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Squarespace ‘devalues’ professional photography

Squarespace, a website provider highly regarded among photographers, is accused of devaluing professional photography by promoting Unsplash, a free stock image library.
Unsplash is loathed by the photo industry for bringing the cost of pictures down to zero.

Contributors – photographers – upload photos to Unsplash and waive their copyright for free commercial use. In return they receive validation and dopamine hits by receiving notifications informing them how many times an image is viewed and downloaded.

Crediting and ‘thanking’ photographers is encouraged, but not mandatory. So there is an opportunity for ‘valuable exposure’.

Unsplash, meanwhile, profits from ad revenue generated by people browsing content.

Squarespace is a DIY web design platform with templates dedicated to online professional photography portfolios. While Squarespace has clients from various industries, photographers represent a large enough market to justify developing tools specifically for them.

The company also sponsors several popular photography podcasts, such as Picture This, Thomas Heaton’s vlog, Fro Knows Photo, and others.

Squarespace recently announced it has integrated the Unsplash free photo library into its system.

‘When it comes to creating a memorable online presence, adding fresh, professional imagery is absolutely crucial. However, we frequently hear from our customers that finding the right imagery is one of the biggest challenges to launching a new website,’ Squarespace says in its announcement.

‘Now, instead of putting extra time or money into creating your own visuals, now you can simply replace the demo content on your chosen template with ease. Unsplash has an active group of contributing photographers from all around the world who have generously decided to share their work with others in the broader creative community, for free. Their massive digital library offers a wide variety of premium content that you can browse as you bring your vision to life on your own website.’

Squarespace is also participating in the Unsplash Awards, an initiative to generate more free content. The photo contest has 12 categories, with winners going into a raffle for one of three $600 flight vouchers.

That’s right, the winners have a one in four chance of bagging an actual prize – quite sad given the awards boast 36 partners, including successful companies like Peak Design, Weebly, Pinterest, Medium, and Flipboard.

Some photographers feel the company doesn’t care for the viability of professional photography by buddying up with Unsplash. The partnership is viewed as a kick in the guts to the photography community.

A handful of the 90+ comments:
David Hobby: I’m surprised and saddened that a company that actively markets to pro photographers would so easily throw them under the bus like this. I have used your company in the past. I never will again.

Pete Halvorsen: My idea for my site was to sell images and my services as a photographer. I’m out. Can’t stand by this decision to further devalue photographers work. Actively looking for a new space for my website.

Daniel Boud: What a way to instantly trash your previously good reputation in the professional photography community.

Cameron Whitman: This move is very disappointing, but it also fills me with regret. I’ve mentored countless photographers and advised them to use Squarespace. I’ve endorsed SS on a podcast I co-host. I’ve been a user for five years. This move changes everything for me.

Dan Hawk: I know that you’re getting a lot of flak on Twitter and other Social media channels for this already, but I wanted to let you know, as a professional commercial photographer and a five-year customer, I’m disappointed. Offering free images from a site that most pro photographers find problematic from a devaluing, licensing and release management perspective is incredibly shortsighted. Literally, by offering free imagery, your actions say that you don’t value professional photography and neither should your customers.

Katie Osborn: Way to further devalue photography👌🏻 Excuse me I’m gonna go find a free website host now.

The DIY web design industry is reasonably competitive, with Squarespace up against the likes of Photoshelter, SmugMug, Format, Zenfolio, Wix, and others.

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