Try before you buy: Professional photographer giving away high-res files of 95% of his work


posted Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 4:59 AM EST


Swiss professional photographer Samuel Zeller works full-time, he makes his living as a photographer. Yet, he has decided to make "95%" of his images freely available for download and use, including commercially. In a blog post on Medium, he discussed his decision.

The Fujifilm ambassador and Fujifeed editor has created an archive which contains the vast majority of his professional work in sizes up to 6,000 pixels wide. All of the archived images are available under a Creative Commons license.

The motivation for his doing this is that in his previous career as a designer, he was regularly utilizing other people's work for his job without "really giving anything back." A couple of years ago, Zeller became familiar with Unsplash, a website that offers users free high-resolution photos to do with whatever they please. He proceeded to upload 184 of his own images and they were downloaded over 613,000 times and viewed over 63 million times. His photos were used by app developers, musicians and even Apple to promote their 9.7-inch iPad Pro. He has landed clients due to Unsplash. By giving away his work, he got paying customers in the door and was able to finish sales.

Image credit: Samuel Zeller

Is Zeller losing money? He says it's a matter of perspective. He could be selling these same images on stock photography sites, but probably wouldn't be making much money. He's giving customers a sample of what he offers as a photographer and hoping that they'll like what he gave away enough that they want to compensate him for work. So far it's working out. He also gets something in return, such as emails from people thanking him for sharing his imagery with the world. As he says, what good is a photo if it's sitting on a hard drive or getting minimal views behind a paywall?

Image credit: Samuel Zeller

If you'd like to view and download Samuel Zeller's work, visit here and here. You can also follow him on Instagram.

Readers, what do you think of his approach? Would you ever consider giving high-resolution versions of your work away for free? Working photographers, does it bother you that another pro is undercutting any price you might set by giving a product away? Let us know in the comments below.

(Seen via Fstoppers. Index image credit: Samuel Zeller. All images used under Creative Commons.)