The proliferation of digital photography, large, affordable storage space and high-speed internet has made the number of files in circulation higher than ever before. We take mass photographs with both professional equipment and smartphones, and the difference in the quality of photos between these devices is constantly blurring. Regardless of their origin, a large number of recorded frames end up being forgotten on the hard drives of our computers or in the data centers of large corporations – with the capabilities, we photograph a lot and often, our photographs synchronize with cloud services, back-up copies are made. Unconsciously, we feed them to artificial intelligence, which learns how to distinguish a cat from a horse, but in fact, a lot of good photographs are not useful to anyone directly.
If only there was a way of making available at least some of them for free. Perhaps this picture of a forest path at sunrise might be useful to someone, and I could use someone’s frame of a group of people running instead? Or this woman who reads the book and looks natural while the frame is not technically perfect, boring or repetitive. It’s creative and fun.
Photo banks – quality or quantity?
While searching for specific photographs we can use one of many commercial photo banks. However, this is associated with additional costs, which we do not always want to incur, and the flexibility of popular websites offering images for money often leaves much to be desired – we have to buy an expensive subscription, which makes no sense if we need one photo enriching the content published in social media, whose life expectancy is counted in hours at most. In such a situation, it is difficult to justify an investment in commercial photography.
Paradoxically, having to pay for photos does not necessarily go hand in hand with their quality. Over time, we have become accustomed to swollen, tacky and repetitive images of the same smiling person or group of people wearing suits that has been repeated on many advertising materials from different companies. It is definitely difficult to talk about authenticity and creativity here. It’s quite funny that the same person is looking at us from a ketchup advertisement on a billboard, and a moment later we see him in an email, where with his smile he convinces us about the credit offer. That makes sense.
Where to take creative pictures from?
A group of people tired of this state of affairs decided to pay the local photographer for doing the session for their project. In fact, they used only one frame, while the rest decided to share for free. To this end, they have set up a simple blog on Tumblr with the idea of publishing ten free photographs a week. The idea turned out to be a hit, and the blog was quickly filled with a lot of high quality free and creative photos. Unsplash was a spectacular success and its idea and popularity has even reached NASA, which has its official profile on the portal, where it “releases” photographs taken by astronauts, space probes and telescopes. Everyone can take advantage of them for any purpose, even for a profit.
Free images for commercial use
All photographs made available on the Unsplash website are available under the CC0 license, which enables their full commercial use, without the need to prove authorship (attribution), hidden subscription costs or restrictions in the range of use of the images.
By downloading from Unsplash you can rest assured that your copyright will be protected. This is a much better and safer idea than searching for images on Google and using them without the consent of the author. If you don’t know it yet – the presence of graphics in Google doesn’t mean that it is available for free – you can view it in your browser, but (usually, unless the license allows it) you can’t download it and use it for your own purposes.
The authors of this undertaking encourage only (but not exclusively) to sign the photograph with the author’s name and surname, together with a link to the photograph on the Unsplash website, if possible. Such behaviour is consistent with the values that the authors have written in their manifesto – share, take care of, create.
There are many similar sites that publish free pictures. Sometimes these are more thematic projects (e.g. sharing historical photos or only food photos). However, Unsplash is particularly close to me because it was created as a side-project and its driving force was the will to change and to act for the common good. It is possible that this is key to understanding why the project has developed so rapidly and is constantly attracting both consumers and producers of visual content.
If you are interested, please read Unsplash manifesto, license and of course feel free to download and share photos. You will also find my profile where I make more than a hundred photos available for download, completely free of charge.