I decided to give away my photos for free, even for commercial use

over 1 year ago from , Freelance Photographer

Two years ago I started uploading a few of my images on Unsplash, a free stock photography website.

A lot of people told me that I was devaluating my work, that I was loosing money by letting people use my photographs without paying me. I almost believed them at some point.

Time passed and I’ve had a lot of people viewing, downloading and using those photographs. Even Apple did, on their iPad Pro page. But most importantly I started to get contacted by clients (like UBS) who enjoyed my style and asked me to create images for them. In fact, giving images away tremendously increased my visibility and helped me start my freelancing career.

For those who like numbers, the images I have on Unsplash have been viewed 63’724’225 times and downloaded 613’663 times (details). That’s about 130’000 views per day, and a very small percentage of those people are also visiting my website. An even smaller percentage are contacting me for work. I can let you imagine how many backlinks I have to my portfolio now...

Today I want to give back even more, that’s why I made my own little Archive. A repository which contains nearly all my photography, organized by location and subjects. All of the images can be downloaded for free in high resolution (up to 6000px on the longest side). Everything is under a Creative Commons License and you can share them, adapt them and use them commercially (credits are appreciated)

It is a way for me to have another layer of backup and a journal of the images I take. I will regularly add more content to the archive. I estimated that I can easily upload thousand images in the next few months.

I hope some of you will have a use for those pictures, and if you make something out of it feel free to share it with me. I’d be curious to hear what you think about this.

I’m explaining why I’m doing it in more details in this Medium blog post.

Best,

Sam

31 comments

  • Oliur Rahman, over 1 year ago

    Thanks for this. I started sharing some of my own photos but ended up stopping because I thought I was devaluing my work. http://photos.oliur.com

    But hearing your story has made me rethink. I will probably start sharing my photos on unsplash now.

    3 points
    • Samuel ZellerSamuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      After a few commercial jobs I realized that it's all about your next project, not the previous ones. The goal is to keep having new clients and always improve. Your old images can be used on Instagram, Facebook and so on but that will not bring you clients. I have 10k followers on Instagram and never had a single client contacting me because of that, same for 500px or Facebook. Of course I won't share all images, there's some of them that are published in magazines and books, and I won't share my commercial jobs. I'm only publishing the images I don't have any use for.

      3 points
      • Oliur Rahman, over 1 year ago

        I think Instagram can be a great platform as I've had a quite a few jobs come through there. I think it really depends on the amount of followers and the type of followers they are.

        0 points
        • Samuel ZellerSamuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

          Sure, here's the kind of images I share on Instagram (@zellersamuel). Yours are lovely, they remind me of the images taken by Andrew Kim on his blog "minimally minimal", here's an example. I think that people in Switzerland and specially in Geneva are not that into Instagram, most small business don't even have pages and even big ones sometimes have bad content or no hashtags haha, it's a shame.

          0 points
    • Kirill ZakharovKirill Zakharov, over 1 year ago

      Welcome to the fam ;)

      https://unsplash.com/@ultralinx

      2 points
  • Eric BoyerEric Boyer, over 1 year ago

    Love your work dude! Total beginner and just starting to get into taking photos for fun, what are some of your daily visits and resources on the web?

    2 points
    • Samuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      Thanks Eric. We all started somewhere :) What helped me a lot is that I've worked as a designer, and also watching movies with good photography. Like "Her" or even the serie "Mr Robot". I don't really visit websites about photography often but I run an Instagram account called Fujifeed where I feature other people work and write a little comment, it's good for learning purposes, I suggest you to have a look to it.

      1 point
      • Eric BoyerEric Boyer, over 1 year ago

        Oh awesome dude. I gave it a follow. Awesome shots and stories! I'll have to become a member of the Fuji club :)

        0 points
  • Luis La TorreLuis La Torre, over 1 year ago

    Hey! I love this! You have inspired me to do something similar. I was wondering if you could share a bit your meta-data. I would like to know your lenses choices, as well other geeky stuff.

    2 points
    • Samuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      Hey there, thank you! I used Shootproof to build that archive. I wish I had enough skills to dev my own platform heh. For the meta-data all the files have EXIF embedded, you just have to download the images and then you can see the lens, camera, speed, iso etc.. Sadly there's no way to display it directly in Shootproof. I'm now using a Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a XF35mm F1.4 lens, as well as a Fujifilm X-T1 with an XF16mm F1.4 lens. I don't use zoom lenses. Before that I had the Fujifilm X-E1 and the Fujifilm X100.

