When most people go to Kentucky to see this event, it’s usually a vacation. But when I go to see this event, it’s literally insanity for 4 days straight. It’s fun insanity, but exhausting work. I’m going to talk about what a typical day for me is like and then go over some of the media pass questions people had.
A TYPICAL DAY
I start my day at 6:30 am. I get dressed, pack my breakfast, brush my teeth, grab my gear and get in my car. I get to the press room around 7:20 am. I get my rider list and start times together and organized. For dressage, it’s probably the most chillest day. I take my spot in the stands in the media section and pretty much just sit and shoot all day. Don’t get too excited though, the media section in the stands is pretty limited. This year for whatever reason, there were a bunch of signs blocking the front row, so I really had to move around to get my shot. During the lunch break at 12 pm, I haul ass to the press room and go through my photos. I organize and sort them all by rider. I don’t really have time to get food, so unless it’s provided in the box, I just skip. I go back to the arena and continue shooting. Once it’s over around 3 or 4 pm, I head back to the press room and finish sorting, editing and uploading. After everything is uploaded, I send them out to the respective clients. It’s usually around 6 pm or 7 pm when I get back to my AirBnB. Once back, I finish answering emails and start planning for the next day (rider times, schedules, planning coverage). I take a shower and get in bed by about 11 pm or midnight. Then the whole day starts over again by getting up at 6:30 am.
It’s a lot of work mostly because I don’t have a team like everyone else there. Other people can edit photos while their team member goes out and shoots. Or one person can edit while the other person uploads them and sends them out. For me, I have to shoot the entire 4 day event, upload and sort the photos on my computer, edit them all then upload them again on my website where I have to organize them again. Thankfully I have a system in place that gets everything done. Show jumping and the ceremony photos takes the longest because I have to drive home almost immediately after it ends, so I can’t edit and sort until the next day. It’s only one time a year where it’s this hectic, so I can deal. It’s pretty fun. The media pass also helps as well.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT MEDIA PASSES
A media or press pass is basically just credentials that get you closer to the action so that you can cover the event for whatever publication you are there for. The venue needs photos to publicize their event, the magazines need photos to cover it and give the venue good publicity, so press passes exist to give photographers the opportunity to take amazing photos to make the event look good. The pass also waives your ticket fee, so you get into the event for free. It also includes your parking which was still a hike (even though last year it wasn’t).
In order to request a press pass, you need generally 2 things. One is a letter of assignment from your editor or a representative from whatever organization you are covering for saying that you are their designated photographer. The second thing you need is the application with your personal info, the organization you’re representing’s info, whether you’re a photographer/writer/etc., and a few other details the venue needs to know in order to approve your request.
It is not hard to get a press pass, you just need to have connections. This year there were a lot of teenagers running around not really working, but had a media pass. I’m not sure how they got theirs, but I assume it’s just because they knew someone at a publication who vouched for them or were interns. There’s a ton of interns. A blog, website, magazine, podcast, YouTuber – any of these are valid press related entities that can get you a media pass. Even if you’re not a professional photographer, you can still get a pass. Most photographers in the press room are not professional. They’re just writers that have a camera. You’ll see that photos that come out of the press room range from holy hell that’s amazing! to did you take that with your phone? So don’t be discouraged if you think your skill level is inadequate to apply for a pass because there’s a diverse range in the press room.
But how do you ask someone to give you a press pass?
Good question. I think it’s a pretty bold move to email a random magazine or publication you’ve never worked with before and ask if they can write you a letter of assignment to get a press pass. You definitely have to build up to it. Email publications/magazines/editors/literally anyone with a news website or press related site and first ask if they could use a photographer. Most publications accept editorial submissions, so you can send your photos to anyone for consideration. If you have a portfolio, send it out to everyone. It helps if it’s during a relevant time. If you send out your portfolio when there’s no big shows coming up, then you’re going to get forgotten. Before a big show or event you want to cover, send your portfolio and say that you can provide coverage for them.
Location is a HUGE deal. If you’re close to a big show, the fact they don’t have to pay someone else for travel is a big plus. If you already went to a big show or event and have photos on hand, send those photos out as photo submissions to different people. You’re more likely to get picked up this way because you’re relevant and you have photos that this publication needs (assuming they don’t have a contract with the venue to supply them photos.) A lot of venues have deals already in place so they send their gallery from the official photographer of the event to the publications so freelance photographers like us aren’t needed. It sucks, but it is what it is.
Once you establish a contact or two with an editor, build a relationship and cover a few events for them to show that you’re a reliable, professional photographer ready to handle any assignment.
So now that you have a press pass, what’s so great about it?
The reason I like having a press pass is because it gives you access to the press room which is extremely important if you have to send out photos to clients immediately. The press room has Wi-Fi, tables, chairs, outlets, drinks, food and all the results/ride times available. After I shoot, I run back to the press room and upload my pics, organize and send them out. I also do all my emailing and coordinating with editors. It makes my life so much easier. Otherwise I’d be sitting on a curb with my laptop organizing and editing photos, then sending them out at 9pm at night. It makes it so easy to just get it all done right at the show.
Another thing I live for is the free meals. During the lunch breaks, I have so many photos to edit, I really don’t have time to stand in line and get food. Our lunch break is only 90 minutes, so I really have to get it done. When the press room has food already available, I just grab it on my way to my seat and dive into my work. It’s so convenient. Granted I was a little disappointed there was less food this year for whatever reason…but I survived. Each venue is different with their press room accommodations. Some, like Fair Hill (god bless you), offers snacks and drinks like my soul mate Dr Pepper which is amazing. They don’t offer meals, but honestly snacks are way easier to eat while you’re working anyway.
The last thing the press pass gives you, of course, is better spots for shooting. During dressage, you have the option to stand in the arena. I never do. I find you can get great photos from in the stands. If you’re sitting close enough in the stands, then you really don’t need a press pass at all because you’re shooting exactly the same distance away as I am. For cross country, they have blocked spaces off for photographers to get photos. However, unless you get there early, the crowds swarm around these areas and you – even with your press pass as a photographer – have to fight your way in. The crowds are ruthless, as I found out last year walking around. It’s a lot easier to just get there early and post up at a spot and take photos all day. You don’t need a press pass to do this either. Just get there early enough, and you’re solid. For show jumping – since it’s the most important – I choose to stand in the arena with my press pass. I love the low angles, so I kneel down in the arena and get some dope shots. And then after the show jumping, you get to take close photos of the awards and ribbon ceremony from in the arena which is nice.
Having a press pass doesn’t mean that people won’t get in your way. I was constantly battling the other photographers all week. They steal your spot, they stand in front of your shots, they block your view, they bump cameras with you… Some are really courteous, and others couldn’t care less that they’re ruining your shot. I try to be hella courteous and I constantly ask if I’m in people’s way. The fact I like low angles helps because then people can just stand behind me. I’m not blocking anyone’s view. But sometimes people take advantage of this and decide to literally stand over top of me – no joke – and I’m like uhh…..do you mind? For show jumping I was backed into a corner and had to awkwardly shoot around this person who was standing so close to me their camera lens hit my lens hood on multiple occasions. Some people are just really oblivious, and even with a press pass you can’t avoid it.
If you have someone to vouch for you or you’re interning with someone who can get you a pass, then you’re solid. Like I said, establishing connections takes time, but it’s the only way to get in the press room.
If you don’t have anyone to get you a pass, don’t worry. At Land Rover, at least, you don’t NEED a pass to get dope shots. Just get to the events early and start shooting.
I think I answered the majority of the questions, but if there’s any more questions you can find me on my Instagram @vispera