Recently, I have had the privilege of hitting 1 million(!) views on Unsplash. That’s why I decided that I now have sufficient experience with the platform to share some of my insights on it. If you are curious to know what Unsplash is and why I am posting my photos on there, you can read about that in my previous blog. First, I’d like to provide you with a few stats so that you may better grasp the impact of Unsplash as a network.
- 2,5 months have I been part of the network.
- 34 photos are on my profile right now.
- 10 of those photos made it to the ‘New’ page.
- 1.000.000+ views, of which 377.000 are gathered in the last month.
- 8700 downloads.
- 570 likes.
To give you some perspective; I have posted 16 photos on Instagram in the past month, which only provided me with 11.188 views. This is especially striking when you consider that I have about 900 followers on Instagram, compared to about 30 followers on Unsplash. I guess you can say that, in terms of exposure for creators, Unsplash has figured it out. They took away the importance and relevance of follower count (you can’t even see the number on your profile) and replaced that with manually curating the best photos for their promotion pages. Which brings me to the main question of this article: what kind of photos work well on Unsplash?
Who (mainly) uses Unsplash?
To answer the abovementioned question, there is one factor that we especially need to keep in mind. Unsplash is a platform without a strong social aspect (you can only like and collect people’s work and can’t leave comments or message each other) and therefore caters to a different crowd than the usual Instagram and Facebook user. There are generally two types of people that use Unsplash. The first group or people are the contributors that upload their images to the website. The second group consists of the consumers, which are mostly creatives in need for quality imagery for their projects. This means that most of the Unsplash visitors are (semi) professionals with a clear eye for quality. Obviously, this has some consequences for the types of images that are most sought after on the website.
What are the visitors of Unsplash searching for?
As I scroll through the Home and New pages of Unsplash, combined with the photos of myself that have made it to these pages, I notice a few trends going on that make a picture Unsplash-worthy.
The first thing that stands out, regards subject matter. Images that are able to convey a strong message with a clear focus on a specific topic seem to have a large presence. This makes a lot of sense when you realize that a lot of images that are downloaded from Unsplash, are used as visual support for text. Having an image next to your text that translates the message you are trying to convey, be it in a literal or more abstract way, really lifts your text to the next level. Pictures that are decluttered of distractions and portray a strong message, only still need to be discovered so they can accompany the right text.
The second thing that I’d like to point out, regards the composition of a photo. Showing a connection to the abovementioned point of conveying a strong message, is the efficiency of incorporating negative space in an image. I have seen my photos being used as headers that required a text overlay and the negative space in an image can be of great use for that. Also, when somebody wants to use your image to make something new with it, isolation of the subject with negative space is really helpful for that. Next to that, having a great dept of field and minimal composition are always a great way to create striking imagery. Having your focus on a particular element of the image with the other things blurred out, really add to the concept of telling a story. Using minimalism as a composition technique is a great way to accomplish this too. These things also provide the consumer with room to work with on the photo and therefore making your image more easily suitable for contributing to other purposes.
The third thing I would like to focus on, is the kind of editing that is favored on the platform. As they state in their own guidelines, overly edited photos that display a lot of grain, vignetting or saturation are not preferred on the website. Instead, a more subtle editing that, in my opinion, tends to favor film-like qualities is something you will see more often. Some qualities of this kind of editing are some amount of fading (also known as crushing the blacks), earthy tones, and slight desaturation of the colors. This clearly is not a thing that’s only visible on Unsplash but rather one that’s present throughout the recent photographic trend. I would suggest that Unsplash is actually doing a pretty good job in curating their content to this trend, as this probably is exactly what their consumers are looking for anyway. This also implies that when the demands of the consumers change, the Unsplash editors will be able to accustom to this accordingly and continue to provide the creative community with quality images.
Needless to say, this little overview is far from exhaustive and should not limit you from posting other types of work on the platform. The cases I point out are mere examples and I will always urge you to go and try something different than the things that are already being done. That being said, the real take-away from this article is to keep your images clean, focused and basically on a certain level of quality. It does not matter what kind of subject you shoot, it matters how you shoot it. As long as you keep in mind that you are trying to tell a story, how small that story may be, you are on the right path to creating images that make you feel something. We all like to feel something, don’t we?