Two and a half years ago we were making a website and needed a nice photo to get it just right

We spent hours scouring ‘stock’ photography sites but nothing hit. So we decided to team up with a local photographer and shoot our own photos instead. 

We ended up using only one, so instead of letting the rest of the photos go to waste, we put them up on a $19 blog, called the site Unsplash, and gave them away for free. 

We figured that if we had such a hard time finding good, hi-resolution photos, maybe a few other people were facing the same thing.

We thought even if we were able to help out a handful of designers, we’d consider Unsplash a hit.

So what happened next? 

Something we never expected.

Within a few hours those first photos were downloaded over 20,000 times. Unsplash hit the top of a few news sites and was spreading through the design community. We couldn’t believe it.

Then something even more unexpected happened. People started submitting their photos.

And we’re not talking selfies or cheesy leftover shots from family vacations. People were submitting photos that were so good I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ‘stock’ photography. It was powerful work.

Because all of the photos on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, they can be used for anything you want, without attribution. 

We grew up contributing to the open source community and it just made sense for us to include photography in this sharing economy.  

In the past two and a half years, Unsplash photos have been downloaded more than 50 million times and used as a source of inspiration for writers like Deepak Chopra, companies like Apple, and musicians like Owl City. 

I even stumbled across an Unsplash photo while meeting Unsplash members in Tokyo, Japan last summer.

An Unsplash photo in the streets of Tokyo. Unreal.
An Unsplash photo in the streets of Tokyo. Unreal.

What started as 10 photos from 1 photographer has grown into a community of more than 30,000 photos from 8,000+ photographers. With almost half a billion photos viewed each month, Unsplash is now one of the fastest growing photography sites in the world. 

Why make a book then? 

While we may have started it, Unsplash has only become what it has through the generosity of contributors. Because of this special group of people who have submitted photos copyright-free, we all have access to an unprecedented source of quality photography—a source of endless inspiration. 

We had to find some way to thank the people that made this happen.

So… it’s a book of photos? 

While the Unsplash site is all about open access to beautiful photography, what’s been incredible to see is how these photos have inspired people to make other things.

The ability to create is in our DNA. Give anyone a spark of inspiration and they have the capacity to make something incredible.

We wanted to find a way to showcase not just Unsplash photos, but show how those photos connect to other forms of creation.

In the end, we created a 250-page, hardcover 9X12” book featuring more than 100 photographers handpicked by our community accompanied by original art pieces and essays from some of the world’s most innovative creators. 

We reached out to supporters and people in the Unsplash community to get their insight on different aspect of creativity, from how they find inspiration, to how they stay motivated, to how they create a meaningful life for themselves. 

Some of the essays in the book are written by: 

  • Lawrence Lessig (Founder of Creative Commons & 2016 Presidential Candidate) 
  • Jeffrey Zeldman (Founder of A List Apart & the Godfather of web design) 
  • Kirby Ferguson (Acclaimed filmmaker, writer, and creator of the Everything is a Remixseries) 
  • Tobias van Schneider (Net awards 2015 Designer of the Year) 
  • James Allworth (co-author of the New York Times bestselling How Will You Measure Your Life?
  • Lauren Bath (Chef-turned-acclaimed travel photographer) 
  • Dann Petty (Award winning designer and founder of the Epicurrence conference) 
  • Stephanie Georgopulos (Writer and editor of Human Parts
  • Paul Jarvis (Bestselling author, acclaimed designer, and freelancer guru) 

Each of the book’s 5 main chapters focuses on a different aspect of the creative process: from inspiration, to incubation, to finding space, and reflecting on what you’ve done. We wanted to capture deep thoughts on each of these topics and present them in a unique way. 

And while we’ve had a guiding hand in the process, the elements in the book have been entirely sourced from our community, with all decisions made through surveys and feedback—from the photos selected, to the title, cover, price, and materials used. 

It’s the first fully crowdsourced open photography book in terms of its creation and compensation.

For the past few months we’ve been working with Montreal-based design studio DeuxHuitHuit, crafting a gorgeous book that perfectly blends photography, illustrations, and essays with crisp physical materials. 

Whether you read it from front to back or randomly flip through the pages, the Unsplash book has been designed to be a resource for anyone who makes or has the drive to make. We hope this book is something you can return to time and time again.

But if the photos are all free, why raise money? 

Presenting photos in the best way possible through print is expensive, but from the start we decided that it was important that this book gives something back to the community that created Unsplash.

After covering the costs of producing the book we’ll be sharing profits made from this Kickstarter campaign with the book contributors. 

Here’s where the money will go:

To help with some of the cost and so we can give more, we’ve partnered with some amazing companies who share the vision of this project and want to help see this book get made. Without the generous contributions from Slack, ShopifySquarespace, imgix, and InVision, this project would not be where it is now. 

