Unsplash Offers Huge Brand Exposure, But Carries Hidden Risks

27 Mar, 2020

13.4 billion monthly views, 164k photographers, and surprising risks

by Thomas Smith

Credit: Gado Images.

If you’re in any field dealing with content, publishing or writing, you’re aware of it. If you consume web content, you’ve probably encountered it (perhaps without even knowing). And if you’re in photography, you’ve definitely heard of it — or are already living in fear of it.

What am I talking about? It’s Unsplash!

Unsplash is a free stock photography website that launched in 2013. It’s exploded in prominence in the last few years, and was named one of the world’s top photography websites by the likes of Forbes and Entrepreneur. It’s even integrated directly into the workflow of this very platform!

Unsplash’s traffic numbers are truly staggering. The site claims to have received 13.4 billion (that’s billion with a B) photo views so far in November 2019 as of press time, with more than 68 million photos downloaded. It receives 5,199 views and 26 downloads per second.

Clearly, Unsplash has tapped into the universe’s insatiable demand for content. And they’re riding that wave to the top of the Internet — the site is now ranked in the top 300 websites in the world. All this for a bunch of free stock photos.

If you’ve used Unsplash — or are thinking about contributing your own photos — you might have some questions. The site is notable for having little advertising — how, then, does it make money? And why on earth would anyone put their photos online for free, when they could sell them through a traditional stock photo website and earn money? (Hint: it’s a marketing goldmine.)

I’m a pro photographer, and I’m also active in the stock photography industry. I’ve heard from Unsplash’s top photographer, sat down with their competitors and enemies, and even contributed a few photos of my own. The site unlocks major brand possibilities, but also hidden risks.

Let’s delve into Unsplash a bit more, and see what it means for the future of photography and marketing.

(cont’d here on Medium)


Notes from Smartlike editors

This is an excerpt on Tom’s inspiring analysis originally published here on Medium. We invite you to hop over there and read the article in its entirety, it’s well worth the read if you’re a photographer on the fence about using Unsplash.

Thomas Smith

Co-Founder and CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about AI, photography, tech and the SF Bay Area. tom@gadoimages.com