How to Get Photo Passes for Concerts

One of the most important things in live music photography is getting access to big shows. Big shows mean that artists have big budgets for lighting and stage production, which helps you create better photos as a beginner. In this article I will discuss various methods you can use secure a photo pass for these bigger gigs.

photography passes

Some of my recent photo passes. (From left to right: James Bay, Placebo and Steel Panther)

Finding a Media Outlet

Be direct and approach a media outlet to ask them if they would entertain the idea of you joining them as a photographer. Usually, you will photograph a show for free. In return, you get a photo pass for the show. After the fact, they should credit you for your photography, increasing your visibility. Local media outlets are more likely to accept your help, as national ones have a wider talent pool to pick from.

placebo concert photo

Placebo, March 2015

Applying Through an Agency

This method is slightly more difficult, as it first requires you getting signed to an agency. An agency is primarily looking for people who have access to big arena shows but can be used to get access to big arena shows in turn.

I advise trying to get big arena shows under your belt by other means (outlets/nepotism), then ask agencies if they’re interested in accepting your photos as a trial run for signing with them.

Agencies are great because they promote your work to national media outlets. If these outlets buy licenses for your photos, you get a portion of the money. Plenty of people make a living purely from shooting shows for agencies.

Application Process

Once you’ve chosen your method for obtaining a photo pass, you’ll need to find the press contact for the band.

Looking on Facebook pages for the bands you’re interested in photographing is great for finding an email address for a press contact. If you can’t find one, then my next recommendation is to find a tour poster. On the poster there should be the promoter, and from there you can go to the promoter’s website, find their marketing person, and send them an email asking who is handling the accreditation for that particular show. A final, desperate action is always searching “XYZ Band Press Contacts”.

tom jones concert photo

Tom Jones, June 2014

Writing E-Mail

The last step is to write out an email to the press person requesting a photo pass.

There are various ways that you can do this, but it is essential that you include the artist name, venue, date, and outlet or agency that you’re shooting for. I always include contact details of the editor of the outlet or when shooting for an agency. Some outlets will ask for you to copy them in, which you will discuss with them prior to applying for the pass.

With agency work, I also include a link to my Flickr account. Most of the people working in press will look at who you’re shooting for and will approve/deny you based purely upon this. Any proof of your work (Flickr/portfolio) will come in handy to prove your skill.

mcbusted concert photo

Mcbusted, my second ever show!

When you apply for side of stage access, portraits with the artist, or permission to shoot more then the first three songs of the show, it’s important to show your different skills.

It’s a tough, competitive business, but with the right attitude you’ll find yourself shooting in arenas in no time. My second shoot ever was a sold out 10,000 capacity Nottingham Arena show, which just shows that if you have a good outlet or agency to shoot for, then you will easily be shooting arena gigs in no time.

About the Author
Olly Stabler is a music photographer based in Leicester, UK. He photographs for three major agencies and his local newspaper, shooting everything from pop through to heavy metal.

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