Which Freelance Press Card Is Best?

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If you are an independent freelance photographer, you understand how necessary it is to build your portfolio, establish yourself, and chase after upcoming news stories before they flutter away into the past. However, in order to keep up with the speed of the industry, you’ll need access to tools, and good ones too; not least of these is a freelance press card, capable of granting photojournalists access to exclusive events, press conferences, and more. But what is a freelance press card, and do I need one as a freelance photographer?  And which freelance press card is best? In this article, we will answer all these questions and more, so you can make an informed decision on how to move forward with your photography career! 

What Is a Freelance Press Card?

If you spend any amount of time taking pictures of live events like fights or sporting matches in order to capture the spirit of the moment for news coverage, you may consider getting some sort of press pass. However, as we covered in our previous article, not all press passes are created equally—and the terms “press pass,” “journalism pass,” and “freelance press card” cannot be used interchangeably.

While a press pass generally “opens more doors” and can even be recognized on a global scale as it is issued by a government entity, a freelance press card basically doubles as a positive form of ID. In essence, they indicate to others your name and your profession, and in turn who you may work for (if it is not your own media business). Press cards can easily be printed by a non-federal distributor—whereas press passes provided by a recognized media outlet require more rigorous qualifications such as proof of recent publications, anthologies, and more.

What Are the Benefits of a Press Card? Do I Need One?

As a freelance photographer, especially if you are just starting out, you will need some kind of press card—at the very least one printed by an external agency. However, it is important to understand the differences in the verbiage between a “press card,” which is essentially more akin to an introductory nametag and an explanation of your presence, and a “press pass,” which can provide insider access such as the ability to ask questions of public figures or catch shots of the action (whether a political event or sporting event) up close.

Every budding independent photojournalist needs to start off with a press card, at the very least—that is, until they can graduate to higher echelons of press pass access, such as the Universal Press Pass offered by the International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO). For those who would like a freelance press card from one of the original founding organizations granting media access in the modern United States, the IFPO equivalent is the Gold Press Pass—which grants regional access to exclusive events and local stories. The Gold Press Pass not only provides better access for coverage, but deepens your credibility, boosts your resume, and can be a conversation starter with peers as well!

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As an Independent Photographer, Which Freelance Press Card is Best?

Of course, there is no single press pass that is applicable to every freelance photographer across the board. For example, a Gold Press Pass would not be suitable for a highly seasoned and experienced photojournalist looking to cover war activity in Ukraine. In this instance, they would need the IFPO’s Universal Press Pass, which is reserved for the most elite of journalists and freelance photographers. In this section, we will break down the primary things to consider when it comes to choosing a freelance press card.

Level of Experience

If you’re one to two years into freelance photography and photojournalism, chances are you may still be able to get away with a simple Gold Press Pass. This covers all your basic needs for local event coverage and also happens to be the most affordable press pass issued by the IFPO. However, if you are looking into more complex issues requiring international coverage, such as a humanitarian crisis in a country outside of the U.S. you will likely be deserving of the Universal Press Pass, typically reserved for experienced veterans of the field.

Basic Locale of Area Coverage

How far are you willing to go for your career—no, we mean literally! If you are cool to keep things local and establish roots in a town or region, a Gold Press Pass may actually be all you need. But if you’re a little more high-octane and enjoy international travel, consider planning that into your list of career goals.

Budgeting Considerations

It’s no secret that most young professionals tend to have less money when they’re just starting out than when they’re more experienced at playing the industry. (That is, of course, providing they practice effective money management.) This is why the Gold Press Pass is recommended for beginners—as it comes at a much more approachable price point.

International Interest

Do you want to get paid to travel for a living? Do you enjoy visiting other countries, seeing other cultures, and tasting all kinds of food? If international travel is on your “bucket list,” start building that into your freelance photography career now by taking steps each day to realize that goal. One such important step is deciding where you want to travel, as the IFPO’s U.S. Press Corps Pass grants access to all of Western Europe and North America—while the Universal is required for travel further east or south.

Commitment to Your Career

How serious are you about advancing your career? Whether you choose to invest in a freelance press card or a full-blown international press pass, these are both associated with certain levels of clearance—and certain levels of international clout. In fact, in some cases, opting for the full-scale press pass can offer discounted rates on entrance fees and other forms of preferential treatment.

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Best Freelance Press Card or International Press Pass with IFPO

Whether you’re just starting out on your freelance photography career or you are a well-established professional, the truth is, there are undeniably certain benefits that come with investing in a full-coverage press pass over a freelance press card. While the latter is certainly beneficial when you are first starting out and introducing yourself to peers and competitors, an international press pass is what you will need in order to reach greater heights with your photojournalism career.

Are you ready to apply for an industry-leading press pass and start advancing your career? Enroll in IFPO now!