It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the company that bought it, but now Unsplash has a paid tier.
The new level is imaginatively being dubbed Unsplash+ and offers “curated content” that’s available in unlimited downloads for commercial licenses and with supposed extra legal protections.
According to the company’s announcement on its blog for this new service, “Members will get access to a constantly growing library of premium visuals that are not available in the free Unsplash library, and enjoy an ad-free experience on Unsplash.com,” The monthly cost of the subscription, paid annually, is $4.
The company also claims that its existing library of free, open content will remain in place and continue to be open for submissions.
Another, later blog post by the company further elaborated on the nature of the new service and also exhorted photographers to start contributing their own content for resale.
As the post explains, “To submit content for Unsplash+, contributors need to apply. If your application is approved, you get access to multiple creative briefs and get paid per image accepted into the Unsplash+ library,”
According to Unsplash, it then uses its own search analytics to create work briefs for photographers and in doing so, help them know how they can submit work that fills perceived holes in the stock photography available on the site:
“Brief topics are influenced by forecasted trends, popular search terms, and hard-to-find concepts. Unsplash then selects and pays the photographer for their images that meet the submission guidelines, and adds it to the Unsplash+ library so it can be licensed by Unsplash+ subscribers,”
A key question any photographer would be asking at this point is about how payment works. This is where Unsplash+ offers a somewhat unique payment structure that many photographers might not like too much.
Instead of earning royalty payments per photo sold from any photos they upload to the site, Unsplash+ contributors will be paid a single “one-time, per-image” fee for each photo accepted by Unsplash+ curation team to the platform.
According to the website, “For example, if the brief price is $10 per image and Unsplash accepts 100 photos from the content you submit in response to that brief, then you would receive $1,000. Rates for photos will range, on average, between $5 – $30 an image.”
Unsplash also explains that “Complex briefs with models and unique locations may be priced higher than landscapes or environmental shots with no people.” Meaning that some types of photos can earn higher one-time approval payments.
Unsplash also claims that this system is better because it’s supposedly more transparent and quicker, letting a photographer obtain their money right away regardless of future downloads.
On the other hand, as any photographer whose work sells reasonably well could point out, the system arguably lets the company take advantage of photographers in economically difficult straits. Unsplash+ basically promises quick cash so as to have creators forfeit all possible future earnings on submitted work.
To offset part of the bad smell this payment scheme might leave with some photographers, Unsplash/Getty has also added that users who regularly contribute acceptable content will also get “special access to high-budget shoots and additional opportunities”.
If that sounds suspiciously like being told that the real benefit to some low-paying offer is its exposure value, it might be because it sort of is just like that.