, the Unsplash team decided to recreate their first 10 free photos and post them to Tumblr with a well-implemented fade from the old to the new shot. I'd say they pulled them all off well, but the originals are a bit warmer. Maybe just a reflection of the times.

Lead photo by Unsplash.

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25 Comments

We can't complain about our work not being valued if it is given away for free all of the time.

Simon Patterson's picture

Not sure about you, but my work is not given away for free all the time.

Leigh Miller's picture

Are you kidding me?

Let's look at it again but differently this time...

Look at their "PARTNERS" page...do you see all the companies like Squarespace, Peak Design, Moment?

Companies that purport to be supportive and protective of the photography/video industry.

These sites don't help us, they devalue what we do in the worst way.

Jeff McCollough's picture

And all the poor Youtube photographers run to promote Squarspace and they know that Squarespace is partnered with a site the devalues photography.

Leigh Miller's picture

Well...I wasn't going to say anything

Lemmie see if I understand what’s going on here: A photographer writes an advertorial for a photography community site to promote a microstock agency that gives away photographers’ work for free, and is thus itself consequently helping to drive the stock industry into the ground?

So many things wrong with this whole situation, I don’t even know where to begin. I *could* begin with the author’s credentials, but that wouldn’t be polite. I could drone on about how photographers (like Democrats) seem to have a proclivity for eating their own, but we already know that. I suppose I could rail against Unsplash’s business model, but it’s been discussed to death. I could certainly condemn all the YouTube photography channels that promote Square Space and contribute to the further erosion of stock photography.

Instead, I’ll just say this: Fstoppers, at least have the editorial decency to label this piece an advertorial somewhere in the article…you know, like proper news organizations do.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Are you kidding me? "If I need a quick image for something that I don't already have a shot of, I often will head to Unsplash. All the images were uploaded by photographers with the intention of being used, so why deprive them?" So basically you felt that this is OK to brag about this on a site like Fstoppers? Or is that some kind of hidden sponsored article? This kind of sites represents all what's wrong with the creative business nowadays (together with Instagram).

Michael Jin's picture

Half of the lead images on Fstoppers articles are from Unsplash anyway... not really news.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Why does Fstoppers love Unsplash so much?

Dan Marchant's picture

Because it's free. They can benefit commercially from having more interesting looking pages without having to share that benefit with the image creator.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Photographers not respecting photographers. Sad.

They can go away. One of the worst things to come along for photographers ever. It’s sad that those other companies are partnering with them. Well those companies won’t be getting any of my business.

Leigh Miller's picture

I took every single item from Peak Design and sold them off when they announced that ridiculous tripod on Kick Starter.

These aren't companies I want to do any kind of business with.

JetCity Ninja's picture

not every photo ever taken by everyone has a dollar value attached to it.

if you're losing work to unsplash, that says more about you than unsplash.

there's this old saying, "we've upped our game, so up yours."

Leigh Miller's picture

Dumbest most uninformed statement so far

At the very best you're being naive.

No images will be able to attach a dollar value to itself if the market is flooded with free content. Obviously, Unsplash knows there is a dollar value to these images otherwise they wouldn't be able to afford hosting costs and make a profit. Although it is unclear how they do this. Advertising is a likely explanation.

Why people willingly hand over their hard work so someone else can profit is completely beyond me.

so in your mentality, if Fiat gives away free Punto and everybody starts just getting those for free, and Tesla and Lamborghini go bankrupt as they keep on trying to sell their probably better quality product, it's their fault?

Since Fstoppers loves the Unsplash model so much maybe release their tutorials to the general public to use with attribution with a "Inspired by Fstoppers" attribution in the photo credit.

Marc Perino's picture

I am still wondering how they finance this business "model". 100k per month is not little and then they probably pay some staff. It can only work with cross-financing from their mothership. hm...

I wonder too, the give away photos and you don't even need to provide you email, or FB, or anything just click download. Normally free means they are selling you to someone else, but they can't be collecting much valuable data the way it's set up.

Advertising, presumably? I have never visited the site and I block ads everywhere anyway but if they have massive volumes of traffic then advertising revenue could be substantial.

Marc Perino's picture

Though there is no (visible) advertising on their site. I use an adblocker as well but even without it I don't see any.
I once read that the "mothership" makes business in another way and they use it as an advertising tool for their parent company. But I dunno if that is true.

Simon Patterson's picture

Dear complainers: If the photos produced by your business are not more valuable than the free photos being given away on Unsplash, then shouldn't you be asking yourself why you're in the photography business at all?

Austin Williams's picture

Let's destroy photography altogether by sending companies photos for free! Yay!