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unsplash for illustrations

Unsplash for Illustrations: Best Free To Use Images

Who has not used photos from Unsplash for illustrations?

I guess, everyone, has gone to this site in search of an image to complement a text without having to shell out a cent.

What’s a person got to do to acquire high-quality photos without anything in return? 

Origins of Unsplash

Easily accessible, high-resolution photos are needles in a stock media, watermarked haystack.

In other words, these photos, just like anything else on the internet, comes with a price, when they’re in demand and worth having.

In 2013, however, a platform that’d change the game was created—Unsplash.

Unsplash started as a Tumblr blog run by a small group who didn’t want a bunch of their unused photos from a photoshoot to go to waste.

Hence, they decided to give it away for others to use.

From there, it was a starting point of their journey to make their original vision come to life.

That’s to help other creative and innovative projects further ahead.

Fast forward to today.

Unsplash has become a successful platform fueled by over 150,000 creators.

They have extended their generosity by allowing access to about a million images that could be used for anything under the sun.

High-Resolution Photos

Despite them being free to use, these photos are not just snapshots .

They are high-quality photography and skill.

High-resolution photos are one of which that’s at least 300 pixels per inch (PPI), with a larger pixel dimension (e.g., 5000 x 4000 pixels). 

Images on Unsplash are best for wallpapers, posters and presentations.

They bear excellent print quality—from the tiniest labels to the enormous billboards.

Thousands of hobbyists and professional photographers and creators worldwide powers Unsplash.

Hence, you can guarantee almost every time that the images available are the ones that’ll undoubtedly do the job.

The Unsplash team hand-select the photos, accepting only the best.

These high-quality photos won’t only satisfy clients, but will also exceed expectations.

Wide-range Collection 

With content published from all around the globe, you can also guarantee a wide-range and diverse collection of images.

Just from the homepage alone, one can already start searching for the perfect photo.

There are about 20+ topics to choose from, ranging from:

  • Wallpapers
  • Textures & patterns
  • Technology
  • Architecture
  • Film
  • Fashion
  • Current events
  • Much more

You will find the topic categories in different tab selections. 

Depending on the client’s purpose and image that they need, there’s no doubt that they’ll find precisely what they’re looking for here.

Note that it houses over one million photos published.

There are limitless use for Unsplash for illustrations!

There’s one disadvantage to this.

That is, there’s a vast collection to choose from.

It might be harder to find individual photos if you’re strict on specifics and details.

One must include specific keywords to find what they’re looking for more easily.

The search bar doesn’t only showcase photos related to the keyword or keyphrase.

Unsplash also shows collections and users that contain the query.

If you were to find an image based on who took it, users could easily search the contributing photographer’s name in the search bar.

Unsplash will display all applicable user accounts.

Aesthetically Pleasing and Organized

Creative and innovative minds are behind Unsplash.

That’s why it’s not shocking that even the website’s landing page and overall look and design is sleek, chic, and easy on the eyes. 

Unsplash is easy to search through and navigate.

It has color schemes of neutral colors black, grey, and white to contrast the already colorful collection of photos,

The search bar provided helps users narrow down the photos.

However, Unsplash also provides three additional filters to further delimit the photo collection.

Unsplash users can manipulate Orientation, Color, and Relevance, respectively, depending on their preference and need.

The Orientation filter enables users to either choose ‘Portrait,’ ‘Landscape,’ or ‘Square’ for their photo.

The Color filter enables users to either choose from ‘Black and White’ or a specific color ‘Tone’ (over ten color tones to choose from).

Lastly, the Relevance filter enables users to either sort by ‘Relevance’ or ‘Newest.’

You can arrange the selection to either from the most relevant to the search query to the least or from the most recent upload to the oldest.

What if you still can’t find the perfect photo that you’re looking for?

Unsplash provides over nine subcategories or keywords under the original word you searched for in the search bar.

In this way, users can quickly transfer to other related selections easily without having to type the words in the search bar anymore.

Unsplash redirects users automatically. 

Free, Legal, and Widely Used

Contrary to popular belief, photographers that have contributed to the platform don’t intend to get commercial benefits.

Hence, Unsplash has become the internet’s source of freely usable images. 

All photos are free to use under the Unsplash License,.

Unsplash grants global, unalterable, and nonexclusive copyright and permission to freely retrieve, copy, edit, circulate and use these photos.

They can be used for commercial (excluding model, property, and trademark releases) or noncommercial purposes. 

More info here:

Despite that, this license doesn’t give the authorization to use or compile photos from the platform to duplicate an identical or rival service.

Unsplash is also widely used and globally competitive.

Last July, Unsplash just hit one billion downloads.

That is, one billion creations that include presentations, wallpapers, websites, reports, and so much more, empowered by the said platform.

