How Unsplash and Pexels Can Grow Your Visibility as a Photographer

How unsplash and pexels can grow your visibility as a photographer

There are many paths you can take as a photographer, mainly depending on the photography niche you are working under, and most of them are also related to your intention as a photographer and your business plan.

But after all, as photographers, we all rely on one thing: our exposure (and I am not talking about image exposure but the possibility of being discovered for our works).

No matter what your niche is, if you do nature photography, astrophotography, portrait, food or product or, in general, any type of photography, in order to be discovered and grow an audience, otherwise to find photography gigs, YOU NEED to have a proper exposure, as much as possible with as little investment as possible.

To increase your visibility as a photographer, there are many ways, from building social networks to sharing your work to advertising, having a blog and one less common approach: giving your images for free to free stock photography websites.

There is a stretch: If your aim is to share your photographs for free, you may gain a better visibility if adequately done, but there comes the heartbreak: why should you share your images for free? it’s your hard work and creativity.

Let me section this topic a bit and explain how Unsplash and Pexels, or other free stock image sites, may actually change your life as a photographer.

How sharing pictures on free stock images websites drastically increases visibility as a photographer

Just to start with the core point: I am not advertising Unsplash and Pexels nor have any affiliation with them. This article is based on my own experience and research.

Imagine you share a good photograph on social media. Depending on your audience, and let’s say that for most new and even older photographers, the social media audience is not that big. Your image may be seen 50-100 times for the next couple of days, and that would be it (heavily depending on your audience size).

With Unsplash, I’ve seen images reaching millions of people per image! Compared with a typical social media audience, with an audience of that size, you MAY be able to gain thousands of times more exposure. And besides, you already shared your image for free on Instagram, didn’t you?

At the beginning of 2020, I uploaded 30 images on Unsplash. They were not my best ones, by far, but they are not bad either. In the first few months, my photos gained hundreds of thousands of views and got thousands of downloads, only with 30 images.

Only recently, I’ve realised the potential of Unsplash and the role it can play in increasing my visibility as a photographer. I uploaded another hundred images and instantly started getting thousands of views per day for my pictures.

Not much ahead of time, I have nearly 1.3 million views, and my photographs were credited in a lot of big newspapers, sites and so on, with my name! And that’s just Unsplash

I decided to give it a try to Pexels as well. I also reached but in a shorter time, 1.4 million views. The only trick was that on Pexels, I had uploaded some free stock footage as well.

The traffic dip on Pexels means that it is not updated for the new month (03.01.2023)

Most major blogging sites such as, Squarespace, Wix and many other sites such as Figma, Pixart and Trello have Unsplash integrated, which means each time someone downloads your image to use on their article or work, they pretty much have to mention the source and author. The Unsplash and Pexels integrations extend beyond any other free stock website, making them the primary choice for most bloggers.

What does that mean? Your name (or photography alias) can and will be spread thousands of times or even more, in time, on different blogs, sites, forums and even magazines. THAT IS WHAT I CALL EXPOSURE

Lettuce Image Traffic on Unsplash

Do you like lettuce? Well, over 1.8k people are using this image somewhere, of which many had mentioned the source, giving me exposure. And this is a single image, neither my top one.

Of course, there would be many people who would still not mention the author of the image. Still, that number is getting thinner each day because of the extra-legal requirements on many online platforms to mention the author and source of the image if it doesn’t belong to you, which, ultimately, increases your overall visibility, not only for your name or photography name but your Unsplash or Pexels profile as well.

What else can Unsplash contribute apart from visibility?

I can make a simple list of how much more Unsplash can contribute to your portfolio.

  • You can get hired via Unsplash. – Not only have you increased visibility, but they also added a function to get hired as a photographer directly from their website. Of course, that is limited by demographic for now
  • Convert traffic to your site and social media accounts – With so many new eyes on your Unsplash profile, you can link your site and social media account. People can further follow your work outside Unsplash, gaining massive exposure in time.
  • You can get tips via PayPal – Yes, they also have an integrated button where people can give tips for your work via PayPal ‘me’. The more visibility you get from your images, which, believe me, you will get, the higher the chances are for you to get tips from people really appreciating your work.
  • You can show your portfolio online – The Unsplash site design is stunning. Not only that you can take advantage of all the pros of having your images on Unsplash, but you can also use it to display your portfolio.
  • Ultimately, you can get a good rename for helping the online world by sharing images for free on the internet, which many people would appreciate. I can’t say what a boost of morale or even more implications this can have.  

