How to Quickly Customize Unsplash Pictures (Plus What the Next Unsplash Might Look Like)

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Every marketer on this planet (= inside in my bubble) has heard about or used Unsplash. I liked it from the beginning, and I still use it multiple times a week. Especially as a marketer, working on several social media posts and blog posts each week. Most often I do not create the final piece, but use Unsplash images for briefing the designer.

Pictures on Unsplash have a specific feel, and the site itself is easy to navigate and use (and allows to download pictures with one click). I assume lots of photographers who upload their work to Unsplash would never upload their stuff to Shutterstock. Shutterstock looks cheap in comparison but would offer photographers to make a few bucks a month.

While Shutterstock provides more obvious or ordinary imagery, and also expanded to video, audio, and all sorts of graphics, Unsplash is focusing only on photography. Unsplash images are provided after editing, that is also a difference to Shutterstock and other stock photo sites (which offer more pictures without filters applied).

Search results for “Vienna” – Left: Unsplash, Right: Shutterstock

Shutterstock covers everything, try Sacher Torte on Shutterstock, then on Unsplash. Unsplash caters to marketing hipsters, Shutterstock to every kind of marketer, designer, creator.

It would be interesting to survey Unsplash users about the reasons why they use it: I expect most would just say because it’s free, not because of the better pictures they are getting.

For a couple of months now I have seen the exact same pictures from Unsplash unedited again and again (on social media, blogs, in newsletters. It’s free and perfect for social media posts that often only have a lifetime of 72 hours. On the other hand, why do so many marketers not even customize the pictures a little bit?

How to quickly customize Unsplash pictures to reflect your brand

Duotone by ShapeFactory allows one-minute customization. It uses Unsplash API and you can search Unsplash from within the web app. You can add your brand’s primary colors and play around with different images.

Unsplash image in duotone with Fresh van Root brand colors

Duotones by Medialoot is the same, but different. It offers more ways to customize your duotone effect but you need to upload your unsplash picture first.

Do you need to add text and a logo on your Unsplash images to share it on social media? Adobe Spark is also connected to Unsplash and allows fast customization. I have taken Adobe Spark to the test a while ago, just found one reason to do so again soon.

More complex but unique customizations can be done with the Polarr app. The initial set up will take some time and you might work with your designer to set up the filters you want. It is a complex piece of software (compared to the ones mentioned above) with lots of possibilities to customize photos, it is not a social media image creation tool in the first place (but you can upload your own font and add text on images).

Polarr allows you to save filters to easily apply them later on. So once this is set up, you can quickly apply your brands style.

Screenshot desktop version of Polarr: Save edits as filter

Polarr has a free version available (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android) that will most likely meet your everyday needs as content marketer.

WordPress & Unsplash

There is a plugin called Instant Images that allows you to search and upload images from Unsplash within the WordPress dashboard. What you will miss is the opportunity to further customize your images. The classic WordPress image editor is good for resizing and cropping a picture but does not allow you to apply filters or add text.

A quick research for a plugin that would allow more advanced editing within the WordPress dashboard only showed some outdated plugins. Maybe WordPress itself will at some point further improve its image editor.

Which apps do have a direct integration of Unsplash image library?

Scroll down the Unsplash Developers page to see a list of apps incorporating Unsplash.

Eager to check out what people create using Unsplash? Head over to the Made With Unsplash gallery.

What will the next Unsplash look like?

The next Unsplash most probably won’t be a website where you browse images but create them with your voice or typing on your keyboard.

Hey Google (or Adobe Cloud Assistant, or …). Create image: A group of people aged 40 to 60, sitting around a wooden table, staring at a Macbook (late 2015). The coffeeshop is in Seattle. It is 4 PM, sun reflection in the window. The coffeeshop is a calm place and has a wooden ceiling. PS: please apply the Fresh van Root brand!”

– Rolf talking to his smartphone in 2025

Ok, we are not quite there yet. But there are a few projects that head in this direction:

  • WordsEye: a service which allows the creation of images by typing text
  • Moose Photo Creator – Creatine unique images out of multiple stock photos
  • Portraits made by AI – NVIDIA project showing today’s capabilities of AI in image processing

Put these 3 services together and we are not far off an assistant capable of creating a completely unique picture for your everyday marketing needs.

A picture created using Wordseye. Head over to their gallery for inspiration.

Conclusion

Marketers or entrepreneurs relying on Unsplash for everyday content production should not go for the most obvious picture and invest some time editing the image. If you work hours on crafting a perfect social media post, a blog or a newsletter, why not spend 20 minutes more in making the image perfect that goes along with it?

There are hundreds of apps out there for quickly adding brand elements, the list above is only a tiny fraction of what’s available.

Bonus Content

I discovered a fun way to combine two images from Unsplash: Go to remove.bg, upload a picture and remove the background. Upload a second picture that will work as a background image. Voila!

Two Unsplah pictures combined on remove.bg

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Rolf Mistelbacher

Rolf Mistelbacher

Hi, I am the CEO & Founder of Fresh van Root, a boutique digital agency in Vienna, Europe.I got first online in '96 and since then I am hooked on the web. Here I blog about social media, WordPress and blogging, productivity, apps and tools for digital marketers, and all things related to running a digital agency.Before starting Fresh van Root I was working at Microsoft for quite some time. Get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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