The free plugin Instant Images lets you upload and edit Unsplash images directly from the WordPress Media Library and from your pagebuilder. This is by far the easiest and quickest way to upload free photos to your website, but there is one annoying thing that prevents me from giving it five stars.
Update: A couple of days after this review was written, Instant Images version 4.5.0 was released with support for Pixabay images. Unlike Unsplash, you need to get an API key to import Pixabay images.
— Connekt (@connekthq) October 28, 2021
Heads up: Don’t install the wrong plugin
There are at least two competing plugins that offer Unsplash integrations with WordPress. One of them is a bad choice – and it’s not the one that you would guess.
Instant Images – One Click Unsplash Uploads
This is the unofficial Unsplash plugin for WordPress, developed by Darren Cooney at Connekt Media. And it works really nice!
- No hotlinking to Unsplash – images are uploaded to your Media Library
- Resize images in the plugin settings or use image compression plugins
- Change filename and meta texts before importing images
- No Unsplash account is needed
Fun fact: The banner image for this plugin in the WordPress directory is a JPG image with a 112 kb file size. Well done!
Unsplash (the official plugin)
One would think that the official plugin from Unsplash would be the best choice, but it’s not. It’s obsolete and it will make your website slow.
- The images are hotlinked via the Unsplash CDN and not from your own server.
- No updates for a year and not tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress.
- Not compatible with image compression plugins or WEBP
Fun fact: The banner image for this plugin in the WordPress directory is a PNG image with a 323 kb file size. You should know better, Unsplash!
1. Install Instant Images – One Click Unsplash Uploads
- Log in to your WordPress dashboard
- Go to Plugins » Add New
- Search for Unsplash and you should get Instant Images – One Click Unsplash Uploads as the top result
- Click Install Now and Activate the plugin
Now you have access to over 3 million free photos directly from WordPress. You don’t need an API key, an Unsplash account or any custom integration.
2. Instant Images Plugin Settings
- From your WordPress dashboard, go to Media » Instant Images
- Click the Settings button in the top right corner
There are basically just two settings. The first one is to define the max width and max height for uploaded images. Even if you use themes and plugins that use responsive images (srcset) it’s a good idea to resize the full size versions as well, since they might be used as background images etc.
The default Instant Images max size is 1600 px X 1200 px. For Divi, 1920 px X 1080 px can be a good starting point, but it depends on your specific design.
Related content: The Ultimate Guide to Using Images within Divi
The second setting lets you hide Instant Images tab in the Media Modal windows.
3. Import Unsplash images directly to your WordPress Media Library
Ok, let’s begin with the fun part and import beautiful photos to WordPress with one click!
- Go to Media » Instant Images
- You can filter images from New, Popular or Oldest but you will probably use the search feature in the right corner to find images.
- Just click your favorite images and wait for the ✅ to finish the import to your Media Library
Head back to Media » Library to browse the images in your Media Library and to change the alt-text, title text and image description text.
A search form “conference” generates 1105 results from Unsplash.
How to rename Unsplash image filenames (without an extra plugin)
To use descriptive filenames is one of many pieces in a successful SEO strategy. But in order to rename image files in WordPress you need to install a plugin like Media File Renamer first. What a bummer!
The good news is that the guys behind Instant Images have already thought about that and let you rename the Unsplash file names before you upload the images.
- Go to Media » Instant Images
- Hover the image that you want to import
- Now click the cogwheel in the bottom right corner of the image
- Now you can edit the image details like Filename, Title, Alt text and Caption
- Hit the Upload button to upload the renamed file
Pro tip: Instant Images will replace spaces with the more SEO and browser friendly hyphens (-) automatically.
4. Import Unsplash images directly to your pages and posts with the Divi Builder
You don’t have to take a detour through the Media Library. Instant Images lets you add images when you are editing pages and posts as well. However, if you use a premium pagebuilder like Divi you’ll need a small workaround.
- Click to upload an image to a Divi section, row or module
- Click the Instant Images tab in the Choose an image modal
- When the upload is completed you’ll see the ✅ symbol
- Now, one would expect that the the next step would be to just click the Select button to insert the image. But no, there are three extra steps that takes away some of the speed benefits from this plugin.
- Click the Media Library tab to see all your uploaded images…. or will you?
- Hey, where is my Unsplash image? To see (and choose) it, you have to refresh the Media Library. The easiest workaround that I’ve found is to expand the All dates dropdown and click the current month.
- Now you can see the new image from Unsplash. Click it and then click the Upload an image button to insert the image to your Divi layout.
I guess there are room for improving the import process when using the Divi Builder.
Click the Instant Images tab when uploading images in the Divi Builder
Refresh the Media Library by clicking All dates and choose the current month instead.
5. Import Unsplash images directly from Gutenberg
I’m not a big fan of the Gutenberg Block Editor but there are some nice features when you use it with the Instant Images plugin. And the extra steps mentioned in the Divi chapter above are gone.
- Edit the page or post with the Gutenberg editor
- Click the icon in the top right corner to open the Instant Images widget
- Now you can filter and search images from Unsplash (just like you can in the Media Library)
- Hover an image to see the options:
- Click the image to upload it to the Media Library
- Click the image icon to Set as featured image (superfast!)
- Click the + icon to insert the image in an Image block
- Click the cogwheel to Edit image details (filename and more) before you upload it.
Well played Instant Images, well played.
Use the Instant Images widget in Gutenberg to speed up your WordPress design process.
Summary: A huge time-saver but not fully compatible with Divi (yet)
The plugin Instant Images provides a fast and easy alternative to manually uploading and editing images from Unsplash.com. It will run smoothly with image optimization plugins and it will not harm your pagespeed score.
While the integration with Gutenberg is smooth, there are still some tweaks needed for the Divi Builder before we have a clean 5-star plugin.