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Is Unsplash really a problem for photographers?

The message Is Unsplash really a problem for photographers? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Carl Spring.

Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Unsplash is killing photography! I'm sure you read this somewhere? After all, photography blogs are full of articles like this. You agree – you can hate Unsplash. You may want to inform every photographer you meet why they should not upload their photos to the platform. Despite the fact that photographers and websites oppose this, the platform continues to flourish. But is Unsplash really destroying the photography industry?

A bit of history

Unsplash started in 2013 by Mikael Cho. Cho was the founder of the Crew company – a company designed as a marketplace for freelancers. Cho needed images for the homepage of his company website, but could not find the type of images he wanted to find online and within his price range. To get the images he wanted, he hired a photographer to make the images for the brand.

After the shoot there were several remaining photos. Cho therefore decided to place them on his Tumblr so that others could download and use them for free as they wanted. Cho uploaded ten free images every ten days. The blog (which also led people to Crew) was launched on Hacker News and immediately became the top story.

It started.

Soon millions of people were looking for the images and thousands were sent to Crew.

Unsplash launched in May 2013 and reached one million downloads in September. It reached ten million downloads in the first 12 months. This is the moment when Unsplash left Tumblr and launched an independent website.

Since then it has continued to grow at an alarming rate. I have looked at the latest Unsplash statistics as I prepared for this article and the figures are amazing. 21 photos are downloaded from the platform every second!

Unsplash has a community of more than 121,000 photographers whose photos have been downloaded a billion times. A partnership with Squarespace allows users to place Unsplash images directly in their site through one of the most popular website builders. Like it or not, Unsplash has changed the photography industry.

Built in Squarespace. It is simple and easy to get copyright-free images.

How does Unsplash affect photographers?

It is fairly easy to see how Unsplash influences the world of commercial photography. The Squarespace / Unsplash collaboration is the perfect example of this. As the screenshot below shows, I can go to Unsplash, search everything and usually find an image. Not just an image, but a really good quality image. It is easy to see why photographers might be angry about this.

Why pay for a photographer if I can get something that looks like what I want? Do you want a photo of a beautiful coastline for an article about ' the world's best beaches? Unsplash has the answer. Do you want a magazine cover for a coffee issue? They have that too. It is easy to get photos of almost anything – on request and for free. Perfect for an editor, but not so much for a photographer.

The problem with Unsplash is that it simplifies photography.

High-quality photography is now literally free.

You don't have to take a budget for it, which is great for small businesses that can't afford custom photography. It also means that in the time that good enough is good enough, the larger companies that can afford large photography simply don't see the need.

For every blogger who doesn't make money with his blogs, but wants to be ethical and legally use images, there is also a large media company that simply wants to maximize profits.

However, this problem is not new. In case you have forgotten, the disruption started with the introduction of microstock.

Ryan Holloway on Unsplash

microstock

Do you remember when microstock appeared on the scene? There was so much commotion by so many photographers about how it destroyed the stock industry. While researching this article I found several rants on websites about how microstock destroyed the photography industry. I found stories of people who deserved a good life in stock photography with their livelihood ruined by sites such as iStock photos. As a photographer wrote about microstock in 2009 "They came in like a drunken bull in a porcelain cupboard with careless regard for the destruction of the existing market".

The emergence of microstock and the emergence of affordable, high-quality digital cameras are easy to link. Technology changed the game – especially the stock photography game – and many did not adapt.

The industry changed rapidly and many lagged behind. When we look at Unsplash, it is hard not to look at microstock. Because many photographers use Adobe products, I looked at Adobe stocks to see what happened in the microstock world.

In terms of quality, there are some great things on the Adobe stock. But while it's not free, the price structure is hardly enough to turn it into a business.

Looking at their site, Adobe can now purchase 10 images per month for £ 19.99 (approximately £ 2.00 per image) or 40 for £ 47.99 (approximately £ 1.20 per image). In the UK, the minimum wage is £ 8.21 per hour, which means that even if the photographer were to receive 100% of the £ 1.20 per image, he would have to sell around 260 images per week to earn the UK minimum wage.

I know that if you want to use the image commercially to sell products, the license costs are higher. But still, it's not enough to live on without selling a huge volume.

But when did we last see the most important photo websites with hate-filled articles about Adobe-ruining photography? Okay, I'm corrected. It all started when it seemed as if they would increase the subscription costs for photography.

But seriously, almost all photographers use Adobe. Even though you can earn some pocket money, Adobe has a company that is remarkably similar to Unsplash, but nobody mentions it.

However, the question is: do we not mention it because we agree with this model, or do we now see it as normal?

I think it's because we see it as normal.

The indignation, the battle cry of photographers, was drowned out by market forces. This is what happens with Unsplash. A billion downloads prove that the market has spoken again despite passionate reasoning, arguing and supplication. They don't care about your business model; they care about their bottom line.

It seems that the main market affected by Unsplash is microstock. Like I said before, microstock was no way to make money for Unsplash, so nothing has changed effectively.

Charles ?? on Unsplash

Are photographers hypocrites?

This is the point that tends to make hypocrites of photographers (and the websites) that rival Unsplash. Many photographers do exactly the same.

