How to Get A Photojournalist Press Pass
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How to Get A Photojournalist Press Pass

Official press credentials are necessary if you are serious about becoming a freelance journalist.

Do I need an official press pass? How do I get one? Freelancers have to pay for them, are they worth their cost? How do I get one? I will answer those questions in this article. For those pressed for time, the simple answer is “yes” on all accounts.

Having a freelancer’s press pass can make the difference between being able to photograph the even you want to cover and not being able to cover it. Police and government agency guidelines may also establish procedures for obtaining press credentials facilitating access to certain places closed to the public. Such passes usually do not guarantee access to a place. They merely provide a means of identifying yourself as a journalist who should be admitted if members of the media are to be admitted. Press passes can get you free access to concerts, and back stage at plays and other live performances. Press passes can get you free access to many other events too. As a rule, they will get you inside the yellow tape to photograph accidents and crime scenes, but not always. However, you have a better chance for access with them than without them. At the same time, don’t abuse the privilege. Obey authorities at all times and act like the professional you are passing yourself off as being.

There are a few different ways that a freelancer can get press credentials legally but I’m only going to cover four of them here. You can obtain credentials from most stock photo agencies identifying you as an official photographer for that agency. Most freelance photographer associations offer them to their members, you can get them through the AP (Association Press), and many smaller newspapers will offer “Stringer” credentials to a photographer for free if he or she has proven their usefulness to the paper. Many small newspapers can’t afford to hire full time photographers and will be happy to offer you credentials in exchange for you being there when they need you. If you can get yours that way, it’s a win-win situation. You’ll save $50 or $60 for a yearly renewable press passes and then is paid for the pictures you take for the paper.

The US Press Agency offer press credentials in several flavors, photographer, videographer, radio, and writer. These are the only press passes for freelance journalist recognized by the US Press Agency. Each pass is personalized with your photo, the official USPA embossed seal, and a brief background of you journalistic history. Your USPA press kit can be delivered electronically or by snail mail. They are the same but the ones your download and print out yourself don’t look as official because they are printed on ordinary ink jet paper. The diy kit with the USPA Certificate costs you $67. The official documents shipped via snail mail (UPS, FedEx, or DHL) costs $65. With this package your official membership number and USPA ID Number appears as a barcode on your press badge. There are extras that you can order too if you want them. Once your order is processed, the USPA sends you an application by email to fill out and submit. The information that appears on you badge is taken from this application.

Picture Stock Agency offers a world wide press pass for $50, including shipping and handling. These passes, unlike most, which have to be renewed yearly, are good for three years. They are relatively easy to apply for and get, you simply send them a passport size photo by snail mail, and they will send you a laminated pass identifying you as a member of the International Press. You can also sign up to receive paid assignment from them for an additional $25. Imagine getting paid to photograph concerts, plays, and other events in your area that you would have gladly paid money to attend anyway.


I left the IFPO (International Freelance Photographers Organization) for last because getting a press pass from them cost the most money but they also offer the most perks as well. Before you can get press credentials from the IFPO you have to become a member of the IFPO. Membership in the IFPO costs $68.00 a year. The Universal Press Credentials offered by the IFPO are High Security Press Credential, accepted, and respected worldwide. These credential are the best any freelance journalist can have. The credentials kit that you receive includes

  • Universal press passport
  • Universal press badge
  • Universal press wallet card
  • High security press arm band
  • High security coded auto press badge
  • High security press authorization letter
  • A.I.N.S. (American International News Service) 3” embroidered patch
  • High security interactive internet verification

Membership in the IFPO come with many other benefits for the freelance journalist, far too many to delineate here, but they are explained in detail on their web site. Between membership dues and credential fees, it will cost you around $275 but it’s money well spent.

Which package is best for you? It all depends on how serious you are about becoming a freelance photojournalist. If you’re simply looking to get access to live concerts and free backstage passes, any of them will work for you. On the other hand, if you want to cover events that will get you space in major newspapers, magazine, and other media, then you need the IFPO membership and credentials.

