Media accreditation: Do I need a photo pass?

A reader emailed asking about media accreditation for music festivals when shooting.

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

I received an email asking about media accreditation and the ever-elusive photo pass to do concert photography. Do they need one to photograph artists at an event?

The question

G’day Matt.
Hope you’re well.

My name is Susan and I’m a freelance writer/amateur photographer.
I usually do foodie/event socials, reviews, with the occasional gig.
I am first and foremost a writer, however I usually take pics of food or whatever to accompany my blogs for a local lifestyle website. I’ve done this for a few years.

I have seen some of your work on Twitter and Insta and it’s great. For this reason I would like to ask your opinion on the following matter, if you have time of course.

I am used to getting paid in tickets, meals, etc… and asked a publisher I blog for if they’d be able to get me tix to the [redacted] so I can write a blog on it as I love Country Music and my fave band are playing. I’d be happy to do that for free as I’d be going anyway and this way I get access to the VIP bar etc…I also am happy to do social media posts and have already started on that.

They were able to secure me a ticket plus one for the 3 days, and I asked if it’s possible to get close to the stage to take pics. The PR lady has just today sent an email saying if I’m given media accreditation I need to sign some sort of release which will apparently be given to me on the day.

I have no idea what is considered acceptable or unacceptable in this regard. I’m not getting paid for this gig-it’s a labour of love, however I’ve always just tried to get near the front of stage to take pics to accompany any articles I may want to write.

Do you think I should tell them in advance that I’m not getting paid for this gig, it’s just something I love and as my camera is not considered “professional gear” (it’s a Nikon J1 and I need to be up close to get decent HD shots) do I really need to sign a release? I know you CAN theoretically get amazing shots at times even with an IPhone if you’re super lucky..

I am not sure if, this being my first major event, I should just shoot what I can for free and enjoy myself or just take pot luck and tell them I won’t sign.

I’ll be doing a little insta on the evening aswell and can’t fathom why I’d need to sign a release for a promoter when I’m already doing social media and writing for free.

Is it unreasonable to tell them I’m happy to write for them but as I’m amateur will understand if they can’t get me into the media section etc…?
Or, do you as a professional believe it’s better to do a major event like this and just hope and pray that in future I might actually get paid?

On top of all this I’ve had CFS so work is sporadic at best. I would have liked to be able to perhaps pitch a story on the event to a Country site or something.

Would love your opinion on this. The gig is tomorrow and I’m a fish out of water. Any advice is much appreciated.

Kind Regards

Thanks for your question, Susan.

Media accreditation

My reply about the photo pass situation

I think the key difference here is that you are falling between two types of coverage:

1. General blog coverage

2. Coverage requiring media accreditation/photo pass

With concerts, media accreditation is required if you want to access the photo pit (if they even have one), otherwise you will only be able to shoot from the crowd. If you are getting up close and personal in the photo pit thanks to your media accreditation, you’re going to need to sign that agreement, and unfortunately we don’t get any control over what’s included.

The last one I signed gave my entire copyright away to the band, so I have no ownership over the images at all. I found that ridiculous, but I wanted to shoot so that’s what I had to forfeit. I just didn’t supply any photos of that band because I didn’t see any need to considering their coverage wasn’t required as part of my brief. If you don’t want or need the photo pit access, don’t sign the agreement.

Your camera is irrelevant to needing to sign the media accreditation agreement – they won’t care what camera you have and will still want you to sign it. They also won’t care if you’re not getting paid to cover it because they care about the agreement between their festival and the publication, whereas the agreement between the publication and you is irrelevant to their benefit.

The other thing that might impact you is the restrictions on what cameras are allowed in the festival. If you’re writing for a blog with no media accreditation granted, camera restrictions placed on all guests will also be placed on you.

So as you can imagine, it depends what’s on that agreement. Common agreements will ensure that you don’t give the photos to any publication other than the one you’re shooting for, and that you don’t use the images for commercial gain.

Other than that, it’s basically an agreement that gives them the right to use the photos with non-exclusive rights. I think those contracts are fair, but please read the contract carefully when you get it. Like I said earlier, some contracts are ridiculous. If you’re not comfortable signing it, don’t. But unfortunately there’s no room to negotiate with them.

While your question didn’t ask about this last bit, I think it’s important I also suggest that the next time you are doing writing, photography and social media coverage, you talk to the publication about the possibility of payment. Generally when I cover festivals, I supply photographs only. Other people do social media and writing, because it’s not easy doing all three aspects well when you’re just one person.

Either way you go, know your rights within the contract before you sign and most of all, have fun!

– Matt