I’ve been uploading to Unsplash for almost five years, and people always ask why I would submit my work to a website that gives it away mostly for free?
I consider Unsplash my photography mentor and university. Because ultimately, I believe, that good work resonates with people. Firstly it has to resonate with you, but secondly with someone else. It doesn’t have to be the most popular work in the history of work, but a successful artwork resonates with at least as many people as that created it, in my humble opinion.
I started uploading in early 2018.
So back to Unsplash, I’ve shared 505 photos that have been viewed over 152 million times, and downloaded and used over 800 thousand times, making me one of the “1000 most seen contributors ever” which is lovely.
A problem though is my recent work. Work that is arguably better, shot on better cameras, with better lenses, and better colour grading … because I’ve learned and gotten better with better gear.
Of my most viewed photos “of all time” only two photos from the last year are in my top 70 images. After 70 they start appearing a little, but inside the top 70, number 69 is a boring drone shot, and number 8 was an outlier. Luna had woken up early so the two of us wanted to go watch the sun rise, and we both took our cameras.
Obviously the longer a work has been available, the more views and downloads it can get. Secondly, as Unsplash is online longer, I’m assuming more photographers are uploading more work, so the pool gets larger, and the available views and downloads may lessen.
When or why would I leave Unsplash?
I used to think I’d leave Unsplash when I reached 1 million downloads. But I think the truer statement is that I’d stop giving my work away for free, when it resonated with enough people who wanted to pay for it.
How do I reach that number? How do I find those people? I have no idea. The only thing I know to do today is step one, to create, step two and three and four can’t even happen without step one.
Money is nice, but making work that resonates with people, work that makes you and I feel something. That’s like a little bit nicer.
I’ll leave you with my most popular piece, a photo from a backroad before sunrise in Queenstown, New Zealand, shot on my old original DJI Mavic Pro, with just enough light for it to be a sharp and in focus image.