• Justus Hayes

The Stock Image Industry's Worst Nightmare: Pexels!



I ran across the Pexels website a couple of weeks ago via a post on Instagram. I was frankly amazed to discover that they host a very large database of photographs and short videos that are free to use for just about whatever for no cost and without attribution (although attribution is appreciated, of course). From their FAQ:


"Pexels is a free stock photo and video website and app that helps designers, bloggers, and everyone who is looking for visuals to find great photos and videos that can be downloaded and used for free. If you see a photo or video you like, simply download it for free (no strings attached!). If you'd like to contribute your work to Pexels, we accept photos and videos from everyone."


There are some caveats, though. While use of imagery from Pexels for commercial use is allowed, you have to alter the image in some way:


"While all photos on Pexels are free to use, you are not allowed to sell the photos as they are without making significant creative changes and adding unique value to the image so that it becomes your own work.

This means you cannot simply apply a filter, change the color of the image, crop it, or add simple photo enhancements and then sell the photo."


I can understand why they have this condition, as it prevents people from just scraping huge chunks of their database and simply selling the results. Hard to define and enforce, though, I imagine. Also, there are some guidelines as to what is and isn't acceptable for submission:


"You can upload almost anything you want to Pexels (with a few exceptions; see below). We accept images in JPEG file format only. The following requirements must be met:

Must be at least 4 megapixels, with a minimum size of 2592 px by 1520 px

  • Must be oriented correctly (i.e. not sideways)

  • No added watermarks, borders, or graphic or text elements

  • No explicit content (graphic nudity, violence, etc.)"

Essentially, they want just photos (leaving videos aside for the moment), not art pieces derived from photos or other sources. There are also very common-sense rules about things like logos and likenesses. All submission guidelines can be found here.


As you can see, I have started my own page and have started uploading photos. I have always liked contributing images to the public domain, whether through the Creative Commons or some other mechanism. For example, I have an old Flickr account (now locked for uploads because I'm not paying for Pro status) through which I have donated around 150 images to the Creative Commons. Now that I know about Pexels, I will continue to release images out into the wild. Makes me feel good.

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