Professional photographer Zack Arias has posted a rather passionate video about the issues he sees with Unsplash, a web site that gives away photography for free.

“Is this the race to the bottom that we're all tumbling towards….”

Zack talks about a lot of the issues he sees with Unsplash:

  • There seems to be some legal issues with the site, especially when it comes to model releases for identifiable people, it seems some photographers think the Unsplash license provides this.
  • There is also the legal issues with images that show identifiable brands and property, you need releases for these images.
  • Getting hired because of Unsplash is likely the exception and not the rule, most people just come in, grab a photo and leave. They don't look at your portfolio or even consider hiring you for commercial work. Obviously, some people have been hired, but again, that's likely the exception and not the rule.
  • People can take your images from Unsplash and put them in THEIR portfolio, as long as they don't claim copyright to those images in their portfolio.

Back to the model releases, this is from Carolyn E. Wright from

Proceed with caution with dealing with Unsplash. Photographers who contribute photos there may find themselves in a lawsuit for a variety of reasons. While an end user clearly has the responsibility to secure permission for a commercial use of a photo of a recognizable person (as evidenced by a model release), stock agencies and photographers have been sued for right of privacy/right of publicity claims when posting and/or offering for licensing photos of people.

Zack touches on a lot of serious issues with Unsplash in its current form. If you're posting images to Unsplash, please be careful and be sure you're getting proper and legal releases. Inevitably, a lawsuit is coming.

Is it really benefiting your business? Zack makes a great point about a Condé Nast publication Bride's Magazine using an image from Unplash for the front cover of a magazine insert. The cover of that advertising insert likely cost the company that took the image from Unsplash tens of thousands of dollars, how much did the photographer get? Nothing, not even a thank-you.

You can checkout Zach's interview with Unsplash's Mikael Cho here.

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