An Early Look at the WordPress Photo Directory


If you’re looking for high-quality images to dress up your website, there is no shortage of resources. Stock photography sites exist for just about every need and price range (including free).

But licensing for photos isn’t always simple. Commercial offerings can be both restrictive and difficult to understand. And even free photo websites have their risks. Not to mention the potential for a corporate takeover, such as when Getty Images acquired Unsplash.

This can lead to a bit of nervousness on the part of web designers and site owners. We want to be certain that the photos we add today won’t cause copyright issues down the road. Nobody wants to receive one of those threatening letters demanding a king’s ransom for unauthorized use of an image.

An alternative solution is just getting underway. The WordPress Photo Directory aims to provide an image resource for the open web. It’s a place where users will download photographs that can be used for any purpose. And there’s also an opportunity to submit your work as well.

Today, we’ll take an early look at the directory and discuss its game-changing potential.

An Open-Source Approach to Stock Photography

Announced during the 2021 State of the Word, the WordPress Photo Directory is an effort by the platform to double down on its recent plunge into open-source media.

Earlier in the year, WordPress launched a successor to Creative Commons Search. Named Openverse, the search engine crawls several sites that offer images under various flavors of the Creative Commons license.

The difference here is that everything in the WordPress Photo Directory utilizes the most liberal of these licenses – CC0. This means images can be used for any purpose, modified, and freely redistributed.

The directory is also dependent upon community submissions. If you have an attractive, high-quality photo that meets the guidelines, you can contribute to the project.

To be clear, you don’t need to be a professional photographer or have access to expensive equipment. Everyone (including yours truly) is welcome to submit their work.

A shore bird perches near a pond.

The Potential to Make an Impact

The WordPress Photo Directory has the potential to be beneficial in several ways. For one, it offers content creators a worry-free option for adding photography to their website. And one can envision a future integration within WordPress itself, making the process of finding and adding images incredibly easy.

Likewise, theme authors can bundle images without having to deal with potential copyright issues. This has long been a sticking point, with theme demos often displaying images that weren’t included with the final product. That led to a disconnect with users. Since CC0 licensing allows for redistribution, this longstanding gap might finally be closed.

The directory may also be seen as another perk to attract new users to WordPress. Several content management systems (CMS) offer integrated photo libraries – something WordPress has lacked. While it’s not likely to be the most important deciding factor, every little bit helps.

Lastly, there’s also something to be said for users that contribute photos. It’s a simple way to pitch in that doesn’t require technical expertise. The more an individual can contribute, the more likely they are to become invested in the project over the long term.

A hotel room.

How Great of a Resource Will It Be? That Depends on What We Make It.

Will the WordPress Photo Directory become a serious threat to stock photography services? That seems unlikely for now. But that’s not necessarily the point of the service, either.

The early listings are attractive. Some may even be considered “pro” level. However, it’s unrealistic to expect that professionals will forgo the chance to make a living elsewhere and contribute their best work to an open-source project.

It’s also unlikely that we’ll see the same sort of depth as in other stock photo repositories. Some categories and concepts are likely to be lacking. Again, this is OK.

For many bloggers and website owners, what’s available in the WordPress Photo Directory will serve their needs. And if community participation is high, there will be plenty of high-quality photos to choose from.

And perhaps that’s the most exciting aspect of this project. We have an opportunity to make it a worthwhile resource. Like WordPress itself has shown, great things happen when people come together. This directory could prove to be another shining example.

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