And while we won’t be able to feature every Unsplash photographer in the book, even the amount we’ve set aside to cover our own costs will be reinvested back into Unsplash to help make it better for the thousands of photographers and millions of people who use it every month

This is our chance to say thank you. 

And the more funds we can raise, the more we can give. 

What about perks? 

While you’ll probably get lots of warm fuzzy feelings from supporting generous people, we know that a Kickstarter campaign wouldn’t be complete without perks. 

Here’s some more info on some of the perks we’ve put together for you:

Unsplash Book supporter badge

Show your love for Unsplash and get a verified Unsplash supporter badge on account. Unsplash currently has close to 1 million monthly members and this will be one of the only opportunities to get the supporter badge. 

Unsplash post cards

Printed on high-quality card stock and featuring some of the most popular Unsplash photography, this pack of five 4-1/4″ X 6″ postcards is perfect for saying hello to an old friend, writing a love letter, or just hanging on your wall. 

The Unsplash Book

Designed from scratch by Montreal design studio Deuxhuithuit and featuring photos, essays, and original art pieces from 140+ contributors, this book is our pride and joy. Every major decision during the creation of this book was opened up to the Unsplash community making it the first ever fully open source photography book. Hundreds of hours have gone into this 250-page hardcover beauty and we couldn’t be happier with how it has come together. 

‘Make Something Awesome’ t-shirt

Custom designed and printed in Canada, this t-shirt embodies the ethos of Unsplash and is only available to Kickstarter backers.

Made-in-North America Unsplash sweatshirt 

This isn’t your dad’s old college sweatshirt. We worked from the ground up creating the best-fitting, softest, most comfortable crew neck sweatshirt possible. Every single detail from the stitching to the sizing to the subtle Unsplash logo was pained over. It was a true labor of love and we’re sure it will become a piece that never leaves your wardrobe. Only available through the Kickstarter campaign. 

Curate a collection

For anyone in the creative community this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to add your name to the celebrated list of past Unsplash curators including:

  • Guy Kawasaki – Author, former Apple Fellow
  • M. G. Siegler – General partner at Google Ventures
  • Chris Brogan – New York Times Bestselling author 
  • Dale Partridge – Wall Street Journal bestselling author, founder of Sevenly
  • Brit Morin – Author and founder/CEO of Brit + Co
  • David Heinemeier Hansson – Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp

The Kickstarter campaign will be the only time we will offer this opportunity to become an Unsplash curator. 

This book is for the community, so we’ve saved some space just for you

As a special bonus to the Kickstarter community we’ve reserved one spot in the first chapter of the book for an essay submission from the community.

You’ll get your words published alongside the other contributors, be a part of the first and only Unsplash Book, and be included in the profit share.

Head here to submit your essay. Deadline for submissions is December 2nd.

Why this project is so important 

We came to Kickstarter because the community here is phenomenal. 

It’s a huge part of our new, connected economy where we work together to make awesome project ideas become real. 

Whatever you can give to this campaign will not only help make the Unsplash Book happen, but will act as a source of fuel for other creators around the world. 

It’s not always easy asking for financial support for a project, but thinking of money as another resource for creating and nurturing creativity in someone else is the greater goal we hope to accomplish. 

Comedian Louis C. K. inspired me when he said: 

“I learned that money can be a lot of things. It can be something that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld. Or it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common interest.” 

This book is meant to be rocket fuel for a common interest.  

We want to support the artists who have made Unsplash happen and inspire more people to create and share their work.

That’s the best way great progress can be made. 

If you’ve ever benefitted from Unsplash, or just want to help support a community of generous people, anything you can give will help us towards reaching our goal. 

This is one of the biggest projects we’ve ever worked on and we can’t wait to take it across the finish line. 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. 

It really means a lot to me and to all of us. 

Thank you again. 

– Mikael 

Some extra (important) info

Timeline & Shipping: 

In March of this year we wrote the words Unsplash Book on the whiteboard in our office, and since then this project has slowly morphed into something bigger than we could imagine. 

We’ve collected 99% of the writing, illustrations, and photographs that will be featured in the book, and are more than halfway through the design process. 

After getting quotes from printers in USA, Europe, and China, we are now in talks with a local, environmentally friendly printer and will update the page with more information as we get it. 

With the busy holiday season upon us, we are aiming to print the book in the new year and have orders shipped by March 2016. 

We’ve done everything in our power to keep shipping costs low and are working with fulfillment centers in both Canada and the US to help keep shipping costs in North America low. However, shipping anything as substantial as a high-quality, hardcover book such as ours internationally is expensive. Please know that we’ve done everything in our power to make the book as accessible to as many of you as possible. 


Two and a half years ago we were making a website and needed a nice photo to get it just right.
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Mikael Cho

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