Photo sharing services nowadays are popping up like mushrooms after the rain. But despite bold claims of being Flickr killers and such, most of the available offerings follow the basic formula introduced by the venerable photo sharing website: showcase your photos and interact with other users.
Enter Unsplash, a service that provides a refreshingly different approach to sharing photos. Unlike regular photo sharing services, Unsplash is built around a subscription model. Subscribe to the Unsplash mailing list, and you’ll receive ten free high-resolution photos every ten days curated by professional photographers. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can still use Unsplash in a more traditional way: browse through the shared photos, like them, and download the images you want. You can even create multiple collections to group photos you like.
If you want to share photos through Unsplash, you need to keep in mind that the service only accepts photos released under the CC0 license. So by uploading photos, you effectively give anyone the right to copy, modify, and distribute your work, even for commercial purposes — all without asking permission and without crediting you as the author. Of course, this might not work for all photographers, but if you are interested in sharing your work with as many people as possible and letting your photos live their own life through other projects, then using Unsplash makes sense. The thought that people can appropriate your work and even make money off it may not sit well with some photographers. But think about it this way: if someone manages to make money selling your photos, maybe they have more business sense than you. And understanding what they are doing right might give you some useful pointers, too.
What makes Unsplash a particularly attractive sharing platform is the lack of incentives for gaming the system. The design of the traditional photo sharing services invites users to exploit the system to get more attention and followers. On Unsplash, the only reason for anyone to like a photo and download it is because they deem it to be good and suitable for their needs. So the number of downloads and likes gives a more realistic picture of how good your photos are. Better still, since Unsplash is optimised for sharing, it’s not overloaded with noisy and distracting “social” features and functionality.
Another feature that makes Unsplash stand out from the crowd is the fact that the service allows you to upload only ten photos every ten days. This forces you to make conscious choices and develop a more critical approach to your own photography, which is not a bad thing indeed.
Unlike some traditional photo sharing services, Unsplash makes it ridiculously simple to embed photos. Better still, the service actually encourages you to use hot-linking, i.e., linking to the target photo stored on Unsplash. This way, you don’t need to go through the rigmaroles of fetching the photo first and then uploading it to your own website. Unsplash has a dedicated page for end users that explains how to generate embeddable links. Developers will also appreciate the fact that Unsplash features a full JSON API for using Unsplash photos in their own applications.
To sum up, if you use a photo sharing service as a backup storage for all your photos, Unsplash is not for you. But if you are looking for a way to share your photographic work with the widest possible audience and you don’t mind people using your photos for their own projects, then Unsplash might be right up your alley. As a professional photographer or an enthusiast, you can use Unsplash as an additional channel for showcasing your work.
I’ve been using Unsplash for about a month, and my photos have been viewed over 2,000,000 (yes, that’s two million) times and were downloaded more than 11,000 times.
My most popular photo has more than 240,000 views and 1,300 downloads. Mind you, that doesn’t count views coming from third-party applications like Wallcat that featured two of my photos already. You’ll find me on Unsplash at unsplash.com/dmpop