What can Pexels also offer for uploading your photographs there?

  • A quicker way to reach the virality of your images
  • The possibility to upload videos as well, with a much wider audience than any other free stock websites for videos
  • Also, you can get tips, and Pexels is pushing this a bit more than Unsplash
  • It’s also easier to get your images “staff picked” and reach a massive number of people in a matter of days

Why not sell your pictures instead

I had hundreds of my top images for sale on Shutterstock and many other microstock images for years. Do you know how much I earned? About $40 per total, in years!

Not only that, they sell their images for reasonable prices, and you get mere pennies (literally), and you feel your work is being mocked.

If you sell an image on one of the stock websites, you receive about 15-20% off that image, meaning that the gross 80% will take the agency. I would personally prefer to give my pictures for free than my profit to stock websites.

  • Just a tip unrelated point, Unsplash and Pexels are subject to quality control. Their quality bar is relatively low; therefore, you don’t need to share the best of the best images there. Don’t share pictures taken with a mobile phone in 2008 with 1.3mp resolution either – they won’t accept them.

The story of Jakob from TheBuffNerds on YouTube with Unsplash

Like you, I needed to get some more research on Unsplash and Pexels and their potential reach. You can find mixed opinions around the internet

Then I found Jakob from TheBuffNerds on YouTube (external link)

I will round his story up and how Unsplash changed his entire career as a photographer.

His images have been seen over 1.3 billion times. And no, it is not a typo. I mean BILLIONS OF VIEWS! Only on Unsplash. I am bad with math, but wouldn’t that mean an average of 16-17% of the entire planet’s population seen his images? Imagine this kind of visibility!

It does worth it for you to see his video if you haven’t already. I will not spoil anything; however, this visibility changed his entire career life as a photographer.

Doesn’t using Unsplash mean people can use your images for free?

Yes, it does that. But in the end, your unused images are already sitting on a hard drive on your desk, and nobody takes any advantage of that.

And even like this, expect that if you have a photography social media, the more significant the audience, the higher the chance that some people may steal your images and you get nothing in return. At least, having them on Unsplash or Pexels (or both), people will make good use of them. This is the current world we are living in.

What about sharing your images on a social media channel (e.g. Instagram) instead?

It doesn’t have to be “instead”. As long as you have 100% ownership of your work, you are absolutely free to share your images both on social media and place them on Unsplash and Pexels. Those are your images, and you didn’t sell them; maybe it is time to share?

It would be a good mention in your social media bio that you share your images on Unsplash and Pexels and that those profiles are yours, so people won’t presume that you are picking the images you share from free stock sites and publish them on, e.g. Instagram.

Not everything should be shared on Unsplash or Pexels. A 90% is just fine

Let me ask you a simple question: how many images does it sit on your hard drive which are not applied in actual use (such as for sale, licensed or sold ownership)

You can do everything just as before if you have a site to sell your images or sell them to microstock websites, magazines, or whatever your marketing strategy is. But I am guessing you take this approach for the best of your best images, isn’t it? You don’t have every single picture of yours put for a license or otherwise

That is why the free stock image approach can not only increase your visibility as a photographer, but you won’t change much in terms of your previous strategy.

Are there any alternatives to Unsplash or Pexels?

Maybe you are not very fond of Unsplash or Pexels. I get that. Everyone has their opinion, and I respect that, or perhaps you have your reason.

Yes, there are alternatives, but I cannot give you a detailed analysis as I didn’t use any other platforms. I am going to share the top I found worth mentioning (there are many more out there)

  • Pixabay – Has more images than Unsplash; however, this includes vectors and illustrations. This may answer your question if you often create vectors and illustrations on top of your photography.
  • Canva – Canva it’s ideal for making designs, from web design to banners, social media covers, thumbnails and infinite more options. They have a free stock image database you can contribute to; therefore, your images may be seen on many designed projects.

In conclusion

Do you have a bunch of photographs that are good quality but sitting on your hard drive and got no use to them? Maybe it’s time to take another approach to increase your exposure as a photographer. The potential is outstanding with Unsplash and Pexels. With no sweat, I reached millions and more will see my images in time.

And no, I am not advertising for them or affiliates of any kind. I am just a simple guy trying to help by giving some valuable tips.

Thank you for reading my article. I hope you are doing well. Take care and stay safe!

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