- Received over 50,000 visits the day it launched.
- Hit one million total downloads within the first four months, and by one year had more than a million downloads per month.
- Features over 100,000 contributing amateur and professional photographers.
- Is one of the world’s largest photography suppliers through the Internet.
- Has over than 9 billion photo impressions per month.
- Highlights over 450,000 available photos.
- Has been cited by Forbes, CNET, Entrepreneur Magazine, and others as one of the world’s leading photography websites.
- Visibility: Some professional photographers choose to submit at least a few of their photos to Upwork because they’d prefer their images at least be seen and enjoyed by thousands of people rather than just gather dust on their hard drive.
- Exposure: Several photographers have been hired for projects through the significant exposure their images received on Unsplash.
- Giving Back: Some photographers just want to have a way to give back to a community that’s given to them.
- Praise: In his blog post “Why I Let People Use My Photos Even for Free,” professional photographer Joshua Earle explained that the first photo he uploaded to Unsplash – an image of himself, back to the camera, looking over Lake Geneva – has been downloaded millions of times and used in creative ways all over the world. When people download your photos, they have the option of sending a you a thank you note. He didn’t expect that kind of use, but he especially didn’t expect the number of emails and even monetary gifts from people thanking him for sharing his work.
- The Thrill of Competition: From the very beginning, photographers excitedly began submitting their photos to Unsplash for free for the chance of being selected as one of the 10 free photos that were posted every 10 days. Even today, Unsplash gives bragging rights to the best photos and featured photographer of the day.
- Community. Unsplash not only has an online community on Splash, they’ve recently introduced Slack cities which allow photographers and design professionals in the same area to connect.
- It Inspires Creativity. Because photographers aren’t getting paid for their images, it seems many aren’t as concerned about sticking to the commercial norms that other microstock sites tend to like. Unsplash allows them to test their creative bounds a bit more.
- Photos must be 5 megapixels (i.e., at least 2500 x 2000 px for landscape images)
- Photos must be clear and not contain excess noise or spotting
- No selfies
- No nudity
- No violent imagery
- Photos taken at “extreme angles” are not accepted
- Original images only (i.e., no composites).
- Photos should not be over edited – e.g., no heavy vignettes, over sharpening, oversaturating, or using a single spot color on black and white images.
- No edited versions of the same image.
- No added borders, symbols (e.g., logos), text, or watermarks added to the image
- Photos must be solely owned by the submitting contributor
- Make or log in to your account.
- Go to https://unsplash.com/submit
- Follow the instructions.
- Unevaluated – this is the state that all photos automatically are placed in once submitted until it has been assessessed. Photos may remain as unevaluated for up to 48 hours.
- Flagged – Again, this is an automatic state. Any photo that does not meet Unplash’s guidelines will be removed (or “flagged”) and the contributor will receive an email explaining why.
- Approved – Another automatic state, any photo that meets Unplash’s guidelines are automatically approved and made available to be seen on your Unsplash profile.
- Searchable – Unlike the prior three states, this is a manual state, meaning that the editorial team has now actually seen you photo. If your photo is listed as searchable, it means the team believes it is among the best quality photos on Unsplash and is something they want the Unsplash community to be able to find and use.
- Promoted – Another manual state, promoted photos are ones the editorial team features as their top choices of quality photos on Unsplash. These photos can not only be found by the Unsplash community, but also are highlighted on the Unsplash homepage editorial feed.
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In 2013, Mikael Cho – a Montreal-based entrepreneur – hired a photographer after he was unable to find a stock photo that he liked for his company’s homepage. Rather than just leave the photographer’s outtakes sitting on his hard drive, he decided to upload them to Tumblr blog, encouraging people to use the photos any way they wished. The blog received over 50,000 visitors the very first day.
The idea grew to have a blog that featured 10 free photos a week. Photographers from all over began submitting their work, hoping to land a spot in the top 10 photos that was named every 10 days.
Soon after, the blog officially became Unsplash, a microstock site that allows access to quality stock photos for free.
Unsplash: How Much Does It Pay Photographers?
Nothing. It pays nothing.
As mentioned, photos on Unsplash are completely free to use. Until 2017, Unsplash made all photos available under the Creative Commons Zero license, allowing individuals to use photos for free however they deemed appropriate. However, they changed the license in June 2017, adding a restriction against allowing people using unaltered photos on similarly competing websites. In 2018, they took their license a step further, restricting against the sale of unaltered copies of their photos.
However, what has not changed is that all photos are free. Because they are free, photographers do not get paid a royalty – or anything else – for use of their photos.
Editor's Tip: Want the ultimate backup for your photos? Check out the new Synology DiskStation DS918+.
Why Submit to Unsplash?
For some photographers, submitting your photos to a site that gives them away for free makes absolutely no sense. And interestingly, Unsplash agrees. In fact, they state right on the Unsplash contributor page that they “do not actively encourage professional photographers to join and upload all of their photos.”
That being said, some professional photographers do contribute to Unsplash for various reasons. Here are a few:
Unsplash: How to Submit Photos
Just because images are free doesn’t meant they don’t have to meet quality criteria. In fact, one of the main reasons Unsplash has become so popular is that they offer such high-quality images for free. Photos need to meet the following requirements:
Unlike other microstock sites, Unsplash does not require releases for photos of people or private property, and you don’t have to remove logos, etc. While this is kind of nice, it also is raising questions about the legality of such photos being used. Just something to think about.
Unsplash: How to Get Started
Unsplash currently receives about 2,500 photos daily. Once a photo is submitted, it is labeled as one of five states:
Unless you’ve opted out of the “Milestones and Notification” emails, you will receive an email any time you have a photo featured on the Unsplash homepage.
You can also check the status on any photos your submit by logging into your account, then going to https://unsplash.com/account/photos. Your photos’ current status is shown beneath each photo you’ve uploaded.
To help Unsplash users find better photos, Unsplash is planning to begin dividing search results into two categories: “high confidence” and “less confidence” section. This will be similar to the way that Google ranks results.
The high confidence section will highlight photos that have higher relevance scores and are downloaded more often.
The less confidence section will consist of photos with lower relevancy scores. This means that while they could possibly match a search query, it’s less like. These photos are less frequently downloaded and therefore are probably not as high quality.
The default setting will only show high confidence results, but searchers can click a button if they wish to see the less confident results as well. To move up to high confidence section, a photo will have to do better than expected in the less confidence section.
These changes will take awhile to implement. Once they do, there will no longer be a “searchable” state because all photos will be searchable.
Finally, because of the high number of photo submissions that Unsplash receives, they are not able to provide individual feedback on individual photos. However, Unsplash’s Slack community (chat.unsplash.com) has a #feedback channel where you can request feedback from the broad Unsplash community.
Unsplash: The Final Word
If you are looking for a microstock site that pays even a little for your photos, this is not the place to submit.
That being said, thousands of professional photographers from around the world are still submitting their photos to Unsplash. Some are doing it to generate publicity and hopefully paid work. Others are doing it because they enjoy it. Even if you do choose to submit to Unsplash, do it in moderation.