Unsplash has announced that as of today it is being acquired by Getty Images. In a blog post, Unsplash’s founder Mikael Cho says that it will continue to operate as a standalone brand inside of Getty and that the free content model won’t be changing.
Unsplash launched in 2013 as a simple Tumblr blog with free photos, and it has since become well-known as a free photography stock site where photographers upload full-resolution images to the platform. Those photos can then be downloaded and used by anyone for any purpose without requiring attribution (though Unsplash does encourage it).
The company has been somewhat controversial among photographers over the years, as people see it as a contributor to lowering the pay rate bar for both stock photographers and the value of photography overall. With more than 100 million images downloaded every month, the platform is clearly popular.
Getty Images touts itself as able to power the world’s corporate and media communications through more than 425 million images and videos from the world’s top visual experts, award-winning content creators, producers, partners, the world’s deepest digital archive of historic photography, and world-class support, technology, and capabilities.
Cho says that Unsplash had been in talks with Getty, at least unofficially, since 2016. At that time, the company wasn’t sure if Getty fully understood the business model or even agreed with it. Over time though, that seems to have changed.
“Over years of conversations, however, we learned about the level of respect they had for the Unsplash community and the rights of creators to choose how and where their imagery is made available,” Cho writes. “Craig Peters, Getty Images CEO, told me, ‘We have so much admiration for Unsplash. What you’re doing for creativity and what you’ve built is incredible.’”
Cho says that after continued interaction with the Getty team, he and his fellow co-founders realized that the two brands were in “alignment” and that long-term cooperation was a good fit for Unsplash.
Unsplash now hosts over two million high-resolution images on its site and recently passed three billion image downloads after roaring past two billion downloads in 2020. Cho says that two of its initiatives, Unsplash for Brands and Unsplash Hire, ballooned in success and that the partnership with Getty will help continue to accelerate growth there.
“We are excited for what’s to come,” Cho continues. “It’s been nearly eight years since Unsplash began as a Tumblr blog with ten images. Since then, Unsplash grew into something greater than we ever could have imagined.”
Getty says that through the combination of the Getty Images, iStock, and Unsplash brands — and their corresponding websites and APIs — Getty Images will be “uniquely positioned to reach and enable creativity and communications across the full spectrum of the world’s growing creative community.”
Although specific terms of this acquisition were not disclosed, Getty Images says it’s a cash deal that is set to close at the end of the month.