It's a controversial topic for photographers... stock photography. And to make that even more complicated, in comes a company called Unsplash. It's a newer company, in that if you ask around most people outside of the photo community aren't really aware of it. I'd been reading about it here and there, but never really checked it out. Then came Zack Arias. Zack is a photographer I really respect and was very active in the "photo community" for a long time. Then it felt like he fell off a bit. But he was back with a splash, ripping on Unsplash. I'll give you the 1,000 foot view, if you want to see all his comments head to here. The headline "Why You Should Never Upload Your Photos to Unsplash" the top level read... model/property releases, rarely do you even get credit let alone paid anything, it's just bad bad bad.
He makes some great points. As a photographer the last thing you want is to get sued because you didn't realize you needed a model release and a corporation uses an image and you get a process server on your doorstep. Personally speaking, if you don't know you need a release you deserve said lawsuit but whatever. The not getting paid thing is the interesting part of all this to me. Is the exposure worth the free nature of the business. That's a tough one because I first found photography through concert photos. I shot hundreds of shows and ended up working my way to a world tour with a prominent band. But if one industry has been completely destroyed by photographers working for free it's music photography. I'll get into the details in a future post, but I feel the pain of people wanting to work in the industry and getting undercut by free.
However, that didn't stop me from creating an account to see what it was all about. I decided to put up 10 images and give it 100 days just to see what would happen. I didn't get all involved in the community, I didn't promote it anywhere, I didn't even add any other images. Just the original 10. The results are interesting.
I picked 10 random travel images that I thought might work for a variety of applications. One of which was a pretty terrible picture of flags around the Washington Monument in DC. I picked it because it is a crazy time in US politics and I thought someone might search for a flag shot. That one ended up being my most viewed/downloaded because it was almost immediately added to a collection by Unsplash. As I type this it has almost 200,000 views and 400 downloads. All together my 10 images garnered over 350,000 views and 1,500 downloads.
So what does that mean? Nothing. People searching stock go through so fast that 350k views doesn't mean someone stopped and admired my photos, it means they skimmed over them. I did some reverse image searches of my top 3 photos and even with 1,500 downloads they were used minimally. And in most places without any credit to me or Unsplash. So is it worth it? Not really. You're better off investing your time in building your Instagram where people can actually follow and interact with you than you are trying to use Unsplash.