Many photographers argue that Unsplash is a disaster for the industry. But it seems that it can also be harmful to those who download and use photos from the website. Photographer, cameraman, and presenter Simon Palmer recently got into legal trouble after using a photo from Unsplash on his blog. Although the photo was from the “source of freely usable images,” Palmer got a copyright infringement notice from Copytrack requesting him to pay a license fee.
On May 30, 2019, controversial free stock photo site Unsplash announced that it crossed the 1 million images uploaded mark.
That had much of the photo blogosphere up in arms.
Many photographers hate Unsplash because it encourages people to give away their pictures for nothing — not even credit.
But, I’m going to argue that Unsplash’s 1 million photo milestone is no big deal — outside of stock photography, at least.
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.
I watched a video from Atlanta-based commercial photographer and OneLight wizard Zack Arias last night. I hadn’t planned to watch it all as I was headed to bed, but I found it very interesting. So, I ended up watching the whole thing and going to sleep far too late. The video covers Zack’s thoughts on Unsplash, and it makes Zack’s position quite clear. He’s not happy.
Zack had the chance to talk with Unsplash founder, Mikael Cho to voice some of his concerns. He feels betrayed, and I can understand where he’s coming from. In the hour-long conversation, Zack raises some fantastic points, on which some I completely agree, especially releases. There are definitely wrinkles that need to be ironed out with this type of platform. Overall, though I don’t agree with Zack’s position on how it will affect the industry as a whole, long-term.
We recently featured an article by photographer Samuel Zeller touting the virtues of giving away photography on Unsplash for free: I’ve Been Sharing My Photography For Free On Unsplash for the Past 4 Years, Here’s What I Found.
I have to admit, I was really confused – why would any legit photographer ever consider giving away their work for free – or as Unsplash puts it:
Download free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.
I am also very confused why any designer would risk significant legal liability by using an image from Unsplash without a model release, property release or trade mark release.
So I decided to check out Unsplash for myself – here is what I found…
What is Unsplash?
It’s a website where photographers can share high resolution images, make them publicly available for everyone for free even for commercial use. It was created in May 2013 by Stephanie Liverani, Mikael Cho and Luke Chesser in Montreal, Canada.
Four months after creation they hit one million total downloads, and a year after they had more than a million downloads per month.
Now there’s 400’000+ high resolution images hosted on Unsplash which are shared by 65’000+ photographers from all around the world.
Last month 2400 photographers joined Unsplash and shared 25’000 new images (not just snapshots, some really good photography).
Here’s a few examples below:
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 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.