Photos? We’re giving ’em away!

A new US-based business called Flag is giving away free photographic prints from smartphones – with no shipping or handling charges or even a requirement to supply credit card details.

People offering up their personal data to Flag for free photos have a targetted message, camera metadata and if they want a second picture pribted on the back of the print.

People trading their personal data to Flag for free photos have a personalised advertisement, camera metadata, and, if they want, a second picture printed on the back of the free print.

Its revenue stream comes from businesses paying for advertisements on the back of the photo – which would have limited appeal to advertisers except that Flag also prints captions adjacent to the ads, and users can even drop in another thumbnail pic as well.

Flag has, according to tech website Techcrunch, already lined up over 1500 paying advertisers including VISA and Squarespace.

The crowd-funded Flag has had delays developing the concept – it started in 2014 – but has now gone live and is on the Apple store with an iOS app. An Android version is still in development.

Flag is working with Canon Japan on the dye-based inkjet printing technology, and photo paper manufacturer Felix Schoeller. Prints are at 2400dpi, 7-colour inkjet, which would indicate they are being produced on a Canon Dreamlabo production inkjet printer. Photos are printed on 370 gram laminated paper with borders and rounded corners. Print can be squares or panoramic as well as conventional 6x4s.

Participants (you can hardly call them customers) can order 20 free prints per month.

Initially, Flag will be giving prints away without the ads on the back. It needs to build up a customer database so it can offer advertisers targetted advertising.

‘Since what we’re offering is targeting, we won’t have ads on the back until we can target,’ Flag’s CMO Savannah Cowley explained to Techcrunch.

The company will use EXIF data such as location and camera model (which hints at the target’s income), and even the photo’s subject. It scans photos to understand what’s in them, identifying logos and faces to ‘guestimate’ age and gender.

The Flag pitch to advertisers continues: ‘Flag can read this data and use it to work out how people like to spend their time and money more accurately than by an address alone.

‘The cost of someone’s camera and its age can identify wealthy people in less wealthy areas. GPS data makes it easy to see who spends time near your business, even if they don’t live close by, and who likes to travel.’

However, advertisers will not be able to view users’ photos, their names or addresses, download user data or view personal info, Flag says. So, nothing to worry about then!

Flag ups the ante on free print services: Freeprints also offers free photos – up to 1000 per year – but asks the user to pay shipping and handling. A new service, Freeprints Photobooks , gives users one 5×7 softcover photo book each month for free. The Freeprints model seems to rely on freebie hunters opting to order some the other products it actually asks customers to pay for.

There is no indication so far that Flag services will be available to Australians, with the initial launch in the US and Europe.

UPDATE: Scrub that last par – according to CEO Sam Agboola (see comments below), Flag is already ‘serving Australians right now’.  So if you thought 8 cent prints were ruining the industry…Let’s hope Flag recruits its advertising audience from among BigW and Snapfish customers. 


6 thoughts on “Photos? We’re giving ’em away!

  1. LOL, I just joined as I live in the USA…..There is a waiting list for getting to use the Free Print service. I’m at position 833 and the app tells me “We estimate it will be 4 months 0 weeks and 5 days before you reach the top of the list”
    Somehow I think the App is just another ’email acquisition tool’ and I now expect to be bombarded with spam!

    • Thanks for that reality check Harvey. And great to hear from you! This is a perfect example of the freebie hunters being the product rather than the customer. People sell themselves so cheap!

  2. We are serving Australians right now.

    Our waiting list is a product of the cost we incur while growing. We are clearing it as fast as we can.

    We never send spam, we collect data in the app but we don’t share data with anyone.

    • Thanks Sam for your response. Spam really isn’t a top priority concern for the readership of this website. The central issue is that you are giving away – making worthless – what a significant part of the photographic industry sells as a means of making a living. So I’m sorry to hear you are operating in Australia – it is difficult to compete against mass merchants who use photos as a loss leader. Competing against a business model which entirely trashes the value of a photograph makes things that much harder. Canon must be desperate to find a home for its Dreamlabos to be party to such a venture. But a question: Do you see yourself as part of the photographic industry or the advertising industry?

  3. FYI,

    I’m the CEO and Founder of Flag. Thanks for your interest.

    We don’t share email information with anyone – there’s no scam – we’re just forced to scale in stages so we need to let people know when we’re ready.

    You’ll not find anyone whose received spam from us. I’m happy to discuss Flag with you further if you’re curious. sam@tryflag.com

  4. what happened to this app? i’ve been waiting for month and my queue position keeps been extended- why?

    a select few have got their photos and are pleased with the quality ( from what I have read online ) but more are displeased with your lack of response, time it takes to get the photos or even simply to access the app- i backed this on Kickstarter and most of the promises honored were not- HAVE NOT – been delivered.

    Attempts to find the founder online are now futile- he’s gone ghost.

    Savannah ( is no longer with Flag it seems ) so that says something more than just disorganization.

    I am convinced finally ( after much doubt ) that this will not work, this was a waste of my time and Samuel Agboola and the FLAG team are a complete disappointment.

    Do i get my Kickstarter money back?

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