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Adobe Stock Free Collection ‘devalues’ stock photography

Adobe Stock has announced the Free Collection – 70,000 images and videos available for free commercial use, and stock photographers are naturally unimpressed at how this further devalues their content.

This image sourced from the Adobe Stock Free Collection visualises how many stock photographers are feeling right now.

The Free Collection is to meet the ‘growing demands for free content’ from stock photography, um, customers.  (Pity my bank isn’t as responsive to my growing demands for free money!) It’s a response to the likes of Unsplash and Pixabay, free stock photography platforms. Adobe describes the move as also ‘supporting creatives as well as driving traffic to paid assets’.

Based on this logic, if Creative Cloud customers demand free access to Lightroom and Photoshop, or use a free competitor like GIMP, perhaps Adobe will eventually buckle under the pressure and offers its apps for free?

‘The trend of free imagery websites isn’t going away, and we want to be part of a positive solution for creators,’ Adobe explains on the Free Collection page. ‘We believe that offering a free collection will benefit our contributors and our overall business, and we are committed to doing so in an ethical way that respects you, the Adobe Stock contributors. Our goal is to drive greater exposure of paid assets and more revenue back to you. We expect the free collection to attract new visitors to Adobe Stock and drive more downloads from our paid collection.’

Adobe sourced the 70,000 files from its archive, and compensated contributors for the assets. The collection is set to grow and the free content will rotate back into the paid collection over time.

Customers without a paid Adobe Stock account can download up to 100 images per day, which come with the same standard or enhanced licence offered by Adobe.

‘When customers download free content from Adobe, we have an opportunity to educate these users—many of them new to stock—about licenses, copyright, and respect for artists’ content,’ Adobe states in the FAQ. ‘We are committed to being a positive force in the stock industry. We expect this collection will help educate and convert users of free content into responsible buyers, benefitting Adobe Stock contributors by exposing more content users to the value and peace of mind they get when they use Adobe Stock.’

Adobe Stock’s Free Collection follows on from Shutterstock significantly reducing its Contributor Earning Schedule in June, which resulted in significant backlash from contributors and the formation of the Stock Coalition.

Adobe Stock contributor relations specialist, Mat Hayward, has been assigned the tough job of justifying the move and fielding questions from stock photographers on the Microstock Group forums, who are mostly disappointed by how this initiative further devalues stock photography and drive prices lower. Here’s some of the feedback from stock photographers:

‘This is particularly disheartening from a company that makes most of its money from the creative community,’ wrote user, Fiftyfootelvis. ‘Since the advent of the internet there has been a continuous push to devalue the work of creative people — graphic designers, artists, musicians, photographers — but I did not expect Adobe to be a part of it. When everything is free online, who is going to pay all those monthly fees for Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign?’


‘I guess the part that worries me most is with it seeming like every site is moving in the direction of either cheaper images, lower commissions and/or free image sections I worry about being able to pay the other bills even if we manage to earn the software for free,’ wrote user Amanda_K. ‘I’m not totally opposed to the idea of giving some things away, I’ve done it on my own sites occasionally for promotion, done free projects for charity and even contributed a few times to some open source projects.  Free can be good when done right for sure. It’s just the size and quality of this free collection and the fact that the main exposure of it seems like it will be limited to those artists who are hand picked that makes this feel more like a threat to potential sales than a benefit if that makes sense.  I will be watching for updates though, maybe if promotion of the paid content is worked in more efficiently it will be okay.’


‘My overall opinion on this free image collection is: I do believe Adobe did this with a good intention and not to screw contributors over. After all, if we don’t benefit from this, neither do they, so they really believe it will boost sales,’ wrote user, Firn. ‘However, I believe the selection of free images is way too large and don’t think it will have the desired effect of more paid customers.  I have a fear it might be the opposite. With such a huge collection of free high quality images, I don’t think people who usually don’t pay for images will be motivated to do so now. It just means more free content to pick from for them after all. But people who have paid for images in the past might think “Why should I pay if they give away so many great pictures for free?”. Other stock agencies have one free image a week or even month, not thousands of them.’

And on it goes for six more pages, with more to come.

One Comment

  1. Jo Ann Snover Jo Ann Snover October 20, 2020

    Adobe is a big business (their projection of total 2020 earnings at the end of Q3 2020 was $12.79 billion (USD)) and Adobe Stock is a tiny part of that total. They don’t sink or swim – unlike their contributors – on earnings from licensing stock images & videos.

    Adobe is making much of the fact they paid to use the 77k+ items in the free collection without acknowledging the harm they’re doing to the other contributors who can’t compete with free. For the subjects they’ve picked, the work is mostly very high quality. The only good news – so far – is that many subjects aren’t covered.

    What’s best for Adobe overall, and what’s best for Adobe Stock contributors (other than the selected few paid for a year in the free collection) are not in sync. As but one example, it was only through contributor complaints that they thought to include paid options when the free section has nothing or only one or two items. They clearly weren’t considering their contributors with that first iteration – probably themselves, buyers and their competition were on their minds.

    I’m not feeling that respected right at the moment, Adobe’s statements notwithstanding.

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