What ever happened to free?

There are plenty phrases in the English language that automatically invite skepticism, from “grassy knoll”, to “don’t worry I’ve done this before”. But, one that has really been bringing me down recently is “Free”. It seems that “Free” has been so overused as a marketing ploy these days that it now carries the exact opposite connotation, that of hidden cost. While I’m often guilty of this skepticism, scoffing at BOGO deals and free samples; thanks to my often unfounded optimism, I have, against prevailing wisdom, had plenty of free lunches (thank you Big Bite Night). This successful meal swooping has led me to believe that at times we should take the term “Free” at its true meaning and makes me question, what ever happened to free?

Free has been playing an interesting role in the marketing direction we’ve been steering FlashFrame. Many runners know how incredibly frustrating it is to finish a big race only to find that your brother/sister/significant other/garbage friend took a single blurry picture on their outdated flip phone. You scour the internet for a week after the race until the race organization uploads a single watermarked thumbnail of yourself. You could download the print but you don’t even know how it’ll look, or if you’re even in it for that matter, but as soon as you hit the download button a pay module pops up, and wait, is this picture actually $45! No profile picture is worth that, even if the pic is taken 50 meters in when you’re perplexingly ahead of all the Kenyans. Whatever, you’ll get one at the next race you think as you begin to contemplate buying Photoshop to remove the watermarks. Race photos aren’t easy, and when they are available for free its often at the behest of corporations, hell bent on turning race photos into the next NASCAR-esque sponsorship platform. This is what led us to consider flipping the script, and making free a reality on FlashFrame.

Contrary to these competing ideas we at FlashFrame have taken a different approach. From the perspective of runners, we want ideally free, realistically affordable, photos. And, based on our feedback from photographers, realize the difficulty of providing those photos to runners from the perspective of someone who’s career it is to take them. So we got caught in catch-22 trying to satisfy both parties. What we came up with is free, not day old potato salad skeptical “free”, but actually free. We are allowing High School meets, local road races, charity 5K’s and all sorts of events to use FlashFrame as a way to organize their photos for free. Anyone that is at the event and just happens to be taking pictures can upload their photos to FlashFrame and similarly find and download them for free. But free depends on everyone working together, as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you’re taking a photo of your child at his next cross country race, maybe take a few more pictures of the runners around him and upload them to FlashFrame, that way the other kids and their parents can enjoy the memories. If you have a volunteer photographer at your charity 5K, have them put their photos on FlashFrame so that everyone can search and download them for free.

There will be times when photos cost money on our site, when professional photographers take them at events that drive crowds, the Marathon of Chicago, Marathon of NYC, Marathon of the Quad-Cities etc. The free use of FlashFrame in the interim will hopefully drive more people to the site and build loyalty and exposure for our photographers so that they will also benefit indirectly from our free photos. However, right now at these events we see no reason why FlashFrame can’t be used as a way to connect and assist runners and amateur photographers alike. Our marketing strategy right now is actually free. The use is free, the automatic tagging is free, the storage is free, the download is free. Our hope is that people that use our site will realize how simple FlashFrame makes race photography and how beneficial it is to so many people, and maybe, when they run Chicago, rather than sacrificing an arm and leg for a single grainy photo, they look to FlashFrame to buy a photo from a local freelance photographer. If you’re hosting a race coming up, a HS XC meet, a charity 5K, a local road race, reach out to FlashFrame to use our website to organize your photos in a single event album, it’s actually free.

I hope that our current “free” marketing direction is beneficial to runners and photographers alike and that our splashes in the local area can grow into a FlashFrame wave that sweeps the country. Get out there and put FlashFrame to work for you, upload photos, find photos, and share memories, you never know who’s day you might make by uploading that extra random photo!