Annie Spratt
Dec 12, 2018 · 5 min read

When I joined Unsplash in 2016 to oversee the content and curation on Unsplash, there were approximately 400 photos submitted every day. Fast forward 3 years to December 2018 and we see over 2500 photos submitted every day!

One thing hasn’t changed over these three years though is the way that we select which photos to feature. Curation by its very nature is subjective, and in this article I’ll try my best to explain what we consider when selecting photos to be featured on our homepage.

The evolution of promoted photos.

As the volume of submissions have evolved, so has our homepage. Changes in the types of imagery being featured are fuelled by the photographers who are choosing to share their photos.

The type of imagery being submitted often follows trends, these aren’t conscious directions that we take when curating, but rather organic changes in photography in general. Here’s some observations from the past three years to better explain these organic changes I mention.

2016 saw a rise in the number of landscapes and inspiration travel photography. The editing style that we saw used the most were slightly faded matt-effects with warm rich tones.

Left to right, top to bottom: Photos by Austin Neill, Clem Onojeghuo, Brooke Cagle, Jesse Bowser

2017 saw a shift towards drone and street photography. Editing styles shifted from the faded matt appearance, and both muted and orange and teal tones were more prevalent.

2018 has seen a rise in neon night photography and portraits, with more photos of people being submitted to Unsplash than ever before. Editing wise, grain has been on the rise.

Left to right, top to bottom: Photos by Steven Roe, Kevin Laminto, Toa Heftiba, Frankie Cordoba

Leading into 2019 we are already seeing a rise in photojournalism and experimental photography, as people push boundaries and explore creatively. We’ve also recently noticed a rise in film photography being submitted.

Left to right, top to bottom: Photos by Pawel Szvmanski, Nikita Taparia, Heather Mount, Norbu Gyachung

Curation

We aim to showcase a diverse section of photos daily, a visual snapshot that represents an overview of what our community is shooting and sharing. Imagery that represents the diversity of our community; professionals, hobbyists and those just starting to dip their toes into the world of photography. Full submission guidelines can be found here.

Here’s a few of the things that we consider when selecting photos to feature:

Photos that evoke a mood.
Forget technical perfections for a moment, and strip things back — it’s how the photo makes you feel. Photos that evoke a mood often feel more authentic, less ‘stocky’ and in turn have great appeal.

Left photo by Ian Espinosa / Right photo by Samara Doole

Photos that are useful.
The overall goal of Unsplash is to create a library of visuals that can be used openly to create anything, and so we take a lot of time to understand what people are looking for in a photo. What might seem like ‘just a photo of a wall’ can serve a multitude of uses, and are always very popular.

Left photo by Samuel Zeller / Right photo by Paweł Czerwiński

Photos that are different.
Never before have we all been exposed to so much imagery in our day to day lives. Photographers that experiment and explore creatively are producing eye-catching content, that grabs your attention and won’t let go.
Examples include; Unique perspectives, exploration of light and materials, creative use of colour and inventive framing.

Left photo by Ian Dooley / Right photo by Evie Shaffer

Being featured

With more photos being submitted, we’re featuring more photos than ever before. This is not only hugely beneficial for those looking for beautifully authentic imagery, but also for inspiring fellow photographers.

At the same time, there are also more ways than ever to be seen on Unsplash. From being added to a popular collection or appearing in trending search terms through to new features like Topics.


The Unsplash visual library is growing every day. While trends change and the content becomes more and more diverse, the team behind curation reminds the same, with the same ethos and dedication that we’ve always had. ✌️

Unsplash Blog

Behind the scenes building the open photography movement at Unsplash.

Annie Spratt

Written by

🇬🇧 Part of the @Unsplash Community + Editorial Team. Gifting 10 photos daily to the internet’s open library of visuals on Unsplash. unsplash.com/anniespratt

Unsplash Blog

Behind the scenes building the open photography movement at Unsplash.

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