the truth about getting access

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The Plain Truth About Getting Access to Great Photo Locations

Hello, and thank you for listening to The Photo Flunky Show.

Every photographer wants to know the truth about getting access to those wonderful photo locations. Sometimes you want to know how to get into the pit at a concert. Maybe you want to shoot some portraits in a place of business. You know, the bar you love with great background lights and colors.

In this episode of The Photo Flunky Show, I’m inspired by a discussion on The Grid with Scott Kelby, Brad Moore and Adam Elmakias.

A question came up asking how a person without credentials can get access to take concert photos. After a short bit of discussion, Adam laid it on the line with a single comment.

You don’t belong in the pit.

That’s because the pit is for photographers who are working to serve others. You shoot for the band. You shoot for the venue. You shoot for a magazine or some media outlet.

What you don’t do is get into the pit just because you think it would be fun.

How to Gain Access

In this show, I expand on his point and tell you a bit more of how this affects your ability to work on other locations and share some tips about how you can gain access.

There are two key elements you need. You need to serve someone other than yourself and you need insurance.

The show goes into a bit more detail about the different ways you can serve others and obtain (or create) credentials for access. It’s not as hard as you think, but it takes some time and attention to detail.

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Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, Episode number forty-nine.


Today’s topic: We’re going to be talking about the truth about getting access to those cool places where you want to shoot.


Thank you very much for joining me on the Photo Flunky Show. My name is William Beem and it’s just going to be you and me today.   Of course show notes are going to be available at  You can find a transcript there for free.


And if you want to check out other episodes of the Photo Flunky Show, just go to   You’ll find plenty of stuff there.  And of course on the website you’ll be able to find links to follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


OK, today’s show is probably going to be pretty short, but that’s because we’re going to talk about something where we are just really going to get to the heart of it.


This was inspired by something that was actually on Scott Kelby’s show, The Grid, from KelbyOne, if you’re familiar with that.  It is a wonderful show. I enjoy it and I was looking back at something older. They’ve got something that was showing up there trending and it was the truth about access for concert photographers.


Concert photographers were on there. Brad Moore was also on there and also does wonderful concert photography and a question came up to them about how do I get into the pit if I don’t have credentials; I don’t have a magazine or something like that.


And Adam came up with just the brutal, honest truth.  You don’t belong there.  That is because your photography in a concert environment has to serve a purpose.  Either you are shooting for the band or you are shooting for the media. If you are just a fan and you just kind of like to take those photos, well … you don’t really belong there so you need to make some connections.  You need to do something to serve an audience in order to get into the pit.


And that just got me to thinking it’s really true for more than just concert photography.


There are two things that are really going to be important for getting access and we’ll start off with the first one that they brought up.


Who are you serving with your photos? So there are a lot of cool places that maybe you don’t have permission to go to and you need to ask for permission to get there. They are not necessarily going to be places that you can always get into sometimes. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.


I’ve managed to go to places, ask if I may go and take some photos; may I do this or may I do that?  And a surprising number of times the answer has been yes.  And I share my photos with those folks when I’m done.


Sometimes the answer is no and there is a good reason for that.  One is because it is an inconvenience to people if you are going to use their business or home or whatever property it is for yourself.  Basically you are saying, “You can’t use your own space while I take photos here.”


You are impeding them; you are impeding their operation; you are impeding their home and you basically displace them for a little while.  So you’ve got to kind of sweeten the deal.  You need to find out what is in it for you.


If you’re shooting for a magazine or a publication, then you can say there are some publicity opportunities for you here.  Or maybe you can use these photos to help promote your own business.  There’s got to be something in it for them.  And those are just things off the top of my head. Those are probably some of the most common ideas, but if you’re creative and you can think of other angles – something that just benefits them – then maybe you can perform another service for them.


For example, maybe if they let you use that location to take your photos you can also come back and shoot some photos for them. There could be a little trade around there.


Or maybe you just pay them and say look, I really like this place, I’d like to rent it.  That could be a fine option as well.


Another possibility is they don’t trust you not to break something.  This is something that you’ve got to keep in mind.  If you are going to be using these locations, you need to have insurance.  Basically there are two things that you need to make sure that you have.


One is going to be workman’s compensation and the other is liability insurance.  Really it comes down to this.  This happens in the professional community all the time.  It doesn’t matter if you are taking photos of mowing someone’s lawn.  If you get hurt on their property they want you to have workman’s compensation to pay for your costs.


If you break something on their property they want you to have liability insurance to compensate them for any damage that you may have caused.


If someone comes to my house and they want to work on my house, mow my lawn or anything like that, those are the first things I’m going to ask for. Where is your workman’s compensation? Where is your liability insurance?