It has formed partnerships with known brands and platforms such as :

  • Buzzfeed
  • Adobe
  • Google Slides,
  • Medium
  • Trello
  • Typeform
  • Dropbox
  • over 800 more applications powered by the Unsplash API

Its content has never been more accessible. 

More info here:

Interactive Contribution

As mentioned before, worldwide photographers ranging from hobbyists, professionals, arising brands, and everyone in between contributes to Unsplash—made by creators for creators. 

With that said, Unsplash advocates everyone to join their growing team of contributors.

One doesn’t need established connection or ties from known people, have an agent, nor credentials or titles to present to Unsplash.

It’s a platform where artists find their audience, where individuals become a community and where each and everyone can become an inspiration and an outlet for creativity to flourish.

You can easily register, submit your content, and join for free—no credentials needed.

Despite not having any revenue for published work, one can still benefit as a contributor considering that Unsplash provides exposure and visibility to creators, serving as a beneficial starting ground to kick-start their career because it could lead to paid work.

To start your journey, click the link right here

In addition, Unsplash also measures your impact for the reason that they provide statistics on every photo you publish in such a way that you can assess how your photos contribute to other creative pieces around the globe. 

Properly Credits Creators

Although anyone can retrieve any photo published on the platform without anything in return, Unsplash never lacks to give credit where credit is due.

In every photo on the platform has its corresponding owner .

Creators’ and curators’ names are found all over the website, making it impossible for users to miss out on where and whom the photos actually belong to.

You can find the photographer’s name and profile username handle either above the photo or right on the bottom left corner. 

Aside from names and identification, the photo’s location is in the photo’s short description below. 

In spite of the fact that users can easily take advantage of these images and wouldn’t give credit to rightful owners if they simply don’t want to, Unsplash still gives importance to these creators.

Emphasizes the Importance of Photography

Unsplash is brought to life by people who share the same love and passion for the art of photography.

Passion, for the reason that it’s more than just a hobby, even if one possesses that interest without necessarily having that professional title. 

Unsplash is a safe space and community for photographers to share their work with other people who have the same vision and appreciation for it and indulge and enjoy others’ creations as well.

A mere photograph doesn’t only contribute digitally coherent information and aesthetically creative properties, but it also conveys a story, an emotion, a feeling, and as well as a memory.

A photograph doesn’t only make you remember that specific moment, but it can also bring you back to the moment’s feeling, sound, and even smell. 

Whether it’s for the preservation of certain important events such as in the form of birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations, or just for the appreciation of what’s currently around you, these photographs are your personal stories in your life’s timeline.

Photography does not require a certain age, nor does it need an expensive camera and a creative background.

Moreover, it makes you aware of your surroundings, makes you appreciate the world you’re in and stay in the moment, and makes you crave for more experience. 

Photography easily connects you with others because everyone certainly enjoys a great photo, no matter where they are or who they are.

It connects people not only through similarities, relatability, and admiration, but also through differences, opposition, and hatred. 

Photography makes you want to improve for the better because seeing your progress and how much your skills and passion grow is one of the best things one can experience.

Unsplash and its growing community of photographers encourage and well emphasize all of these.

Inspires Other Creators and Encourages Creativity

One of the reasons why everything on Unsplash is for free is because they want to fuel other creators and their creative pieces.

‘Make something awesome.‘ That’s the Unsplash catchphrase that can be found in the bottommost part of the webpage if you scroll down enough. 

Through the creative pieces that are made free and available by Unsplash, we are expected to use those in more significant creative projects with broader perspectives and higher purposes. 

They stand by their own words that art only exists by virtue of other remaining art, hence their vision. 

They believe that everyone can contribute something and that everyone’s creative.

While we’re faced with uncertainty every day as a consequence of the fact that the world is continually evolving nonstop, they do know that creativity will be the critical factor in overcoming these.

They encourage users to participate, to revise, revamp, modify, and transform through sharing

While recognizing creators isn’t mandatory due to the Unsplash License that grants no restrictions and revokes copyright, this doesn’t connote that we neglect and disregard the contributors’ hard work if we can help it.

By requesting users to give credit where credit is due, they’re encouraging them to care.

Nothing will become something without creation; Unsplash encourages people to create.

Existing Disadvantages and Risks of Unsplash

As high as all of these may sound, there’s always the other side of the coin. 

Unsplash has faced lots of controversy and backlash from other professional photographers due to the platform’s nature and how it works.

Degrades Photographer’s Value

Images found in Unsplash are not just photos, but premium, high-resolution ones.

If everyone would know about Unsplash, photographers believe that clients would, therefore, see no need to hire professional ones to cater to their needs.

They say Unsplash as a platform of free images would put professional photographers at risk, degrading their value and what they do. 

Also, some would even say that exposure and vulnerability would not exactly pay the bills and put food on the plate.

Lawsuits and Legalities

Moreover, creators using Unsplash for commercial purposes could find themselves in a lawsuit if the proper legal measures aren’t followed and observed first.

