SquareSpace is officially screwing photographers

Nov 20, 2018

Allen Murabayashi

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.

SquareSpace is officially screwing photographers

Nov 20, 2018

Allen Murabayashi

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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Imagine a website that convinces its users to upload free content and builds social signals (e.g. likes and view counts) to make the site addictive. Then imagine the company using the usage data as a referral mechanism to make money without compensating the content producers. It’s not Facebook, it’s Unsplash, and it’s terrible for photographers.

Now imagine a huge website provider partnering with Unsplash to distribute the photography for free, and basically send the message that photography has no value. Stop imagining because Squarespace just did it.

“Now, instead of putting extra time or money into creating your own visuals, now you can simply replace the demo content on your chosen template with ease. Unsplash has an active group of contributing photographers from all around the world who have generously decided to share their work with others in the broader creative community, for free.”

Where “generous” is a euphemism for individual photographers subsidizing businesses because why would a revenue-generating business ever pay for visuals?

To add insult to injury, Squarespace also announced that it is participating in the dubious Unsplash Awards. What are the awards? It’s a cattle call for content in twelve categories – presumably driven by uncompensated demands of companies too cheap to pay for photography – and get this:

“All categories winners will be automatically entered into a draw for a chance to win 1 of 3 free flights from Hopper, valued at $600 each.”

That’s right. The “winners” are entered into a drawing for the possibility of winning a $600 voucher on a travel booking service. Your prize is a lottery ticket – thanks for giving us free content.

The judges include people from companies that rely on free content like Pinterest and Medium, and disappointingly includes partners like Peak Design.

Unsurprisingly, the photo community wasn’t very happy:

The retort to such protests is often that the photo profession no longer exists and that the glut of photography has effectively driven the price of photos to zero. This is a lazy strawman argument. The profession has certainly changed  and digital photography and online publishing has caused downward pricing pressure. But wedding photographers charge thousands of dollars per gig, commercial photographers regularly charge 5-figures for creative and licensing fees, and stock photography is still used and paid for by major corporations.

Not all photos have economic value, but good photography does. And in partnering with Unsplash instead of paid services like Adobe Stock, Getty Images or Shutterstock (and yes, they all have their limitations), Squarespace is conspiring against professional photographers and using the mantle of “generosity” to justify the convenience.

Squarespace can’t stop photographers from contributing to Unsplash, but the partnership helps amplify a destructive message: We will build our business off the backs of free content.

And if you’re a photographer with a Squarespace account, their decision has you shooting yourself in the foot while paying for the privilege.

Disclosure: PhotoShelter builds websites for photographers

About the Author

Allen Murabayashi is a graduate of Yale University, the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter blog, and a co-host of the “I Love Photography” podcast on iTunes. For more of his work, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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9 responses to “SquareSpace is officially screwing photographers”

  1. Victoria Renard Avatar
    Victoria Renard

    Do you have suggestions for better professional photography website platforms? I’ve read that Wordpress is good. I like the ability to use my own fonts and layout but don’t have a lot of experience with website layout. I don’t mind paying a monthly or annual fee in exchange for an easy to use website for me and people looking at my site. Please share your thoughts, fellow photographers.

    1. DPJ Avatar
      DPJ

      I originally used WIX. I found it easy to use, and quite “idiot proof”, and trust me, when it comes to websites, i’m an idiot of the highest degree lol

    2. james pernol Avatar
      james pernol

      If you are adobe creative cloud subscriber you have portfolio to use. I use it now as my website and it is great.

    3. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      WordPress.org as a piece of software that you download and then put on your own private hosting and have 100% control over is good.

      WordPress.com as a service… not so much. :)

      1. I'm Not Too Sure Avatar
        I’m Not Too Sure

        Go to WordPress. Find a theme that you like (pay for it if necessary). Find some plugins (pay for the ones that are worth it). Then find a host and put your content on your own website.

        The best thing is that you own the content. So you do not have to worry about the website platform changing their fees, changing their terms and conditions, etc that all screw the photographer.

        1. J. Campbell Avatar
          J. Campbell

          Or find a Wordpress developer, such as myself, to build the theme that YOU want. Sometimes, it’s worth spending the money.

  2. Marcus Weinhold Avatar
    Marcus Weinhold

    Wait, this is a paid service and they do this? I could see them doing this if it were free.

  3. Brandon C. Bass Avatar
    Brandon C. Bass

    Im sure these users “agreed” when the “signed” the agreement, they probably just didnt read it completely

  4. Cameron Rad Avatar
    Cameron Rad

    “Not all photos have economic value, but good photography does. And in partnering with Unsplash instead of paid services like Adobe Stock, Getty Images or Shutterstock (and yes, they all have their limitations), Squarespace is conspiring against professional photographers and using the mantle of “generosity” to justify the convenience.”

    Squarespace has a partnership with Getty.
    https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/205812768-Getty-Images-and-Squarespace