The stock photography industry has been evolving and changing over the last several years. With many photographers selling their original images on stock websites, there has never been a greater access to high-quality content for brands and businesses.
Now, even though selling your images on stock websites seems like a simple revenue generator, the saturation of the market makes it increasingly difficult for every photographer’s work to be seen and purchased. In some cases, you may have quality, stunning photography, but if it doesn’t exactly fit into the specific mold of stock databases, your sales will be low or non-existent. Realizing this, new websites are emerging to cater to the needs of the creative photographer – developing marketplaces that go against the grain of traditional stock photography.
A leader in this new generation of stock is Unsplash, a free stock website built by contributing photographers. Unsplash differs from the industry standard for one main reason – every image on the site is free to those who wish to download.
Now, you may wonder why photographers would be willing to essentially donate their images without compensation. In a world where the price of photography is decreasing every day, why add fuel to an already financial temperamental fire?
Exposure, Exposure, Exposure
The key appeal to sharing on Unsplash is the sheer organic exposure you obtain just from uploading your images. Unsplash is not a social media platform, therefore generating interest to your images does not require a massive following or high level of engagement. The website is full of various categories that allow the user to search based on keywords and interests. When uploading your image, simply use relevant tags and categories to describe your work and Unsplash’s easy to navigate system does the rest.
It is known that brands, agencies, and companies all use the platform to search for commercial and editorial imagery. These users range from smaller websites to large entities with expansive reach and dedicated followings. When sharing your images on Unsplash, you are allowing your work to be shared across a variety of platforms that each have the potential to be seen by a fresh, new audience. Although the site does not require the user to credit the photographer for their work, more times than none credit is given when an image from Unsplash is used.
I recently decided to test the platform and have uploaded a total of 6 images to my profile to start. Five out of the six are in the category of fashion, portrait work while one is a still life image. After just a few weeks, I began to see large numbers of viewers to my images as well as downloads. From my experience, portrait images thrive on the website as a popular category. Here is an example of an abstract portrait image I uploaded to the site. In less than 2 months, this photograph generated 135,735 views and almost 1,200 downloads.
Although you have no information on who exactly downloaded your work, a simple Google search of your name can filter results of where your work has been used. For example, other images I uploaded have been used on a design site, as a graphic for a YouTube video as well as in articles. I recently had a photography company contact me to purchase an image for extended use for their photo-editing tutorials. Each in itself, a wide variety of exposure with very little effort on my behalf.
The Potential for Paid Work and Clients
As mentioned above, although Unsplash does not directly compensate photographer’s for their uploads – the potential for further paid work and opportunities is high. If you choose to upload consistent and cohesive work that aligns with your overall aesthetic, users on the site will be drawn to your profile time and time again.
A brand or agency that uses Unsplash for catch-all stock images may eventually want something tailored or specific to them and reach out to you based on the work you share via the platform. And overall, the exposure you gain from your work being shared across the Internet could adversely land you a gig you never expected.
As a starting point, I recommend you upload your five best images to your profile and monitor your reach and engagement – see what users like and prefer and then continue to build your profile from there. It is important to remember that you should not upload images from already paid work with brands or agencies. The images you created for a company should be exclusive to them and your personal portfolio unless stated otherwise in your contract. To play it safe and avoid any legal issues, upload any work that did not involve compensation. This can give you the chance to be creative and share work that may be more personal and unique to you.
Overall, using a platform like Unsplash can generate interest, exposure and the potential of new clients through a simple sharing process. Taking a step outside of social media to market your work can lead to new opportunities and photographic projects you may have never expected!
Do you have any experience with sharing your work on Unsplash? Share with us in the comments below.