It seemed inevitable after Getty images aquired the free image site Unsplash last year that they would eventually start a paid version. Well, it actually happened. Unsplash has announced a paid tier called Unsplash+ which will be a subscription-based format. But don’t worry, the free version will still be available.
Unsplash+ offers paying members access to “curated content” available for commercial licenses with extra legal protection and unlimited downloads.
“Members will get access to a constantly growing library of premium visuals that are not available in the free Unsplash library, and enjoy an ad-free experience on Unsplash.com,” the company announced on its website.
In another blog post, Unsplash put out a call to photographers and content creators to submit to Unsplash+ and be paid for the images they create. “You can still submit imagery that will be free to use,” the post says, “but you will have the added opportunity to monetize your skills by creating commissioned content for Unsplash+.”
Photographers are encouraged to look at the content briefs created by Unsplash, and then create images based on those briefs. “Brief topics are influenced by forecasted trends, popular search terms, and hard-to-find concepts. Unsplash then selects and pays the photographer for their images that meet the submission guidelines, and adds it to the Unsplash+ library so it can be licensed by Unsplash+ subscribers,” it adds.
They will be paid for any images that then get accepted to the Unsplash+ library. Unlike royalty-based stock sites, it will be a one-image, one-time fee. “Complex briefs with models and unique locations may be priced higher than landscapes or environmental shots with no people,” writes Unsplash. Projected rates for photos will range from $10 to $30 per photo, however, you could potentially have 100 images from a shoot accepted.
It’s a different approach to submitting for stock image sites, and one that might be worth a try if you are already shooting around something similar to the brief or it’s something that particularly interests you. On the other hand, there is a danger that you could put a lot of time and money into creating images that will then be declined, and you will be competing with others working to the same brief.
It’s not so different from other brief-based platforms such as Cherry Deck or Image Brief. The positive is that there are fewer barriers to entry. However, these platforms have changed the way that commercial and brand photography works, at least on the bottom rungs of the ladder.
The danger is that you could be doing a lot of work for nothing, or being paid a far lower fee than you should be for the same work. In terms of stock imagery, you could potentially take an image that is very popular, and only be paid once for it. We don’t know what the t+c’s are for the specific briefs. Most brands who are working with commercial photographers do not want their images then used by other brands.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I can’t see this as a huge win for photographers in the long run. Ultimately, Getty will be the middle man winning, while the creative people actually doing the work, get a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.
What do you think? Is this a good thing or yet another race to the bottom in terms of paying for photography?