How (and Why) to Use Medium’s New Photography Search And Unsplash’s Images.

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Photo by Josh Rose on Unsplash

Hey, that’s my photograph up there. I didn’t even have to upload it — I found it through the new search function of Medium’s format bar, that ties into Unsplash’s database of free imagery.

Here’s how easy it is. When you hit Return, for a new paragraph, hit the Plus icon, as you would if you were going to add an image, video link, separation line, etc. You know, this thing:

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Then, notice the new Search icon and select that:

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Type in your key words:

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And then watch as you receive pages and pages of beautiful options:

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Not only does your image get added, it also pulls author data from Unsplash’s site and automatically puts credit and links in the description.

There’s the face value reasons why this is great — most importantly, giving credit to photographers like me who are willing to trade a few images for an opportunity to be seen. And who, honestly, have been kind of waiting for this moment where the integration of attribution is easier than not crediting us. Where our information can be embedded in the images we provide.

But it goes deeper.

Hold on — let me do an image search for the concept of “deep…” This could take a minute, there’s over 2000 options. Okay, this’ll do.

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Photo by Cristian Álvarez on Unsplash

Under the surface of simply crediting artists, there’s a new world of publishing being formed. Medium, as far as I’m concerned, is leading the way by being both un-beholden to advertisers as well as a catalyst for quality content (read, they have editors) and reach (an eye on always growing readership and the potential for anything you write to be seen by millions).

This means that Medium is one of the few places dedicated to getting quality writers seen and paid. This is what’s known as a platform. And the way they’ve built it, it’s our platform — readers and writers. But today, it also became a platform for photographers, too.

Journalism has nearly always been tied to photography. The two rarely live without each other and that relationship has always been a precious one — images and words are meant to come together to create a complete story.

Wait a minute, I wonder what “story” brings up. Let’s see. Here we go…

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“An old polaroid picture sitting inside a book.” by Jason Wong on Unsplash

A nice example of words and imagery coming together.

In the old model, a publisher hired both writer and photojournalist and put them together. Now, a publisher has the potential to bring writer and photographer together in a new way — through innovation and connection, which is the underlying power of the Internet.

These are the early days of a new publishing model, but already we are starting to see how it can benefit creators in entirely new ways. It’s not a hard leap to imagine the photographers featured in this article also reaping the rewards of Medium’s paying audience. Will it happen automatically? Will the author have the option to pay out the photographers? Will photographers be able to work their way up further on the search through their own success? As both an author and a photographer, ruminating on these kinds of possibilities delights me to no end as it begins to pave the way for creative people to get rewarded in an entirely new system. And that’s worth clapping for wildly.

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Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Unsplash and Medium have both been highly disruptive to old models, and Unsplash, in particular, has been extremely divisive. At Unsplash, we have our own Slack channel where we discuss a lot of this stuff, and the question of “why give away images for free?” is obviously one of the big topics. As with all new models, things break a bit before they re-form… hold up, that seems like an opportunity for a visual metaphor…

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Photo by Tom Ezzatkhah on Unsplash

There we go. We are part of a beautiful, burgeoning, boldly forward-moving new little paradigm. And those of who’ve withstood the uncomfortableness of the change ought to be the ones most prepared to do well in it.

One final note on the deeper benefit of this partnership:

The Search for Imagery

I got my start in the industry as an art director. One of the most important processes of coming up with new ideas that I learned at the very beginning, that I still engage in almost every day, is the value of searching for imagery. It’s a precious and essential part of creative thinking. In fact, there’s a table right outside my office with books from various photographers that the creative team here uses regularly for both idea inspiration as well as a way to keep our favorite photographers close at hand.

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This new collaboration brings this part of the creative process to writers. And Unsplash is a good choice.

One of the things that has made Unsplash unique, besides the rights offering, is that they are selective on quality. This means that when you search their images, you’re likely to find imagery that is not only rights free, but feels more authentic and interesting than your average stock image. Making it not just any image, but something that elevates your story.

The real benefit of being able to search photography is to bring something unexpected and that brings life to the words. The right image takes a story to a new place, and sometimes you don’t know what that place is going to be until you see it. This near-improvisational element of creativity is an integral part of the process that incorporates play and imagination and leads to better final work. In fact, many writers, myself included, enjoy finding images as they write, letting an interesting photograph influence where a story goes.

And as Unsplash photographers continue to add more interesting photos — encouraged by partnerships like these — the overall quality of articles increases.

I highly encourage all writers on Medium to use Unsplash’s images, both to help elevate their own work as well as to credit and reestablish a new bond between image-makers and writers. It’s a great move forward for creators, all-around.

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“Several people fist bumping over a busy workspace” by on Unsplash

Thanks for reading.

A deep dive into photography, with professional photographer, artist and director, Josh S. Rose. Top Writer: Photography and Creativity.

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