If you’ve never heard of Unsplash, you may have been living under a rock (pardon me for saying so), it’s one of the biggest online stock image sites going, offering access to over 1 million free high-resolution images.
Whenever you wanted to use an image from Unsplash, you’d have to visit the website, search for an image you like, download, resize, compress and upload it. It was a pain.
Well, a significant change has happened.
The Unsplash WordPress Plugin
Unsplash has launched a WordPress plugin to make the ease of adding images to your WordPress site a breeze. Circumventing the process mentioned previously and designed to make everyone’s lives that little bit easier.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share my findings with you in the shape of a review. The plugin is freely available on WordPress.org.
Before I review the plugin, I’d like to point out some controversy surrounding it.
The Unsplash Controversy
A few weeks ago, Matt Mullenweg left a rather scathing review of the Unsplash plugin on WordPress.org; he shared his feelings as he is entitled.
There have also been some rather heated Tweets from one of the developers, and a few exchanges.
It’s all to do with licensing, and if I’m truthful with you, I’m not in a position to argue about this, all I’m doing is performing a review of the Unsplash WordPress plugin.
Installing The Unsplash Plugin
Still with me? Good, let’s take a look and install the plugin, see what it can do. Heading on over to add a new plugin, I’ve searched for Unsplash, as you can see from the below image.
Clicking on Install Now, and Activating, I received the following notice:
Unsplash requires an API key to work, so it’s a hoop to go through, with access to over 1 million images, I’ll jump through it.
Do I need an Unsplash account?
Yes. Accessing over 1 million images in WordPress, Unsplash requires you to have an account with them. The plugin uses an API key to grant access to the Unsplash database of images.
I’ve head on over to the Unsplash settings page, and there’s another prompt, this one is telling me to Complete setup.
So clicking on this, I’m lead to:
I don’t have an account with Unsplash, I’m not a photographer, hell I can’t even take a selfie properly, but I want some quality images from people who can!
I’m not a massive fan of using Facebook to log in to services (some are some aren’t), I created my account manually.
Clicking on Join, from the Unsplash account registration page, I was redirected to my website with the API key entered in, a smooth process indeed.
Quick note: You will need to confirm your account via email, once you’ve signed up, the email came through almost immediately, so don’t forget to verify your account.
How to Add Unsplash Images to WordPress Using Gutenberg
Once the plugin is installed and activated, it’s time to start adding images. In this review of the Unsplash plugin, I have the latest version of WordPress (5.5) on a test site.
Using Gutenberg, there are a few different ways to add an image. Below is one way:
There are other ways to add an Unsplash image block; you can type:
Directly into the editor then hit return to bring the block up, or use the Gutenberg sidebar to search for it as below:
How to Add Unsplash Images to WordPress Using the Classic Editor
If you’re not using Gutenberg, and prefer the Classic Editor, adding an image from Unsplash to a blog post/page is a quick process.
Clicking Add Media, at the top of the classic editor, brings up the media window, albeit with a new addition:
Note the Unsplash tab, and it’s here you can search through the library of images they offer. If you’re not using Gutenberg, you can still use the plugin. Unsplash works with both Gutenberg and the Classic Editor, whichever editor you’re using you’re covered.
The Unsplash Image Block and Search
In this review, I’m sticking with Gutenberg, and the principal will be the same for adding images to posts and pages.
The post is called “Hello World.” It makes sense to find an image via Unsplash that coincides with it. Using the search function, and typing hello, a range of pictures are displayed in the search results.
Unsplash Images in Posts/Pages
I’ve found an image I like the look of to display in my blog post. Please take a look at the below for how it looks in the block editor (Gutenberg).
Notice the image credits at the base of the selected picture? These are predefined, to demonstrate this, take a look at the below screenshot:
In the add media window, I’ve highlighted the metadata used in the far right. The Alt-text is taken directly from the Unsplash image. The Title, that’s left to you to name. What caught my eye was the Caption.
Interestingly enough, whenever you add an image from Unsplash to a blog post or page, it pulls in a Caption.
