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Unsplash wordmark logo.svg
Unsplash screenshot.png
Type of site
Stock photography
HeadquartersMontreal, Quebec
OwnerUnsplash Inc.
  • Mikael Cho
  • Luke Chesser
  • Stephanie Liverani
  • Angus Woodman
Content license
Unsplash license

Unsplash is a website dedicated to sharing stock photography under the Unsplash license. The website claims over 110,000 contributing photographers and generates more than 9 billion photo impressions per month on their growing library of over 810,000 photos.[1] Unsplash has been cited as one of the world's leading photography websites by Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, CNET, Medium and The Next Web.[2][3][4][5][6]

Unsplash allows photographers to upload photos to its website, which are then curated by a team of photo editors. The permissive copyright terms on its photos has led to Unsplash becoming one of the largest photography suppliers on the internet,[7] with its members’ photos frequently appearing on articles.

As from 18 February 2018 Unsplash changed their license terms to restrict the sale of photos without first updating, modifying, or otherwise incorporating new creative elements into the photos, prohibiting selling unaltered copies, including selling the photos as prints or printed on physical goods.[8]


One of the pioneers of the copyright-free photography model,[9] Unsplash was created in 2013 by Montreal-based entrepreneur Mikael Cho. While creating a new homepage for his company Crew, Cho was unable to find a suitable stock photo and hired a photographer instead.[10] Afterwards, Cho posted the outtakes from his company photoshoot on Tumblr, inviting people to use them as they saw fit.[11]

Before June 2017, photos uploaded to Unsplash were made available under the Creative Commons zero license, which is a public domain equivalent license and a waiver, which allowed individuals to freely reuse, repurpose and remix photos for their own projects. This was changed in June 2017, and photos are now made available under the Unsplash license, which imposes some additional restrictions.[12] Unsplash received more than 50,000 visits on its first day.[10]

On 18 February 2018 Unsplash changed their license terms to restrict the sale of photos without first updating, modifying, or otherwise incorporating new creative elements into the photos, prohibiting selling unaltered copies, including selling the photos as prints or printed on physical goods.

While Cho supplied the first batch of Unsplash photos, the site is now sustained by community contributions from amateur and professional photographers. Due to the volume of photo submissions, the site employs an editorial team and "curators" picked from the Unsplash community, including Guy Kawasaki, Nas, Khoi Vinh, Amanda Hesser and Om Malik.[13]


Unsplash photos are covered by the Unsplash license, which is similar to a Creative Commons zero license. The difference between a CC0 license and the Unsplash license is the Unsplash license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.[14] Both licenses give viewers the right to "copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash"[12] but the Unsplash license prohibits selling unaltered copies, including selling the photos as prints or printed on physical goods. Until June 2017, Unsplash photos were covered by the Creative Commons zero license itself.[15]

The lack of attribution for Unsplash photos has been the subject of controversy among photography circles,[16] due to some companies using free Unsplash photography for profit without compensating the photographers. Unsplash itself has stated that it does not support the practice.[12]


In 2016, Unsplash released the Unsplash Book, the world's "first ever fully crowd-sourced" book.[17] The book's photos, essays, and funding were all contributed by Unsplash's community.[18] The book raised $106,000 on Kickstarter and included contributions from Harvard law professor and CC0 inventor Lawrence Lessig, and designer Tobias van Schneider.[19]

Unsplash API[edit]

In addition to its website, Unsplash provides a public Application programming interface (API) that powers more than 1.1 billion photo requests per month.[20] Some of the products relying on the Unsplash API include Medium, Trello, Squarespace, Codepen, Square as well as Unsplash own series of products such as Unsplash for iOS, Unsplash Instant, an extension for Google Chrome that loads Unsplash photos in new tabs and Unsplash for Apple TV.[20]

Unsplash Local[edit]

Beyond its website and API, Unsplash hosts photo walks in cities around the world including Tokyo, Montreal, and Boston.[21][22] The photo walks are hosted by guides from the Unsplash community who show participants the best places to take photos in their city, how to use their cameras, and how to compose better photos.[23]


  1. ^ Unsplash. "Stats". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ Laurinavicius, Tomas. "33 Epic Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos". Forbes. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  3. ^ Ark, Casey. "14 Amazingly Free Stock Photo Websites". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  4. ^ Martin, Taylor. "Use these 7 sites to keep your desktop wallpaper fresh". CNET. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  5. ^ Senos, Dustin. "Stock photos that don't suck". Medium. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  6. ^ Zee. "Unsplash is a site full of images you can freely use for your next startup's splash page". The Next Web. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  7. ^ Czikk, Joseph. "Unsplash: We're the most viral photo site". Montreal in Technology. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  8. ^ Unsplash (6 March 2018). "The Unsplash License". Unsplash Blog. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  9. ^ Webb, Scott. "Free stock photography websites photographers must know ASAP". Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b Cho, Mikael. "How side projects saved our startup". Quartz. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  11. ^ Bourel, Fanny. "Mikael Cho : Une tenacité payante". Les Affaires. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Unsplash. "Unsplash License". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  13. ^ Unsplash. "Unsplash Collections". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  14. ^ Unsplash. "License | Unsplash". unsplash.com. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Unsplash Licence (May 2017)". Archived from the original on 30 May 2017.
  16. ^ Tyler. "Unethical Unsplash". A Funny Thing Happened. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  17. ^ Ifking, Emma. "The first fully crowd-sourced open book". IT Key Media. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  18. ^ Unsplash. "Unsplash Book". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  19. ^ MacKay, Jory. "Want to be a published author?". Crew Blog. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  20. ^ a b Unsplash. "Unsplash API". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  21. ^ TimeOut Toronto. "Unsplash Toronto Photo Walk". TimeOut. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  22. ^ "History". Unsplash. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  23. ^ Unsplash. "Unsplash Local". Unsplash.com. Retrieved 11 January 2017.

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