How many photography videos ' s do you see with free-to-use music in it? Who used Fiverr as a logo instead of paying for a professional designer? Why do we use web design templates instead of paying a professional web designer to create a customized site for us? Photographers often do this with other services. What is the difference between free photos and free music?

Unfortunately, the answer lies in ourselves. We only see the impact of changing business models on our own sector. We like to use free music (or the microstock equivalent) without thinking, because that's how it is. Unsplash is now how it is for us. Like I said before, we adjust or die.

My favorite example of hypocrisy was when one of the biggest photography blogs wrote an article about the damage Unsplash inflicts on photography. However, in the same article, they admitted that their site had used Unsplash images for their articles. If that's not the perfect description of irony, I don't know what it is.

Education (or mad at people who don't care)

I have heard many terms such as ' we must inform people about this & # 39 ;, ' people must stop being so stupid & # 39 ;, ' how can people let their photography be exploited? & # 39 ;

Although this is a noble cause, there are major problems here.

The biggest thing is that people, instead of education, tend to thrive and belittle. Calling people stupid does not help educate them. It is a fact that many of them are educated about the facts and choose to do it regardless. They do not need your approval and try to tell them that they are wrong, achieve nothing but make them an enemy.

Many people do not want a career in photography. Many like the fact that people appreciate their imagery, and that's enough for them.

Photography for many is a passion and an art. Charging for their work removes their reasons for doing it. Uploading to Unsplash, Pexels or Flickr with a Creative Commons license without a license is a way to get more people to look into their work. And the feedback and likes are their rewards.

This is not wrong. Some people have to accept that others live their lives according to different rules, with their own morals and they can do whatever they want with their photos. You may not agree, but that is life.

Finally, even if you are right (in your opinion), you cannot educate everyone. It is the equivalent of trying to push water up. Many will admire your determination, but unfortunately it is useless in vain.

Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Do I have to upload to Unsplash?

Instead of giving a yes or no answer here (I leave that to you in the comments), I thought the best way to finish this article was to look at what to look for when uploading to Unsplash. Things you may not know can help you make informed choices.

Exposure does not pay the bills

Many photographers will have heard some variation in the following sentence: "We can't afford to pay you, but it will be a great exposure."

The problem is that exposure does not pay the bills. I cannot pay for my electricity with a photo credit. And I can't pay for my food with exposure either.

However, I did work for exposure to reach the right people, which led to paid work. I wrote about this in a previous blog post.

There is no doubt that Unsplash offers photographers great exposure. Unsplash is used daily by influential people. Being on the platform is a great way to show your work to these people. There are stories from people who have offered high-paying jobs to major customers through their work on Unsplash. However, this is not the norm.

Unsplash, you probably won't earn any money. Microstock can give you a small amount, but without a huge library this is not an income that you can use to start saving for a Ferrari. In fact, you will probably struggle to buy a toy Ferrari.

It is important to go into this with this in mind.

You don't get the respect you deserve

People who use your images generally don't bother crediting you. Most of them won't even care about you. You can end up on the cover of a high-end magazine and never even know anything about it. Forever, better or worse, this is how Unsplash works. Your photos are free and will be treated as such. Your work (and by extension you) generally receives no respect.

Zack Arias best summarized this in one of his videos on the subject of Unsplash. He tells the story of a woman whose photo was used in a gift guide for a large British bridal edition. The photographer was not aware of this or offered a copy of the magazine for her portfolio. Instead, she happened to stumble over it while browsing magazines in a coffee shop. The advertising rate for pages of this magazine is £ 10,000 and she has not even received a photo credit or e-mail to thank her. This shows you the value that you attach to your work.

The thrill of getting featured can seem a bit if you look at it that way.

Sasha • Stories on Unsplash

The human problem

This is the educational part. The Unsplash license does not cover the use of an identifiable person in a commercial environment. You, as a photographer, are liable. If a photo is ultimately used commercially via Unsplash and you do not have a model release, then you should have deep pockets (and a good legal team), because if the subject in the photo objects is in serious trouble.

A model release must be completed by anyone whose photo you want to upload to Unsplash, even family members or partners. A partner can soon become an angry ex-partner with a grudge. If a photo of those you have uploaded to Unsplash is used commercially, you can end up in a world of pain.

A simple Google search helps you find a suitable model release. There are also many model release apps. This allows you to digitally save the release and allow the model to sign it on your phone. Simply put, there is no excuse for not using a model release; you have to protect yourself. This should be something you always do when photographing models, Unsplash or not.

Is Unsplash really ruining photography?

Does Unsplash destroy photography? No. It is changing.

Photography, like many industries, is constantly changing. It disrupts traditional income models, but I think microstock was much more disruptive.

Does Unsplash benefit from people? Again, it depends on your point of view.

The people who upload to Unsplash know what they are doing. Some may be naive in thinking that this is the easy way to become photography. I bet it will be the start of a great career for some of them. Just because it's different doesn't always make it wrong.

What do you think? Share with us in the comments below.

Is Unsplash really a problem for photographers?

The message Is Unsplash really a problem for photographers? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Carl Spring.

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