I’m Giving my images for free

Aug 2, 2016

Samuel Zeller

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Aug 2, 2016

Samuel Zeller

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I’m a professional full-time photographer and I choose to let people download and use 95% of my images (even commercially), here’s why.

Who am I ?

I’m Samuel Zeller, a freelance Photographer from Geneva, Switzerland. I’m also an ambassador for Fujifilm and the editor of Fujifeed.

I recently launched my “Archive” a repository which contains nearly all my photography, organized by location and subjects. All of the images can be downloaded for free in high resolution (up to 6000px on the longest side).

Oh and they’re all under a Creative Commons license.

Hey it’s me !
Hey it’s me !

How did it start

I begun my career as a designer, working in agencies, doing retail design, graphic design, 3D rendering and more.

In most of the projects I was using other people’s work (fonts, photographs, 3D models, vector illustrations) as a base to build new content for clients.

For years I’ve been using other people’s work without really giving anything back.

Then I discovered Unsplash

About two years ago I stumbled on Unsplash, a website with free (do whatever you want) high resolution photos. I loved the concept instantly, people could just upload their images and give them away for free under a Creative Commons CC0 license.

So far, I uploaded 184 images on my Unsplash profile, they’ve been viewed over 63’000’000 times and downloaded over 613’000 times…

Just insane numbers.

Screenshot taken on the 30 July 2016
Screenshot taken on the 30 July 2016

It’s not just numbers

People from all over the world are creating things with my images, websites, album covers, iPhone Apps, book covers… Here’s just a few examples.

Polarr used one of my image for their online photo editor
Polarr used one of my image for their online photo editor
Leo Nocta “Atoms” used another one for his first album — Listen to it here
Leo Nocta “Atoms” used another one for his first album — Listen to it here

Even Apple used an image I took on their website to promote their new iPad Pro. This is actually the 6th most downloaded photo on Unsplash with almost 100k downloads, no wonder why it ended up here…

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The amount of traffic Unsplash generates to my portfolio is huge. The number of referrers I have is constantly growing, many websites and blogs use my images and give a link back. My website is no longer just a small island in the sea that nobody see, it’s a freaking lighthouse…

My latest and biggest client found me because of Unsplash, in fact I never really search for clients anymore, they find me instead. (isn’t that what every photographer dreams of?).

Recently, Unsplash created the world’s first fully open, crowdsourced book featuring contributions from 100 creatives including myself.

You can get the Unsplash book here
You can get the Unsplash book here

Today, over 650 million photos a month are viewed on Unsplash and featured photos on Unsplash are seen more times than if they were published on the largest Instagram account, the front page of the New York Times, or the cover of Time Magazine.

Am I losing money ?

It is a matter of perspective. If I put all my images on a stock photography website I could make some money out of it.

But stock photography is dying, people pay less and less for images. I know, I worked for years in a design agency, where we regularly had to buy images for clients, and our clients budgets were always getting smaller.

Why should I need to sell images if I have clients paying me to shoot specific images ? To me working for a client face to face is rewarding, way more than making money on digital sales to people I will never interact with.

Does my work lose value ?

This is something people asked me before and the answer is: no.

My photography keep improving, more people stumble on my work and I’ve got more contacts, more projects and clients than before.

An image has value because someone has an use for it. It has absolutely no value if it’s sitting uselessly in my hard-drive or if it’s just on social media waiting to get liked. Sure it has emotional value but don’t get me wrong, I need money to live and pay the bills.

The images I give away for free are like a teaser of what I can do. Think of it as a “try before you buy” option.

What makes you happy is worth all the money in the world, and it makes me happy to give my images for free to those who need them.

I smile when I receive an email like this:

I just wanted to say thank you for your generosity in sharing your work and that I think your appreciation of the beauty to be found in the details of our world is inspiring.

And it happens often.

Exposure or talent ?

We live in an ever connected world dominated by social networks and there’s never been so many photographers around. After you reach a certain quality threshold then all that matters is exposure and most importantly: being a nice person.

Clients will not land on your portfolio randomly. There’s no magic, you need to have your work published, visible, commented, shared, talked about.

There’s no point in being talented if nobody can see what you do.

Support

If you’re extra generous you can make a small donation or buy one of my limited editions prints on my website. I’m also thinking about starting a Patreon page for those who would like to support me on the long term.

This will allow me to cover my web hosting expenses in order to upload more images to my Archive and travel to more destinations.

About The Author

Samuel Zeller is a freelance photographer & Fujifilm ambassador based in Geneva, Switzerland. You can see more of his work on his site and Facebook, and you can follow him on Instagram and twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission

 

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We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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8 responses to “I’m Giving my images for free”

  1. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    So people should donate to support you so you can devalue photography for people who do choose to sell stock photography. The logic isn’t working for me.

    1. Rick Avatar
      Rick

      Actually it sounds like he has accepted the evolution of the marketplace and has set himself up to thrive from it.

      Markets change. Evolve or get left behind.

      1. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
        Kay O. Sweaver

        If he’s thriving why is he asking for $$$?

        1. Rick Avatar
          Rick

          That’s pretty much covered in the second paragraph under Support above. While he is using the free content to increase his bookings, bookings do nothing toward increasing his free content. And for those who benefit from free content and would like to see it grow, donations and patronage systems are not all that uncommon. These systems exist for photography as well as many other artistic and scientific endeavors.

      2. catlett Avatar
        catlett

        I think you are missing my point. His choice is fine for his own personal choice but that personal choice affects other people who don’t agree with him. If someone can get free they will take it and often compromise to take it. The other part of my point is that he is begging for donations and I’m not buying into giving him money for his own personal choice.

        1. Rick Avatar
          Rick

          Oh I fully understand your point, …you’re a dinosaur. You believe that since you were here first you should be able to walk the earth forever unhindered. Life doesn’t work that way.

          His 184 free images are not destroying the stock photography market, it’s the hundred million other images that are flooding the internet because every TD&H now has a digital camera that are destroying the stock photography market. He has accepted this reality and figured out a way to survive. You haven’t. You’re a dinosaur. And you shall go the way of the dinosaurs unless you learn to accept that markets evolve and find a way to evolve with them.

          And by the way, merely posting a link to allow patrons to be patrons is not begging. If these people want to sponsor more content, the opportunity it there. If they don’t, they don’t.

          1. catlett Avatar
            catlett

            No stupid. I didn’t say anything about me selling stock images at all. Try to pay attention. He is, in fact, making a personal decision that can affect others. Your point of the flood is either stupid or disingenuous. His images are quality images so there is a huge difference. If that flood of images are quality images your point is stupid. If they aren’t your point is stupid because they aren’t the same quality. Trying to wrap it in a neat package based on relative size doesn’t change that. If he as a single image that costs someone else money he is doing that. It certainly is his right but bragging about it like he is doing something great and then begging for money is the issue. Enjoy your last word on this though I am quite sure it won’t have any logical base considering your attempts so far.

          2. catlett Avatar
            catlett

            Deleted my first response since I realized I was falling into the juvenile pit of name calling.

            1. I never said I have ever sold any stock so your name juvenile name calling is based on a bad assumption regarding what business model I am following or if I am even involved in selling photos at all.
            2. The flood of photos, if of high quality, are legitimate competition. If they aren’t then they are not aimed at the same market as high quality images and the buyers who need high quality images were never in play.
            3. I suppose someone on the street with a cup asking for a dollar isn’t begging by your logic. They’re just allowing patrons to be patrons.