I honestly never thought I would be writing this post but here it is, today January 16th, 2023 I’ve uploaded some images to both Unsplash and Pixabay, the giant TURDS of the stock photography world. In this post I’ll explain why and what I hope to achieve by trying to milk the last drops of value from my port. Let’s get started!
I’m still against free-download sites but hear me out (before unfollowing me)
I hate the concept of giving images away for free and have written extensively on the subject. By doing so, among many reasons, it devalues our work as photographers even more helping to further drive the price down to even more unsustainable levels. The argument goes, why would someone pay for something when with a little research they can download the content for free?
In addition, no photographer with any sort of reputation or dignity would engage in such atrocious acts of self-sabotage. So why am I doing the exact opposite of what I believe in?
Inspired / Worried by Photerloo – Best Websites to Sell your Photos Online in 2023
I recently watched this earnings report by Photerloo and it got me thinking…
In particular this slide stood out where James explained he makes most of his earnings not from paid sites but by donations at Pexels / Pixabay:
James Wheeler’s Portfolio at Pexels
So, cutting to the chase, James is earning more from donations at Pexels / Pixabay than the likes of Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. Here’s a link to James’s 299-image portfolio at Pexels featuring some stunning Canadian West Coast wilderness.
Pretty impressive to earn $600 in donations from just 299 images any way you look at it.
My Experiment – 100 Images at Unsplash and Pexels
It will obviously take me some years before I can reach James’s 656.2million views and rank and ultimately earning $50+ a month but my idea is that:
- I’ll upload eventually 100 generic quite generic (non-editorial) images with some commercial value I’ve recently captured in Brazil to both Unsplash and Pexels, will show you wish shortly;
- These images will be also spread around all non-exclusive microstock agencies;
- I’ll track the number of donations received, if any, from Unsplash and Pexels;
- I’ll also track if putting such images on free-download sites may affect the sales of paid-sites. In other words, do “buyers” shop around.
- Will report back in 6 months time with results. Perhaps a bit longer if there’s no movement…
5 examples of the generic images I’ve uploaded to these Turds
Both Unsplash and Pexels have upload allowances for new contributors, so I’ve only uploaded the maximum for the week with some of these. here are some examples of the types of rural content I’ve uploaded.
Maybe earning donations from Free Download Sites is the next business model…
With the encroachment of Artificial Intelligence (Midjourney, DALLE-2, etc) in the creation of stock content, together with the rising popularity of free-download sites it seems that the paid-microstock model is broken. This is quite clear from pretty much all contributors reporting year-on-year steep declines in the average return per image downloaded. Therefore maybe I’ll either emerge as as hugely naïve/foolish about doing this or as a visionary haha let’s see!
I really don’t want to upload more than 100 images to these stupid sites but depending on how well this experiment does I may just have to! Until next time from a super hot Rio de Janeiro!
January 18 update:
I had a good think about this experiment and all your comments and will make the following adjustments:
1. For the sake of eventually getting more downloads which hopefully will become donations, I’ll have to submit more quality content. This means that such quality images will probably lose all their value once given away for free (no doubt downloaded and re-sold by thieves), but then again perhaps most buyers won’t bother shopping around that much (which is also part of the experiment). Perhaps what may work best are the dramatic fine artsty type shots that would do well on FAA. For the sake of experimentation it needs to be done as green bananas aren’t going to be a hit; Here’s some of my latest uploaded at Pexels – https://www.pexels.com/@brutally-honest-427052750/
2. I’ll conduct reverse searches on such images to see how many have ended up trying to be licensed by thieves at micros. Could be a fun little side project, doubt this has been covered elsewhere by other bloggers;
3. Curious to see if there’s footage to be accepted by some of these sites to be given away for free. Perhaps footage would bring in more donations than stills. I don’t mind giving away some footage that has never sold for many years, particularly if it’s only HD.
Update: So far my images are pending review at Pixabay and Unsplash. Amazing how they still check for technical quality even if being given away. What they really should be checking for in view of rejecting unreleased content particularly at sensitive places which may lead to legal issues later on.
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
Most recently I’ve gone all in on submitting book cover images to Arcangel Images. Oh and also recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2s drone and taking full advantage.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography