I joined the International Press Association (IPA) a bit more than a year ago. As my first year came to a close and my membership was up for renewal, I decided to checked what the benefits of membership were for my first year at IPA. As I went over my list of benefits, I thought it might make for an interesting article on our blog. I was sure many that are thinking of joining IPA often wonder if it is worth the $3-$4 per week for their membership. So here is my experiences my first year with IPA, I hope my experiences will help others decide if IPA is right for them as it is for me.
I started photography over 20 years ago and like many others, it was mainly holiday snapshots. Over the years, I managed to improve my skills and photography developed into a passion. My main topics were nature and travel photography. A year ago, I wanted to try something new to widen my skills by attending events as photographer. Attending an event with a large camera does often require a press card so I took my chance and joined IPA.
In record time, I received my press id kit which included a very professional full sized press card, a wallet sized press card, a bag tag (I use it on my camera bag), a large vehicle identification card (I leave this in my car window when attending events), an official letter of authorization to cover events for publication on the IPA website and my own professional portfolio on their site.
Now, I thought to myself that this is what I needed to identify myself as a member of a legitimate media outlet. Both www.internationalpress.com and ipaimpress.com are the publishing media where you are expected to publish articles and/or photos. IMPress is our newest online publication and after I proved my skill level, I was asked to become part of the IMPress staff.
Now I never realized that even with a press card, you can seldom walk to the entrance of an event, present your press card and enter the event. The access process often starts a few weeks or months ahead of the event. You may have to visit the events web site and complete their online Media application. Some ask you to send or fax them a letter of authorization or want to see a scan of the press card. I was unsure how so prepare my first requests, especially since IPA is not well known where I live or work. So I followed all the steps that I read in the member support blog and asked Len Rapoport from time to time the best way to handle my requests for access.
I soon realized that the final decision on accepting a member of the media entirely up to the organizer of that event. By publishing my works on the main IPA site and directing those that grant access to my published works I found that I was accepted by almost all of the events. I have gained media access to a number of exciting events that I would not have ever imagined possible. I have been refused only twice, the first was a festival who informed me that they already enough visitors and had no desire to receive the international coverage IPA offered and the second event told me they had to select media from over 2000 media requests per edition and since they weren’t familiar with IPA or my work they refused to grant me access.
I am sure by next years event, they will know who I am and a bit more about IPA and IMPress as I intend of requesting access again. Sometimes, I realized it takes time for these events to get to know who you are and now that I have so much more published on the two IPA websites, I have a larger body of work to show these event organizers.
I know many people believe that having a press card is like having a pass to receive all sorts of access and free products, it is not. Event organizers do expect you to report about the event, after all isn’t that why they grant media access to members of the media? They want good publicity and lots of exposure in the press. When IMPress first launched, Len Rapoport encouraged me to publish articles and photos on our new site. Now, I find that the organizers come back to me to ask if they can link to my article or quote from my articles, I know now that I have done a good job and all the hard work now pays off.
From time to time, organizers want to view my published works on the IPA sites prior to approving my media access to their events. I simply send them links to my own articles on ipaimpress and try to answer any questions they may have about IPA or IMPress and I have found out that they seem to like what we are doing and approve of my work. So I find access for me is quite easy now.
I wrote this article to try to encourage all the members do the work, publish on our main site to begin to get experience and build your portfolio of work. Then try to get invited to join our staff at IMPress. IMPress offers IPA’s best members a chance to promote their own work in a wonderful online magazine and that is what event organizers want to see. The new site features great articles, concert reviews, travel information and wonderful photos from our IPA’s hard working members. Being a part of the staff at IMPress does really make a difference when media professionals try to evaluate your accreditation requests.
This first year with IPA allowed me to increase my photography skills by using my cameras in really tough conditions including indoor sports and concert photography. It allowed me to also gain media access to many events and learn more about the photojournalist business, while building my confidence. Now it is not a challenge for me to gain access to the events I want to cover and then produce a professional article and photos, but also I now understand how these events operate and what they expect of me.
Needless to say, I have renewed my membership and I don’t want to fail to mention I was asked to become IPA’s Director of Member Services. In recognition for my work at IPA and my ability to follow the easy directions on the IPA sites and blog I was asked if I would be able to help others. I learned that you must follow through on promises to event organizers to publish your work and give them the publicity they deserve. I have learned so much this past 16 months with IPA that now when I meet other members of the media at these events, they greet me as a fellow photojournalist and we have fund exchanging stories and tips.
I produced a little slideshow that is a little example of portfolio of my photography work in 2011, I hope you enjoy viewing my work. Also see my articles and photos on the IMPress site too.