The following video can show you how to get a media pass to sporting events if you are on a school paper.


Other Ways to Get a Media Pass

You can also write to the event managers with a request for a media pass. Here is a sample request:


My name is _____ and I am a photographer interested in applying for a photo pass for the ____ happening on _____.

I am on assignment with ____ and the photos would be published on their website. Upon request, I am happy to provide an editor’s note confirming my assignment. 

Please let me know what the procedures for applying for a press pass would be.

Thank you for your consideration!

Unfortunately you will most likely be rejected if you are not on some sort of legitimate assignment. Otherwise too many photographers and freelancers would be at the event.  

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Comments (22)
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[...] How to Get A Photojournalist Press Pass – view page – cached Official press credentals are necessary if you are serious about becoming a freelance journalist.. These credental are available from many sources but the ones offered by the IFPO are the best.. IFPO membership and IFPO credential are costly but you can earn it back several times over with one well paying assignment. — From the page [...]

I dugg this. And well, I also bookmarked it. I am a freelance writer, not a photographer. But to be honest, I ma also an avid music fan who have wanted photographer pirivileges to being close to the stage, interviewing members and such. Plus, I am planning on to start a music blog and I' d love to put pictures of live events, taken by me. Thanks for the article.

This is an awesome article. Thanks for the information. I often write for certain music magazines and it is hard to get "in" unless you have some kind of credentials. I usually end up begging the PR people but that's demanding work. Anyway, thanks again. This is a lot of great info. Peace -Kenny Figuly

An excellent information for amateur photographers like me. Thanks, Jerry.

I'll have to remember this. I guess "I'm with the band" doesn't work anymore.

Great advice. Thanks Marianne

I suppose not being a photographer would be a disadvantage, although a pass would make things easier for a writer too. Thanks.

Wonderful work, I am very much interested in photography and its one of my hobbies. It seems that getting a press pass has become more of a business than a qualification. Charging yearly fees and stuff, but anyways thanks for writing such a nice article :).

Voted up. Excellent article

This is what i call an outstanding piece of work, Jerry. I love this topic and always wanted to know more about it.


Respected Sir I Want Press Accreditation , Press Pass Any Where for cover news and photography.

I am surprised at how affordable a press pass is but that is not including all the photography equipment which, I am sure, is very expensive.


i want to be a journalist

Prakash Kumar

i like to become a journalist

Jerry, this is an excellent resource for us freelancers! Thanks & voted!

EXCELLENT PIECE OF INFORMATIONS, But i have a question, as I am in student VISA in US, and I am a hobbyst photographer, but still want to do some serious photography, want to cover local concerts, matches, etc. Still am I be eligible for that?

This little bit of fluff makes sense. Right up to the point where Jerry says "Yes" No organization on the planet honors the IFPO package. "High Security Arm Band? High Security Auto Press Badge?"

WTF are those...

hahahahahhaahahahahahahahahahah. you guys really going to take his "wise" and  "experienced" words seriously?!Damn that US Press Association looks so DAMN LEGIT! BAHAHAHAHAHA

This is a prime example of a small bit of knowledge being expanded to fill a fairly large subject. Jerry makes sense - right up to the pint he says "yes" A credential is a device issued by an employer that verifies their status. IFPO credentials and the like are pieces of paper issued by a moneymaking organization that verifies they will cash your check.

A pass is a credential issued by an organization - a sports team, concert venue or the like - that indicates they have verified an individual's status as a working photographer. Simply showing up with a laminated "pass" won't get you in anywhere a person buying a ticket will, and you'll still have to leave the camera behind...

I dont know why whoever bla blabla is is knocking the US Press Association... They help people get the passes that are issued by various venues etc. They provide a verifiable source for organizers to know who they will be admitting into their gig. Don't knock em. I've spoken to the director and other senior members, they are passionate about what they do. They were started over 10 years ago because they grew tired of people not taking new media journalist seriously. Maybe bla bla is ticked because his creds got him/her nowhere. Just sayin'.

Do passes like this cover most events that allow press to attent?

Do passes like this cover most events that allow press to attent?