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.