Build the world’s open library of freely usable visuals.

Founded 2013
16-50 employees
Headquarters address
500-400 McGill, Montreal, Quebec, H2Y 2G1, Canada
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About Unsplash

Unsplash started as a simple solution to a common problem: find beautiful images that are free to use for any purpose. We’ve come a long way since the first version of Unsplash, but that core mission remains the same.

Today, Unsplash powers more products than any other visual search engine in the world, distributing photos to more viewers than any other platform, including Instagram. Millions of creatives of all types, professions, and demographics download more than 30 million photos per month, making Unsplash more used than Adobe, Getty, and Shutterstock combined.

Our API powers not just our own products, but also some of the largest creative platforms including Medium, Adobe, and Google, as well as products like Codepen, Product Hunt, Square, and Invision.

Despite Unsplash’s large community, our product team is a small group of engineers, designers, and data scientists distributed throughout the world.

The photos are free, so how do you make money?

Creativity is becoming mainstream and everyone needs access to high-quality visuals, whether it's for presentations, blog posts, social media, websites, or art. As this has expanded the size of the visuals market to hundreds of millions of creators, it creates a new business model to best supply this audience.

Due to the open nature of the photo license and the internet, Unsplash can distribute a photo further than any other visual platform in the world. We work with our photographers and high-quality brands to distribute strong visuals to build brand awareness and associations authentically. This is a win-win for everyone involved: creators get access to high-quality free visuals, brands have a platform to distribute authentic and non-invasive visuals across the internet, photographers are paid, and Unsplash builds a business that matches our mission, team, and the future of creation.

Our team and how we work

Our team is made up of people who enjoy making things people love. We designed our company in a way to get as much of the stuff that’s not the creative work out of your way, so you can do your best work.

We don’t believe in a top-down, shoulder-tapping, 9–5 type culture. At Unsplash, you have the autonomy to manage yourself. We don’t work set hours. We respect flow. We believe you should be able to structure your days for what makes you feel the most energized and creative.

Every part of our company operates on a 6-week roadmap. The entire team is involved in creating the roadmap. We don't have any project/product managers. In between each roadmap, we leave a week open for clean up and reflection.

We operate in teams of usually no more than three people per project. Each team runs their own projects.

Our core challenges

Simply put, Unsplash requires scale. Every feature we build ships to tens of millions of creators, whether it's a new search feature or a small tweak to the homepage. At the same time, product is what drives our growth, which means that we prioritize heavily towards things that impact our community:

  • We solve user problems, not technology problems: We are here to build a product, not obsess over tools or over-architect software. No one is tasked with dev ops and everyone spends the majority of their time focusing on the non-repeatable, hard problems, like figuring out how to collectively grow a user base 40% in a quarter.

  • We outsource non-essential technology or problems: we focus the team on solving the problems unique to Unsplash, and not the ones that every company shares, like deployment, network security, infrastructure, dependency management, etc.

  • Incremental change: we don’t do major rewrites or overhauls. Whenever possible, we split work into reasonable, easily-reviewable chunks and progressively transition parts of codebases to better standards/new patterns/new technologies etc.

At it's core, Unsplash requires building two things:

  • a great discovery experience: visual search is among the hardest search problems to solve — it takes a lot of cognitive energy to describe an abstract visual, so helping creators translate their needs easily into a query and then return the right results regardless of context is an incredibly hard process. This requires having an incredible amount of data on both photos and searches, as well as a very smart set of algorithms at query time. Oh yeah, and it has to be fast — very fast.
  • incentives: Unsplash is made up of great photos contributed by the community. We've built a product that connects with photographers wants and needs. But ultimately to build the best library, we need to expand the diversity and type content on Unsplash to cover all the possible use cases. This is an incredibly hard problem to solve and one that our team spends a lot of time designing and experimenting with.

Tech stack

Ruby on Rails, React, Typescript, Redis, PostgreSQL, Node.JS, Elasticsearch, Redux, Rspec, Heroku, Google Cloud Platform
Unsplash - Users to engineers ratio comparing Facebook and Unsplash at 5 years in
Unsplash - We love board games. Especially monopoly and Risk.
Unsplash - We made a book once. The first fully crowdsourced open book featuring 250 pages of photos, essays, and art with contributors receiving a % of all profits.
Unsplash - Our team in 2018 at our Winter retreat.
Unsplash - Apple Store with Unsplash images from the Shot on iPhone campaign in NY, Montreal, and Boston.
Unsplash - Unsplash for iOS being featured as the app of the day.
Unsplash - Some of our team playing Volleyball at one of our summer retreats.