      3 points
  • David BarkerDavid Barker, over 1 year ago

    I've told you on a Twitter how much I love your photographs, but I'll say it again… I love your photographs!

    1 point
  • Gonçalo MoraisGonçalo Morais, over 1 year ago

    Well, now I’m going to follow you everywhere, because on top of being an amazing photographer, you look like a great human being. Thanks!

    1 point
    • Samuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      Thank you Gonçalo, and for the recommend on Medium as well! I appreciate it :) I've always been happy when I found free ressources on the internet, this is just a way of giving back.

      1 point
  • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 1 year ago

    Have loved seeing your style evolve over the years and always love hearing your opinions on photography and where it's heading.

    Seeing your work on apple.com was a huge moment for you I'm sure, but it was also a big moment for us and we've loved getting to be a part of your journey.

    Keep shooting Samuel!

    1 point
  • Rich ArnoldRich Arnold, over 1 year ago

    Totally unrelated: What are you typically shooting with?

    0 points
    • Saijo GeorgeSaijo George, over 1 year ago (edited over 1 year ago )

      I think that is quite related.

      @Samuel that is an amazing story mate, congrats on your success. I will add your site to http://allthefreestock.com

      0 points
    • Samuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      Now I'm shooting with a Fujifilm X-Pro2 + XF35mm F1.4 lens (50mm equivalent) most of the time, I also use a Fujifilm X-T1 + XF16mm F1.4 lens. With those two I can cover a lot of things, it's good for editorial. I just need maybe a telephoto lens like the XF50-140mm F2.8 OIS. I have a cheap cullman tripod and a good Benro B4 ballhead. I might need to upgrade my tripod one day but those things cost an arm haha.

      0 points
  • Visien VinesaVisien Vinesa, over 1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing. I have always been thinking like that too. And seeing this is strengthening my current pov. Thanks once again.

    0 points
  • Palash MukhopadhyayPalash Mukhopadhyay, over 1 year ago

    Thank you. From all of us who are stuck for a specific image / look / feel at any point in our work / art. And you've inspired me to do the same with the thousands lying around idly on my hard-drives.

    0 points
    • Samuel ZellerSamuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      I'm very happy to hear that! I'm often stuck in my own work. By doing this I'm also motivated to go back to old images, retouch them and share them. I'm also more motivated to take my camera everywhere with me :)

      0 points
  • Federico SarassolaFederico Sarassola, over 1 year ago

    Hey man, I follow you on Instagram for a while now; I always love your work, and now that i know what kind of people you are, i will use your images everytime i can! wish you nothing but the best.

    0 points
  • Artur MaklyarevskyArtur Maklyarevsky, over 1 year ago (edited over 1 year ago )

    You are doing a mitzvah! Art should be as free / accessible as possible.

    We at http://JuicyCanvas.com are currently experimenting with a new "Remix" model, which is really opening up new pathways to creativity for all, while virally exposing the art & artist.

    0 points
  • Kirill ZakharovKirill Zakharov, over 1 year ago

    Beautiful archive! Always loved your work man.

    0 points
    • Samuel ZellerSamuel Zeller, over 1 year ago

      You're everywhere haha, thank you for the kind words! I'll keep uploading to Unsplash of course, just the best ones :)

      1 point
  • Daniel HaimDaniel Haim, over 1 year ago

    Thank you!

    0 points
  • Johnson VinoJohnson Vino, over 1 year ago

    Share in google photos. It will help others

    0 points
  • Nathaniel PeralesNathaniel Perales, over 1 year ago (edited over 1 year ago )

    Hey man,

    Thanks so much for sharing this information. As a photographer struggling with how to keep value in my work I really appreciate this information. It's sparked a lot of ideas and I'm definitely going to rethink my goal.

    I've been a web designer for the past 5 years, but was always a photographer at heart, but simply struggled with making money by shooting what I like to shoot.

    Most of my work is shot on film, but I can absolutely see the value of putting my digital work that I've shot over the past 10 years on Unsplash, simply for the views and backlinks.

    Thanks again,

    If you'd like to check out my work, my website is: http://nathanielperales.com & instagram is: http://instagram.com/nathanielperales

    0 points