72,799,541 views and lessons learnt

By Christopher Burns


Firstly, I love photography.


My role at End of Work is diverse. I’m an image maker – directing film shoots to photography to designing corporate systems and processes. It’s the nature of this curious, diverse, design thinking beast of an agency that I love.


Not long ago I signed up to Unsplash, a photography sharing website.


Welcome to the share economy I thought. The website is a community where photographers – professional and amateur could share images for the general public to use, free of charge, high quality with no sign up required… a simple click of the button and itʼs yours.


I thought ‘“yeah why not”, I donʼt do anything with these personal images I’ve taken, people may enjoy them. So I began to revisit some old images and I uploaded.


I began to keep a track on views, likes and downloads.


It was the first time I have seen how my personal photographs were received in the wider public domain. Over time these statistics would grow and emails would roll in from the Unsplash team thanking me for my contributions to the site.


A month in, I received an email from Unsplash “Congratulations youʼve reached 1,000,000 views’ʼ Holy Crap! I thought. 1,000,000 is a milestone number and I was responsible for it happening. I felt bloody amazing.


The floodgates were open.


I continued to upload image after image after image and emails from Unsplash rolled in updating me on view counts and downloads. It seemed to be ticking along brilliantly.




I started receiving emails from random people thanking me for uploading my images. Wow.


In one month I received three messages from friends at some well established design agencies in London following the general theme of “Hey long time no speak, weʼve been working on a website at work and I realised weʼre using some of your images from Unsplash, crazy. Hope your well.”


I discovered my images from Unsplash being used on a number of larger sites, Outdoor magazine, Forbes,

Instagram Business, Trivago and The Urban List Sydney. Businesses that made large profits.


Then it hit me, boom.


What a twat I am.


General public use in my mind was not commercial use.


What was I doing to the value of the creative industry? All those late nights and I just give it away for free.


Was my desire to see how many ‘hitsʼ my images were getting, in fact a complete devaluation of other Photographers who are trying to make a living and could no doubt be faced with a message from a client saying “Weʼve actually found the image weʼre looking for on Unsplash, weʼll be in contact soon”… never to be heard from again.


Was this a ‘communityʼ of happy-go-lucky people helping the world one small photograph at a time? Or was it a deep bucket of undervalued resource, exploited and available for free by corporations?


The platform Unsplash has without doubt helped me understand the value of my creativity.


Blimey! I just hit 72,799,542 views.


Chris Burns, End of Worker