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Unsplash – 10 months and 12.4 million views later

How many times were my images viewed/used?

 My Unsplash gallery (link) has some pretty impressive stats:

unsplash stats
My top 6 images on Unsplash

Digging a bit deeper, I ran some reverse image Google searches to get an idea on how the images are being used. It was quite interesting:

  • Image sharing websites (free desktop/iPhone wallpaper sharing) – used 32 times
  • Social media (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc) – used 39 times
  • Business (commercially) – used 37 times
  • Resale (re-sale of my images as canvas or framed prints) – 3 times
  • Credit back to me – 0 times

Some interesting usage and themes in how the images were being used commercially:

  • Church/religious websites love my images with around 10 unique churches using my images
  • Major government department in New South Wales Australia is using one of the images
  • When images are credited back, it is often back to Unsplash without even a link
  • Plumbing or water companies love a top down beach aerial photo. Who would have thought!

What was I hoping to achieve by giving my images away for free?

I went in with an open mind and didn’t have high hopes when signing up for a website giving images away for free but I saw a few opportunities:

  1. Building natural links to my website from people using and crediting my images – This hasn’t happened at all.
  2. People sharing my photos on Instagram and crediting me back – This has happened 2-3 times by accounts with less than 50 followers so wasn’t what I’d hoped. 
  3. People wanting to license my work for money – Again… This hasn’t happened at all.

Was it worth it?

Well… No. Unfortunately things didn’t pan out like I’d hoped and I’ve got nothing to show for my 12.5 million (and rapidly growing) views but a decent amount of interaction and views on my images. 

Am I disappointed?

I’m slightly disappointed but you have to be in it to win it right?   I’ve enjoyed being involved in something new and different but wouldn’t change anything. You don’t know if you don’t try.

With that said though, I’ve read of some great things coming from people posting on Unsplash where it has led to commercial work.  

Would I recommend you submit your work to Unsplash?

Yes and no.

It really depends on how emotionally attached you are to your work and whether you believe your work has financial value in the future. Personally speaking, I submitted my ‘b-grade’ work to Unsplash which I was less emotionally attached to but at the same time, it was pretty depressing seeing a major Australian newspaper and government agency both using my images.

If you are thinking of submitting your work to Unsplash, I’d suggest you consider:

  • What am I looking to gain from submitting my work? Exposure? Potential future financial opportunities? The sense of giving back to the community?
  • How emotionally attached am I to the work?
  • Would this work be better served being kept for other licensing opportunities (i.e. paid stock websites or your portfolio)
  • Is this work unique/exclusive and has genuine value? I’ve got some unique work which is doing great on paid stock websites and would have been a waste to be made available for free

Licensing your work (whether it be free or paid) can quickly erode future value of the work. I’ve licensed my work in the past on exclusive agreements where the party were also interested to understand how the image had been used by others.  If the work was used in the past, it quickly cuts down how much they are willing to pay based on the image not being exclusive and potentially being recognised by consumers as used in other campaigns by another company.

Where to from here?

I’ve decided to stop submitting my work to Unsplash for the time being but will look to keep my existing work on there to see what comes about. I figure there’s no point taking the images off at this point in time as they are now widely accessible on image sharing websites, etc.  

If you’re looking to find me on Unsplash, I submit my work under @alexwise.

Thanks for reading,


4 thoughts on “Unsplash – 10 months and 12.4 million views later

  1. Those are some really impressive impressions from Unsplash but the reward did not work out in your benefit. It is always good to try out something new, hopefully 2019 works out better in terms of your goals!

    1. Thanks Anthony! Gotta be in it to win it right 🙂

  2. Hi Alex

    I always struggle to understand why extremely capable photographers give away quality content free of charge on sites like Unsplash, rather than selling it on sites like Shutterstock. I too have had major newspapers use my images (eg, but for me it’s always a thrill because I know that I’m being paid for it. The payment is not much, but for somebody whose photography is strictly a hobby it gives me a real buzz. I’m sorry to hear that your own experience, with unpaid licences on Unsplash, is quite the opposite. Here’s a referral link if you want to sign up as a Shutterstock contributor:


    1. Thanks for stopping by Nils. Definitely agree to your points, it’s one thing to see your work being used on the big stage but it’s another to say to people that you got paid for it too.

      I’ve since started submitting a lot of my work to iStock/Getty so will see where that takes me 🙂


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