In this case:
Photo by <a href=”https://unsplash.com/@polhow” rel=”nofollow”>Pablo Gentile</a> on <a href=”https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash-plugin-review&utm_medium=referral” rel=”nofollow”>Unsplash</a>
I have no issue with crediting someone for their works, none at all, especially when it can aid content with sharp, crisp images.
It’s worth noting; you don’t have to display the Caption, you can delete it if you wanted to.
The issue I see, through testing and reviewing the Unsplash plugin, while the image links are nofollow (which is excellent), they do, however, open in the same window by default.
It’s not ideal if a user visits your site and likes the image, better to have these image links open in a new tab.
Meaning you don’t lose your visitor as they go down an image rabbit hole looking at all the beautiful images Unsplash has.
It’s a niggle, sure. There is a workaround; how often you’ll remember to do this is anyone’s guess.
How to Make Unsplash Image Links Open in a New Window
Clicking on the links under the image in Gutenberg will allow you to set them to open in a new tab, click the toggle (on both links), and set it to “Open in new tab.”
It’s the same process if you’re using the Classic Editor, click on the link and use the cog icon to make the link open in a new tab.
By default, Unsplash uses the descriptions it pulls from their website, the key thing to remember here is to change them to fit your needs, in this case, the description the API pulled in was:
“I was in #MWC18 for 4 days. I was looking for a different perspective of technology and innovation. A human point of view.”
This description isn’t relevant to my needs for the Hello World post. When importing the image, you’ll need to remember to change it, and any other metadata to reflect your post content.
If you’ve added the image and forgot to change it in Gutenberg, you’ll need to click on replace the image and click on the image you were using. Then amend metadata accordingly.
The Unsplash CDN (Content Delivery Network)
The plugin uses it’s own CDN network, aiming to speed up the loading of images, rather than your website loading them from your media library.
Saving your web hosting bandwidth and delivering images quickly to visitors. As part of signing up to Unsplash, you have free access to the CDN, and any images used on your website will load through it.
Avoiding controversy; there have been points made by the Unsplash CDN, and this review isn’t here to highlight them if you’d like to learn more, please take a look at the article on WPTavern.
Can You Use the Unsplash Plugin for Featured Images?
If you’ve been following the WPZOOM blog, you’ll maybe have come across a review of Canva, here we discuss how crucial a featured image is.
With access to over 1 million photos from Unsplash, finding a visually striking featured image should be a breeze, but does the plugin let you set a featured image?
Clicking Featured image, in the document settings in Gutenberg, loads the media window. Thankfully the plugin supports featured images, which is fantastic.
There are some stunning photographs to choose from via Unsplash, having them available to use as featured images, could make all the difference when content gets shared on social media.
What Happens If You Stop Using the Unsplash Plugin?
As time moves on, you might want to use another image plugin instead, or your needs may change. So what exactly happens if you stop using the Unsplash plugin?
Will all your images disappear into the ether? Will your blog look awful with loads of blank spaces, where images should have displayed?
I need to uninstall the plugin to see what happens.
Unsplash Plugin Deactivated. Are the Images Uploaded to the Media Library?
Deactivating the plugin has left me with an unsupported block. The image is still there, which is weird, considering I’ve disabled Unsplash.
There’s a reason for this. The plugin stores a copy of the image in the WordPress media library.
When the plugin is enabled, it will use the Unsplash CDN to load the image. You don’t have to worry about losing all of your pictures if you decide to uninstall or deactivate the plugin further down the line, nice touch.
Unsplash Plugin Verdict
If you’re looking for stunning imagery that could set your blog apart, this plugin could be of significant benefit. Whether you’re a travel blogger, blog about photography, or even food, there’s something for everyone.
With high quality, high-resolution images at your disposal, Unsplash can help up your image game.
Setup took minutes, and (what you won’t see in any screenshots), I spent hours looking through the images. Hours.
The Unsplash WordPress plugin is available to download on WordPress.org, why not download it and try it out for your blog/website.