FT Special

Unsplash: the website dedicated to rethinking and redefining photography

Unsplash, the online portal dedicated to distributing high-resolution copyright-free photography, has become one of the largest photography providers on the internet today. The website is graced with the active contribution of over 65,000 photographers and produces nearly 4 billion photo impressions per month. To add to the feathers in its cap, Unsplash has been referred to as one of the world’s leading photography websites by CNET, Entrepreneur Magazine, Medium, Forbes and The Next Web, among others. Founded in 2013 by Mikael Cho, Luke Chesser, Stephanie Liverani and Angus Wood, Unsplash was one of the pioneers of the copyright-free photography model. It lets photographers upload photos to its website, which are then handpicked by a team of photo-editors.


Unsplash – The online portal for copyright free photography

The journey of Unsplash has been remarkable. While designing a new homepage for his company ‘Crew’, Montreal-based entrepreneur Cho had a hard time finding a suitable stock photo and decided to hire a photographer instead. Afterwards, Cho shared the company photo-shoot outtakes on Tumblr, allowing people to use them as they wanted. In short, it all started with a Tumblr blog with ten leftover photos.

Photos uploaded to Unsplash were made accessible under the Creative Commons zero license before June 2017, providing individuals with a complete freedom to reuse, repurpose and reassemble these photos for their personal assignments. Unsplash experienced more than 50,000 visits on its very first day. Photos are now available under the Unsplash license, which inflicts some added boundaries. Cho supplied an initial lot of Unsplash photos, but the site is now assisted by a number of community contributors including many amateur and professional photographers.

Today, over 400,000 photos on Unsplash have been downloaded more than 310 million times. It is exclusively merged into major creative and innovative platforms, such as Medium, Trello, and 1,200+ others. It takes pride in being part of more creative acts compared to any of the centralized stock image media ventures, with 12 photos downloaded per second. More than 2083 Unsplash images are being viewed each second across the world. Unsplash has successfully turned into a stage for creators to share the influence of their photography internationally and build a loyal audience.

As a movement to bring crypto-currency to its curated and free photo platform and to build a ‘new economy around photography’, Unsplash has raised $7.25M in support of democratization of creativity. In a joint venture with the Simple token (OST), the funds being invested will aim towards defining a new economic model around photography that leverages the unparalleled distribution Unsplash images continue to achieve to provide as many opportunities as possible to the contributors while keeping up the free-to-use and open policies the community is known for. It will not be a model where photos are going to be paid for with crypto-currency; instead, the model will focus on being able to work equally well for both creators and photographers. According to OST CEO Jason Goldberg, the intention of the Unsplash and OST collaboration is to tokenize and empower the Unsplash community with the help of blockchain technology.

Betaworks, Accomplice, Mark Bonchek, Real Ventures, Clark Valberg (Founder/CEO of InVision), Roger Dickey (Founder/CEO of Gigster), and Rahul Vohra (Founder/CEO of Superhuman) also took part in the new round. Cho mentioned that he is still talking with potential future investors, intending to eventually take the round size up to $10M.

So what does the future hold for photography and Unsplash? According to Cho, Unsplash wasn’t started to reinvent an industry; it was started thinking how useful a platform like this could be. Unsplash aims to push the impact of the photographs clicked by the contributors like no other platform, brings a loyal fanbase to them. The direct-to-consumer creator approach gives rise to a unique distribution network benefitted by the copyright policies. Keeping in mind the power of photos as relationship formers and the clear value in photography, it is safe to say that the future graph of Unsplash looks pretty promising.