🕵 Time for a search party 🎉

Unsplash Blog
Published in
5 min readAug 5, 2016

Some people spend their whole lives searching.

But Unsplash? We’re just getting started.

Three years ago, we didn’t have a search bar. Why would we need one? After all, there were only 10 Unsplash photos in existence.

Those first 10 photos were taken by Alejandro Escamilla. He’s a terrific photographer from Montreal. Back in 2013, we hired him to take some photos for Crew’s homepage.

His shots were gorgeous. But we only needed of few of them for our site. So, instead of letting Alejandro’s outtakes gather dust on our hard drive, we asked if he’d be okay if we published them, for free, for anyone to use.

“Sure, why not?”

Just like that, Unsplash was born. We created a Tumblr page, uploaded our 10 favourite leftover photos from the shoot, and sent the link to our friends.

Shortly thereafter, we received an email from Alejandro:

“Dude, happy you enjoyed the photos! I don’t know what you did with them but there’s a ton of people on my portfolio site right now!”

Our fledgling photo site had made it to the top of Hacker News. More than twenty thousand visitors came on Day 1 of Unsplash. And, to our astonishment, photographers began submitting their own breathtaking, original photos.

We haven’t slowed down since.

Unsplash Search 2.0

We’ve come a long way since that fateful day in May 2013, and in the meantime, we’ve made some major changes to Unsplash.

Today, we make another one.

Alejandro, the godfather of Unsplash, has since been joined by tens of thousands of photographers who’ve submitted more than 100,000 photos. Unsplash — no longer just a bite-sized collection of beautiful photography — is now the largest website in the world for free, high-quality photos.

Alas, with great volume, comes great responsibility.

Thanks to our community team (👋 Annie Spratt) and guest curators, we’ve winnowed down those 100k+ photo submissions down to the very, very best. Still, there’s more photos on Unsplash than anyone could possibly remember off-hand. Which is why we’re rolling out a new-and-improved search functionality for Unsplash, making it easier than ever to discover your next favourite photo.


Our new search is fast.

How fast? Just ask Naoufal Kadhom, the UI engineer who helped us rewrite Unsplash with React.

React is an open-source JavaScript library (created by Facebook) which powers some of the world’s fastest sites. Whenever you search for an apartment on Airbnb, a movie on Netflix, or a photo on Unsplash, your blazingly-fast searches come courtesy of React.

Notice how Unsplash search results update automatically while you’re still typing? You no longer have to wait (or press enter) to get results — they appear instantaneously.

Is it magic? No. It’s engineering. We’ve improved our search algorithms, image caching, and optimized everything for React: the Lamborghini of front-end development™.

So we won’t blush if you look under our hood.

Location and keyword search

The photo archives at Unsplash are peerless. We have photos of dogs. Cats. Penguins. Paris. And don’t even ask about the pineapples.

Our search isn’t powered by bots, either. It’s powered by living, breathing humans. Every tag on every photo has been added manually — all 3,000,000 of them. Which means our search is super accurate. It’s been a tireless labour of love (and one of the Unsplash community’s biggest accomplishments.)

Whatever you happen to be looking for, just ask Unsplash Search and ye shall find.

User and collection search

Over the years, our family has grown. Established photographers and amateurs alike have flocked to Unsplash. Some of them have even become “Unsplash Famous”.

Alejandro was the first. But of course, you have Samuel Zeller, Paul Gilmore, Anders Jilden, Joshua Earle, Greg Rakozy, and hundreds of other Unsplash veterans who’ve have racked up millions of views on their photos, and even been featured in the Unsplash Book.

Now, in addition to letting you search by location and subject matter, you can also search by username to see what your favourite Unsplash photographers are up to.

Search across photos, collections, & users

Can’t decide on just one photographer? Then browse the 30,000+ collections our community members have come up with. Search for terms like “animals” or “architecture” or “black and white” to see groupings of photos around a common theme, sourced from multiple Unsplash photographers.

They’re one of the best places to discover the hidden gems of Unsplash. You can even come up with your own searchable collections, to show off your taste in photos to the Unsplash community.

Whether it’s ten photos or tens of thousands of photos, Unsplash has always been the place to discover the world’s best photography (and photographers). With our updated search functionality, we’ve made the discovery process easier than ever.

We know that many people don’t just come to Unsplash for inspiration — they come to Unsplash to fulfill a need. It could be visuals for a Medium post, a photo for an album cover, or content for a website. It could be for a fun project, or a slide deck with billions of dollars on the line.

Truly, there’s no telling where an Unsplash photo might end up. But we can probably tell you where the journey starts.

“I wonder if Unsplash has any photos of….”

Try Unsplash Search



Unsplash Blog

Beautiful, free photos brought to you by the world’s most generous community of photographers.