You want to make sure that you are covered from both angles if something happens to you or something happens to them; or if something happens to property.  No matter what it is there has got to be that insurance.


That insurance is actually a nice sweetener.  If you go up to somebody and say, “I’d like to get access to your place. I have insurance coverage. Here are my forms.”  That kind of helps open the door a little bit.  Not always. There are other considerations besides being insured, but if you don’t have that insurance it’s very easy for someone to say no.


That’s kind of what you want to try to get past. So think about those two things.  You want to be able to say you’ve got an outlet of some kind, you’re media credentialed photographer and you can do publicity for them.  Or you can do something for them and you have insurance.


Now what if you have never shot before? Well let’s go back to concert photography.  There are some up and coming bands. Maybe you can make a relationship with them and say hey look, here are examples of photos I’ve taken elsewhere. I’d like to do some photography of the band.  And if the band gives you approval, great.  You are serving somebody.


Same thing with the venue. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local bar or anything all the way up to a large hall.  If you are shooting for them then they’ve got promotional materials that they can use.  You are shooting for someone else. You get what you want, but you are shooting for someone else.


And finally, you can work as a freelancer for a magazine.  One other thing to keep in mind and this is something Adam brought up when he was on the show.  He started a magazine.  Well, I’ve done something similar. I’ve got another website and I’ve mentioned it before, called and we go off and we’ve done a number of shoots where we got access because we are local media. In other words we have done restaurant reviews, we’ve been called in as local media to cover events on a couple of occasions and it’s nice.


We go in, we get treated very nicely and they show us what they’ve got. Most of our stuff has been food photography. That’s how you get access. You build relationships, you show a benefit and you also demonstrate that you have insurance or coverage in case something goes wrong.


And that’s really the extent of it. If you want to get access you need to make sure that you’re covered and you are serving somebody.  If you are just looking to say “I’d really like to take that picture!”  Go ahead and ask. It doesn’t hurt.


I’ll give you a couple of examples. I’ve been able to do that in Las Vegas with MGM. They own a number of hotels there. I contacted their PR Office and said that I wanted to go off and take some photos of different buildings, inside and outside.  This was really just on my vacation. It wasn’t for a publication, but I offered them the photos. They said yes and they loved the photos that I had!


That worked out wonderfully!


You may find other examples of the same thing.  Out at Walt Disney World for example, I go out and take pictures there just for fun and sometimes I’ll put them on the Orlando Local site as articles. Those are not always media events.


Walt Disney World has media events that will invite local bloggers out or even people who blog on Walt Disney World that travel in for these events.  If they have got a new hotel to show off; if they’ve got some kind of attraction or some restaurant, they will invite media in and let them take photos. They will do video.  Basically they are providing publicity for Walt Disney World.


You don’t necessarily have to work for the sterling magazines or news shows or TV shows to get access.  But you do have to have an outlet.  A lot of the people who are invited into these events started off with nothing but a Word Press blog.  And you’ve got to start somewhere, so set up a blog on your topic; whatever it is that you want to shoot or you want to get access to and start doing some work.  It may not be what you ultimately aspire to do, but you’ve got to start somewhere.


That also means you need to understand how to write.  But getting access is showing that you can communicate.  It’s one thing to go out and take photo, but search engines don’t really pick up on photos that much.  You need to have some text to go along with it. In other words you’ve got to go and write articles to go along with your photos and that is how you convince people (or how they can find you) that you can do a good job of communicating and sharing their message.


A couple of other possibilities and this is probably a harder thing to do. Instead of doing a blog, maybe you just want to do a social media presentation. If you can build up enough of a following and enough of an audience …. I don’t think that some of the locations you want to shoot at really care if it’s on your Word Press blog or if it’s on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest.


If you’ve got tens of thousands of followers, people who are following you to get information or news or photos, that is something you can take to a location and the management there and say, “Look, I’ve got this many people; I’d like to shoot photos of your location. Here’s how it benefits you.”


It’s just another way of getting your foot in the door.  But most of all, be polite, be professional and if they say no, take no for an answer.  Just say thank you. Maybe another time.  Then move onto the next one.


I hope this helps. It’s short; it’s sweet, but the truth about getting access really is that you need to serve someone other than yourself and you need to be insured.


Thank you very much for joining me on the Photo Flunky Show today. This is episode forty-nine, so of course you can go to  You can find a transcript of the show there for free.  There are links to subscribe there or on


And of course I would really appreciate it if you are going to check us out on social media. If you go to the website there will be links to us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


Thank you so much. If you’ve got some feedback I’d love to hear it and any comments. Until then, I’ll see you next week!

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