Review: Pixabay, A Great Place to Improve Your Photography Skill

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Review: Pixabay, A Great Place to Improve Your Photography Skill

For those who are looking for a free alternative to Shutterstock, Pixabay is probably the best stop. This site offers type of contents that are provided by Shutterstock. From photos, illustrations, vectors to footages. You don’t need to spend a dime to use all contents you downloaded from Pixabay.

While regular users can take advantage of Pixabay to fulfill their imagery needs, photographers and illustrators can make use of it to improve their skills. How do they can?

Pixabay is a community-driven website. Which means, all contents are contributed by users instead of single users. Before get published, all contents have undergone a tight enough reviewing process. Only decent contents will be accepted. You can take advantage of this to test the quality of your works.

The project of Pixabay itself was started in 2010 by two Germans Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger. Started as a personal image collection website, Pixabay transformed into a community-driven website in 2012 by allowing other people to share their works. By the time you read this article, there have been about 1.3 million free images available on Pixabay.

If you want to contribute your works to Pixabay but still in doubt, read on. I am trying to share my experiences of being a Pixabay contributors during last few months.

The reviewing process of the submitted contents

When you upload your images to Pixabay, they won’t’ be published right away. Instead, your images will be reviewed first. The reviewing process of Pixabay is tight enough. Only high-quality images will be accepted.

When your photos get rejected, Pixabay will let you know where is the wrong wit them. Commonly, following are the reasons why your works are rejected.

  • Poorly chosen image section
  • Distracting objects in frame
  • Image noise
  • Wrong exposure (under exposure or over exposure)
  • Focus poor

Instead of getting upset, you can take advantage of the rejections to improve your skill. Take a learn why your photos (or illustrations) are rejected. In the context of photography, you can take advantage of the rejection to take better photos. This is what I meant improving your photography skill with Pixabay. The tight reviewing process of Pixabay will be so much useful if you are planning to sell your photos to the microstock websites. You can probe what kind of photos will be accepted by microstock website you want to sell your photos to.

Business model

The vast majority of online tools and services adopt a freemium business model. Freepik is the example of Pixabay-like website that use that business model. Users are allowed to download the contents from Freepik for free, but no all photos can be downloaded. There are also premium contents that require you to pay before downloading. With over 1 million photos available, Pixabay can also adopt the same business model, but it doesn’t. Users are allowed to download all contents on Pixabay for free (at least until today).

So, How does Pixabay generate revenue?

Pixabay relies on ads to generate revenue. When you search for certain images but find no results, Pixabay will sometimes recommends some paid stock photo websites, including Shutterstock and Storyblocks.

In addition, Pixabay also accepts donation from users. Speaking of donation, Pixabay also allows contributors to apply the same thing. They (contributors) can add their PayPal account on their profile to makes it possible for users to donate some dollars if they (users) love the works from certain contributors. This is a kind of win-win solution for Pixabay and the contributors. As well as being a method used by Pixabay to gain more contributors.


Before submitting your works to Pixabay, you need to totally understand that you will be releasing your works for free, forever. Pixabay applies Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license to the contents it publish. If a work is licensed under the CC0 license, it will be available as a public domain and anyone can use it for free without needing to ask a permission from the creator. They don’t even need to credit the creator.

One thing you need to know. Once a work is licensed under the CC0 license, it will always be a CC0-ed product. You can learn more about CC0 license from this FAQ page.


I think the three aspects above are the most important ones if you want to share your photos to free microstock photo sites like Pixabay. Although Pixabay allows you to generate money from your photography hobby (via donation), I don’t think it’s a right place to do so. Instead, you can take advantage of this kind of site to improve your photography skill and most importantly, build your personal brand as a photographer.

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