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Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash

While Unsplash does introduce a few new features every now and then for example the “Avalaible for Hire” badge, the PayPal button in the profile and of course the paid model Unsplash+: All the problems I see with my favorite platform for free stock photography are unlikely to be fixed by the team in the near future. But there is a lot to be done.

Here’s my wish list of what Unsplash should definitely do soon to make it a better service for everyone (in no particular order of priority):

The core function of Unsplash is to find aesthetic imagery as quickly as possible, whether via the website or in one of the numerous apps to which Unsplash is connected via API. They all rely on the same search interface – and it simply doesn’t do justice to the amount of images on the platform and the importance Unsplash has. There are several reasons for this.

If you search for photos directly on unsplash.com, you have the choice of sorting the photos by “relevance” or date. At least with the former, you usually get acceptable results for most search terms, but these don’t seem to be updated dynamically at all. Especially in the technology area, this is useless in everyday life, because after two to three years, the devices often look totally outdated.

If you search by date instead, it is often no better. Although the latest images appear first here, the link between search term and image content seems to be very loose. Simple example: Far too many astro pictures when searching for “Samsung Galaxy”.

This example brings me to another suggestion, because the first result in this search has nothing to do with it in terms of content, but the device it was taken with does. Contributors on Unsplash are usually enthusiastic photographers who are interested in cameras. Conveniently, you already read out the EXIF data of the photos. Why is it still not possible to use camera (or smartphone) models strategically for the search? Think about the potential this could have: before buying a new camera, I could see what others have achieved with it right on Unsplash.

If photos are made searchable, they already receive automatic image descriptions, which at least benefit SEO. They are output in the title tag of the web page. But on the web page itself no trace. It would help a lot if this would change.

2. Improve Tagging

Closely related to the point of search is tagging. It’s actually what keeps me from uploading new photos the most by now. It was already a good step to increase the limit to 100 photos in one go and it’s great that you can now even copy the tags and transfer them to another photo. But why isn’t there an indicator like on Instagram of how many times a tag has been used to assess relevance?

It still feels like too much work. Yet it should be so easy, especially given the current advances in AI image models, to capture the content of the image and make a few suggestions already? Even after five years, I still don’t know what the best approach is for tagging images – singular only or plural as well, different languages, rather many and wide or few and narrow – so this could be a good way to improve the platform for everyone.

3. Extend Login

I’m not saying you should copy everything from your competitors – you will always be unique to me. But is there any particular reason that in 2023 you still haven’t introduced the ability to sign up with Google or other services besides Facebook and email? It just feels overdue.

4. Extend Statistics

Ok, not nothing has happened over the last few years. The stats section, perhaps the most important Unsplash page for photographers who just like to watch their numbers get bigger and bigger, is practically unrecognizable. There are now milestones and through the API there are even notifications when a photo has been used on certain services.

Btw: “Photo uses are limited to select websites for the moment.” – How long is this moment supposed to last? Is something happening?

But is that really it? You should have noticed how important the stats are for us. Even people in the community are getting better at this. Take unsplash.siamak.me as an example – it looks much better, doesn’t it?

5. Delete WordPress plugin

Aren’t you guys embarrassed? I don’t understand why you even bothered to develop such a piece of software when there are already better solutions like Instant Images on the market. It hasn’t been updated in 3 years. The fact that you haven’t even included a way to automatically cite sources disappoints me.

6. Move away from Slack

Unsplash has always been about community for me. Photographers who are convinced of the concept of giving. Through Unsplash I was already able to meet great people like Micheile, Susan or Claudio. The only meeting place for the community is now the Slack server, which is unfortunately poorly moderated (questions often don’t get any answers from the team).

Big problem due to Slack’s changes to the terms of use a few months ago: For free servers, only messages from the last 90 days can now be viewed. That’s pretty annoying, because important information and discussions simply disappear into digital nirvana.

Of course, it would be a big step to switch to a platform like Discord. But there, members of the global community would also have the chance to hang out in voice channels, for example, and perhaps get a little closer despite the physical distance.

7. Bonus: Bring back Unsplash swag

Unfortunately, I missed buying the Unsplash book back then – and I’m sure many people feel the same way. I always find it a great feeling when images move from the digital to the analog world. Or to hold Unsplash in my hands at all. It doesn’t have to be a book and I even want to pay for it! I’m not asking to maybe get some swag sent to me at corporate expense, but just let me buy a fairly produced t-shirt with a nicely embroidered Unsplash logo.

Dear Unsplash team, I know you are very busy with Unsplash+ right now and I can absolutely understand that this is a very big task for you. I’m happy for you guys that you’re moving forward (and hey, I already got my first check from you for some snaps too). But I want to ask that you don’t forget where you came from, what makes you tick, and who ultimately made you so great: Thousands of passionate photographers who want to share their work with the world for free.

Do you have your own opinion about Unsplash? Then you can still give it via this survey!

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