Unsplash is at it again. Their 6th Annual Unsplash Awards is now open for entries. As if it weren’t making enough off the backs of photographers already, this contest opens the floodgates for the company to profit off many more image submissions. You’ve probably heard about what Unsplash is, and how damaging it is to photographers worldwide. If you haven’t as yet, here’s your chance to be enlightened on the topic.
Living in a metropolitan or even slightly smaller city, chances are that you’ve used a ride-hailing app for a journey. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of the many ride-hailing companies that are globally well-known. Think about the people who work for such companies. The concept is pretty straightforward for them. Let’s say you’re a vehicle owner who wants to earn money by ferrying people around town. You’d first have to sign a contract with a ride-hailing app. Depending on what country this is in, you may or may not be an employee of this company. One thing is certain, you’d get paid a certain amount per ride based on the distance you travel. A percentage of the ride fare would go to the company as well.
Your Talent, given away For Free, Fills Their Coffers.
But imagine a scenario where you’ve signed up to work for a ride-hailing app and told you’d have to ferry people for free. That’s right, on your time and your dime, someone gets a ride without paying you a penny. And the company says you should do this because you’re good at heart. Plus, it helps those who can’t afford cab fare. Fair enough; we’ve all done charitable acts at some point or another, and it’s never a bad thing to do. Then you suddenly find that the company sticks adverts on your car and profits from that, without you ever seeing a dollar roll into your bank account. How long would it take before you realize they were ripping you off? On top of that, imagine if the company actively promotes itself as the best choice to those needing rides because its rides are free. They keep telling you to continue giving free rides because someday a big company will hire you to drive them around and pay you a big chunk of money. That’s the business model Unsplash has been working off of since 2013.
Despite being acquired in 2021 by Getty Images, they continue to profit from images submitted by photographers without paying them an upfront fee or a download commission. No doubt, many of our readers would have signed up for them some years ago without realizing the company’s true intentions. It’s not just other individuals who can download images from them for free; now even major brands can do so. They can use them in adverts without payment or even credit to the photographer; it’s not necessary at all!
The winner in each category will receive an annual subscription to Bluescape and a cash prize of $500 USD.Unsplash
Why The Unsplash Awards Contest Is Just Another Image Grab
One of the requirements to participate in their latest contest is to sign up for an Unsplash account. This is their first step to reel you in as a contributor and give away your photos. But the odd contest rules don’t end there. Guess what? You can submit as many images as you like. And since each of these images resides in the Unsplash repository, aside from being a contest entry, they’reliable to be downloaded by anyone for free. They’ve deliberately not set a limit to the number of entries, so their sizeable database of saleable images gets bigger. Look at the contest FAQ – there’s no mention anywhere that images will be used only for the contest. They’ve already probably shortlisted your existing images uploaded after Nov 1st, 2021. This will be automatically done if it fits into the 11 contest categories (a contest that already has your images as entries, even without your explicit approval). Isn’t that wonderful of them?
Why Are These Industry Professionals Supporting Unsplash?
At The Phoblographer, we’re extremely vocal about the detrimental effect Unsplash has on the photography community. We’ve called them out on numerous occasions, and no doubt will continue to do so until they change their ways. By pretending to be a pillar of support for photographers while profiting in the background, they get away with fooling many folks. Some of these sponsors they call “partners,” though one has to wonder how gullible these companies must be. National Geographic, Vogue, Hello!, Nike, and more: some of the most famous brands for decades. They all rely on sourcing quality imaging for their respective marketing campaigns, so it’s not like they don’t know the value of good photography. By supporting the Unsplash Awards, they’re demeaning photographers around who work hard to earn a living. I wonder how many of the judges seen in the above photo give away their time, work, and skills for free.
They’re asking photographers to submit images across 11 categories in the Unsplash Awards. Each of these winners gets 500 USD and an annual subscription to Bluescape. This contest will no doubt help add to the nearly 4.5 million images they’ve profited off to date. And they’re only going to make more money now with the introduction of the subscription model Unsplash+. Is this contest their way of trying to feel better about themselves for what they do? Is 500 USD the justifiable value from their side for the 11 winning images (and the other entries they will profit from)?
How You Can Really Help The Photography Community
For starters, understand your worth as a photographer. Your images aren’t worth giving away to companies who can afford to pay for them. There are loads of talented photographers who fall into the “exposure” trap. They unwittingly give away their images in the hope that they will get paid work from those who ensnare them in this manner.
Also, stay vocal about companies like Unsplash that try to pull the wool over your eyes in the guise of being community leaders. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills, especially not when companies offering the exposure are using you to pay for theirs. If we let one company get away with this, more will follow.