Identifiable People

If the photo you’re using includes an identifiable person, the law says that you would need a model release before it is involved in any commercial projects.

If you were to go on Unsplash and search ‘Friends,’ ‘Family,’ ‘Crowd,’ or more of the like, thousands of photos with recognizable models are published and available. 

Most, if not all, images in Unsplash don’t include a model release, and the Unsplash license doesn’t cover that.

The license only states that if you use the images commercially, the user must obtain the model release themselves.

In other words, model releases are already completely out of Unsplash’s hands and area of responsibility.

More Concerns

If you’re a small business that isn’t big enough to have their company lawyers or legal team to tell them what and what not to do, chances are you aren’t even aware of model releases in the first place.

Commercial and editorial photographer Zack Arias saw this as a form of threat to the community of commercial photographers, so he decided to create a fake campaign to experiment on the dangers Unsplash brings.

He reached out to the photographers, and politely asked for model releases. According to him, not one of them could immediately provide model releases from the people identified in some photos found.

The majority of the subjects didn’t take it quite seriously, or maybe with just the lack of urgency and need, they noted that he was free to use those photos in any way he liked.

Arias stated that this was notably risky for commercial photographers because even though the subject themselves permitted the photos without the model release, it will still not appear in court.

If the time comes that these subjects would suddenly decide to file a lawsuit, may it be for the reason of bad relations, sudden concern for their privacy and digital footprint, or simply want to take advantage of some paychecks, the photographers are still liable at the end of the day and could face severe consequences.

Arias advises emerging photographers to proceed with caution and upload with awareness.

More info here:

Recognizable Property

In Unsplash, there are thousands of unreleased and private photos of identifiable properties.

The Eiffel Tower at night, The Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris, The Hollywood Sign, Las Vegas Hotels, and the Sydney Opera House are few of the landmarks from all around the world that are not permitted to be photographed for commercial use.

If you were to go on Unsplash and search anything that includes ‘landmarks,’ ‘Eiffel Tower,’ ‘Louvre,’ or any keywords that would possibly relate to any of the landmarks mentioned, you’d find tons of photos of said properties without property releases. 

According to the international copyright law, it is a violation of any of these photographs to be distributed, released, and used for commercial purposes.

To simply put it, copyright is the legal right of the creator to protect and control the future use of their work.

Consequently, copyright infringement is the mere act of using others’ work without their knowledge and consent. 

In this case, for example, using those photos from Unsplash where those recognized properties are identified would be copyright infringement.

More info here: &

Trademarked Items

Copyrights protect the owner’s rights and control to the work’s future use.

Trademarks, on the other hand, protect the company’s association with their unique word, phrase, symbol, and logo.

This is, otherwise known as the ‘mark,’ and protect the owner’s relationship to it.        

The trademark will be official and implemented when someone uses the mark first commercially or when it is registered and acknowledged by the Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademark infringement occurs when a non-owner uses the mark as it would most likely confuse if or not that person is associated with or endorsed by the brand.

With that said, there are thousands of photos on Unsplash that include trademarked items.

For example, if you were to search ‘Nike,’ you’ll find tons of photos that contain the famous Nike swoosh check. 

If you were to search ‘soda,’ you’ll find plenty of photos that contain the logos of Coca-cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, and many more soda brands. 

Unsplash, the contributor, and anyone who downloads and uses one of these images and uses it for commercial purposes could be legally accountable.

Find more info here:

Stolen Photos

Let’s say, for example, you’re a contributing nonprofit photographer that uploads a picture on Unsplash.

You are aware of the Unsplash License, and every inclusion that comes with joining the community.

How would you feel if someone were to download that photo and make some few yet significant alterations to it?

Now he is making money out of it by selling it on Adobe stock as he claims that photo as his own?

Once a creator decides to publish their photo in Unsplash, of course, they’re aware that their picture will not gain any profit.

However, if someone else uses that photo, claims it as their own, and makes money out of it, that’s quite unfair and degrading.

Other User Reviews and Articles About Unsplash

What I’ve learned after sharing my photos for free on Unsplash for four years

I Tried Unsplash for Two Years, Here’s What I Learned

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Should You Use Unsplash Or Pixabay Photos On Your WordPress?

Final Thoughts

Share, Care, & Create—these are the three essential values of Unsplash.

Use Unsplash for illustrations, taking just what you need without limitations.

Unsplash hopes that you would give back and contribute even in the littlest ways.

That’s to acknowledge fellow creators and inspire and pass on creativity to the next.

With the other perspective presented, Unsplash is now questioned for degrading photography.

Moreover, they also put the contributing photographers at risk.

It still depends on the user’s point of view, purpose, and how they differentiate privilege from rights. 

If you’re looking for high-resolution photos for wholesome and nonprofit purposes, Unsplash is just the right platform for you. 

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