Photojournalist Credentials

Michele Wanke
Photojournalist credentials make snapping superior shots much easier.

Photojournalist credentials are essential if you are covering major news events.

What Are Photojournalist Credentials?

Photojournalist credentials, commonly referred to as "press passes", identify you as a legitimate journalist who should be admitted to areas reserved for the media. Credentials allow you access to places other members of the public would not be privy to. For example, a credentialed photojournalist would be able to shoot a pro football game from the field while his non-credentialed counterpart would have to make do snapping shots from the stands. Likewise, a press pass may afford you backstage access at a live concert or entry to a sealed accident scene.

For events that include major political figures or world leaders, credentials are required for admittance into media pool areas. These specially designed areas provide better vantage points and are typically void of items that would obstruct your view and ruin your shots. Without a credential, you would be forced to stand with members of the general public and try to take decent pictures with a telephoto lens.

Types of Credentials

The primary purpose of credentials is to identify a photojournalist in the quickest and easiest way possible. This can happen in two ways:

  • Type one credentials: These types of press passes are issued by media corporations, such as newspapers and TV stations. They identify photojournalists as employees of said news organizations and feature information such as the journalist's name, employer, contact information and a current picture of the photojournalist.
  • Type two credentials: The second type of credential is the event credential. This type of press pass is issued by organizers of particular events, such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl or political conventions. Event credentials can be challenging to obtain since most are issued to major news affiliates and each organization is limited to a certain number of passes.

How to Obtain Photojournalist Credentials

There are several ways you can obtain legitimate credentials as a photojournalist. The simplest way is to gain employment with a news agency or other publication, which will issue you a credential during your first week on the job.

However, if you are a freelance journalist looking to obtain a media credential, you will have to exhaust other options. Some of the most popular include:

Local Press Agencies

State and local press associations are the primary credential agencies in major media markets. Individual media outlets use these agencies to provide credentials to their employees. In addition, most state press agencies (e.g. the Colorado Press Association) will also issue credentials to freelance journalists as long as they are members and provide references from other credentialed journalists. Membership fees vary among press associations. Yearly fees run roughly $100 and the credential application cost is about $5. A photo credential and vehicle press plates cost extra.

National Press Agencies

The US Press Agency (USPA) also offers credentials to freelance photojournalists. Each press pass is personalized with your photo, the official USPA embossed seal, and a brief background of your journalistic history. You can obtain an application online. The cost per credential is about $70. The fee will get you a credential that includes your official membership number and USPA ID Number, which appears as a barcode on your press pass.

International Freelance Photographers Organization

The International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO) is universally known as the best place to obtain freelance photojournalist credentials. In order to obtain a press pass from the IFPO you must register as a member. Membership in the IFPO costs about $75 per year. Once you are a member you can apply for a credential kit, which cost an additional $300. For that price you will be issued a Universal Press Credential, which is accepted and respected worldwide. This credential is advantageous for a freelance journalist to have as it allows access to everything from sporting events to major Hollywood award shows. The credentials kit offered by the IFPO includes:

  • Universal press passport
  • Universal press badge
  • Universal press wallet card
  • High security press armband
  • High security coded auto press badge
  • High security press authorization letter
  • High security interactive Internet verification

Membership in the IFPO comes with other benefits, which are detailed on the group's website.

Photojournalist Credentials