Build a Free Stock Photo Website Like Unsplash

Unsplash is a website offering high-quality stock photos to use for free – even for commercial purposes (public domain). It releases 10 new photos every 10 days. It serves 600 million images a month and even helped kick start its parent company. Here is how to build your own Unsplash like website.

Today we will be building a website like Unsplash using the popular WordPress content management system (CMS).

What we’ll be making

The basics
Unsplash is a website that allows you to download free high-quality, high-resolution photos using a blog type format. New photos are released every 10 days.

Why would you want to build a website like Unsplash?
If you want to make money online via advertising or affiliate marketing (CanvasWorld – has a great program over at CJ Affiliate – 10 to 12% commission on all sales with a 60-day tracking cookie) then giving away photos for free is a great way to do so.

What you’ll need

Domain name & website hosting
WordPress CMS (and a few extra plugins I’ll mention later on)
Expose Theme from StudioPress

How to build your own website like Unsplash

1. Register your domain name and hosting. I like to use Namecheap for domains Media Temple for hosting larger sites. (They have a WordPress plan as well).

2. Once domain and hosting is all set up download and install WordPress (or use the one click install if you have the option on your control panel).

3. Set your site name and tagline in WordPress, as well as permalink structure. I also like to untick the “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders” under Settings > Media. This means WordPress will save my photos in a single folder as instead of[year]/[month]/photoname.jpg

4. Purchase, upload and activate the Expose Pro Theme from StudioPress (you will need the child theme and the genesis framework which is included). I like to rebrand the theme with my site screenshot and details before uploading and activating it.

5. You will further enhance your website using the following plugins:
Exifography – Displays EXIF data for images uploaded.
WP-Force Images Download – Adds a download button to the image.
Lightbox Gallery – This is for the sample gallery
Genesis Simple Edits – Lets you edit the three most commonly modified areas in any Genesis theme: the post-info, the post-meta, and the footer area.
Simple Social Icons – Simple social media icons for your website
Uber Login Logo – this changes the logo on the WordPress login page to a logo of your choice.

Add, activate and setup the above-mentioned plugins by going to Plugins > Add New and searching for the plugins you need and click the “Install Now” button.

6. Design your logo and add it via Appearance > Customize > Header Image
Keep the logo simple, perhaps a flat icon. I’m using a camera and location icon I had designed. Change the color scheme to your desired colors as well.


7. Once all the cosmetics is sorted out you can now start adding your photos. All Photos are added as posts, to add a photo go to Posts > Add New

8. When adding a photo make sure to set “Link To” to “Media File” this will allow people access to the high-resolution version by simply clicking on it. Also do not forget to set up the “WP-Force Images Download” plugin this will allow people to download the photo using a button:

Download button

The button is added to the photo by adding the  [wpfid] shortcode to the post. To add the grey button like I have add the color to the short code like this: [wpfid color=”gray”]. There are 8 color schemes available green, red, blue, orange, pink, gray, darkblue and purple.

Just to recap: when someone clicks on the photo it will open the high-resolution version in the browser where they can save it. When they click on the button it will save the photo to their computer.

9. Next we will be adding the Exif data to the photo. Here is information on how to set it up. It will look something like this:

Exif data

You can also add more details about the photograph and photographer if you prefer. Especially if you will be publishing other people’s photos to give them credit. Don’t forget to add any advertising as well to your site. I just added a simple “Print this photo on canvas” link on my example.

10. To add a nice finishing touch I have also added examples of how the photos are used inspired by “Made with Unsplash“. They are added as separate galleries below each photo:

Which opens in a lightbox:

Business Model
There are various ways to make money from this site, the most popular with be advertising (CPC and CPM) as well as affiliate marketing.