How to obtain a press pass

Updated February 21, 2017

Your job as a writer or photographer takes you the centre of the action—as long as you have a press pass that allows you to get to that centre. There is really no magic secret to obtain a press pass, but there a few simple steps that will make the procedure a little easier. As long as you have proper identification, a good attitude and are willing to follow any rules set forth, you can obtain a press pass and be at the centre of the action in no time. Read on to learn more about how to obtain a press pass.

Make sure you have some type of press credentials or a business card that identifies you as a writer or photographer. If you work for a large magazine or newspaper, make sure you have a host of cards and company identification to prove that you do. If you are a freelance writer or photographer, make sure you have business cards also stating your business.

Find the event’s press person. Most events have a press person or even a public relations firm that is handling all the media requests. You can usually find the contact online. If the event or organisation has its own web site, look for “media contacts” or even call the general contact number to ask who you should speak to. If no website exists, call any number you can find associated with the event to ask for the proper person.

Call the contact well in advance. If you know the circus is coming to town in March, call the press person at least by the middle of January. Give the people plenty of time to prepare. Also ask them to send you the press pass in advance, if possible, so you have it and are raring to go. Calling well in advance will also ensure you get early dibs on press passes in case they limit them for any reason.

Let them know when you’re coming. This way they can alert security and whomever else needs to be alerted that a person with a press pass is coming through. If you cannot go when scheduled, do let them know.

Always carry your identification, including any business cards and the like, even if you have a press pass. For added measure, carry a few clips of your published work with your byline or credit line in case they still don’t believe you are a writer or photographer. It can’t hurt.


Sometimes “freelance writer” or “freelance photographer” won’t be enough to get you a press pass. You can always explain you are covering the event in the hopes of pitching it to a certain publication, but you would be better off if you could get an OK from a publisher first. That way you can furnish identification, or at least a phone number for the event’s media people to call, to prove you are going to have something published and are not just seeking free passes to the circus.

Respect the rules. Just because you have a press pass doesn’t mean you have free reign. Respect any rules, such as dress code, places that are off limits or people who would rather not be photographed or interviewed. It’s the professional thing to do. If you are seeking a blanket press pass from an organisation, such as a school or the police, rather than one for a single event, follow the same procedure. Some entities even issue their own press identification passes you can flash any time you are on campus or at the scene of a crime.

Some places, like prisons, require a background check and other information to get a pass into their gates. Don’t balk or try to talk them out of their regulations. They most likely will not bend. Just play the game nicely, and they will play nicely back.


Don’t lie and say you are going to write about or photograph the event even though all you want is a free ticket in. You’ll make it harder in the future for legitimate journalists to get what they need.

Things You'll Need

  • Credentials, or at least a business card that says “writer” or “photographer”
  • Contact person for the event you want a press pass for
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