How does a photographer become a paparazzi?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by jlobb, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. So everytime I turn around there's something in the news about
    paparazzis. But I've always wondered how one becomes a paparazzi. I
    know I'm gonna catch alot of flack for this, since they don't have the
    best reputations, but I don't care.

    It just looks like alot of fun. As long as you arn't trying to run
    people off the road or doing anything dangerous to them, I can see it
    being a blast.

    I don't wanna do it really, I have to much on my plate already.
    Between school and trying to run my own photography business I'm
    already stretched thin.

    But yeah, how do you become a paparazzi? Is it just something you
    have to fall into? Or could you just pick up and move to L.A. and
    start doing it?

    If there's anybody here who has actually DONE it, I would LOVE to talk
    to you over AIM.
  2. How do you become a paparazzi? First you sell your soul to the devil. Second you buy a camera with the money and commence making crappy snapshots of people currently living their in their 15 minutes of fame....
    Sorry I couldn't resist!
    Really though, I can't imagine getting into the business is much different from getting a freelancing gig with any other magazine or specialist agency.
  3. The singular is "paparazzo"; they refer to themselves as "paps". They are just a specialist branch of photojournalist. Here's how to become one: take a bunch of celebrity pictures off your own bat and build a portfolio. Send it to every picture editor you can find. Politely call - not more than once a week - and ask if there's anything they need shooting. Eventually one will say, get me some shots of person X. If you deliver great shots to their desk in 48 hrs, you're in. If you fail, they might call you again in 6 months (after all, your portfolio was good enough to get their attention in the first place) but if you fail again, don't bother calling them again. This is not really different from how to get into any news organization as a PJ.

    (Disclaimer: I am not a pap myself, but I do know my way around the news industry).
  4. Forget everything you ever learned about common decency and abandon all hopes of contributing to society in any meaningful way. Find a biology textbook and learn about parasites, then try to mimic their behavior.
  5. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    The relationship between paparazzi and celebrities is much more symbiotic than parasitic. The overwhelming majority of the time, the publicity provided by paparazzi is quite welcome and beneficial to celebrities' marketability.

    Before universally condemning paparazzi, perhaps you should ask why their photos can be so valuable? Why does the public crave "illicit" photos so much? (In fact, some of those "sneaky" images come from staged events.)
  6. Mike, you are absolutely right. I bet Curtis thinks photojournalists covering wars and natural disasters are parasites, exploiting the victims too.
  7. The same way you become a hooker, a bank robber, or a street mime: You go out and rob banks, shake your booty on the boulevard, and walk against the wind. Geeze, you have to show some puppies the stick before you throw it.
  8. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    C'mon, Art, don't you think it's a little insulting to paparazzi to compare them to street mimes? They're not THAT big a nuisance.
  9. "I bet Curtis thinks photojournalists covering wars and natural disasters are parasites, exploiting the victims too."

    To compare paparazzi to photojournalists is an insult to both photographers and journalists.
  10. >>>"C'mon, Art, don't you think it's a little insulting to paparazzi to compare them to street mimes? They're not THAT big a nuisance."<<<It wasn't their nuisance value I was addresssing, it was the naiveté of the poster.
  11. So, if a paparazzi gets run over by a bus, is that a pap smear?
  12. So nobody on this site is a papparazzo? Or is there just nobody who wants to admit it?
  13. I am not a celebrity photographer but I know one well. Not every celebrity photographer is a paparazzi. Here's how to get started as a celebrity photographer:

    Read your local newspapers for public appearances by locally prominent people. Contact the sponsoring organizations and ask to photograph the featured person, explaining that you are still unpublished but that you are developing a news photography portfolio. Get those pictures published in local newspapers. Do that a few times to establish minimum press credentials for yourself.

    Remember to take more notes than pictures. The difference between a photojournalist and a photographer is that a photojournalist must be able to accurately tell the story behind each photograph, providing details about name, date, place and circumstances.

    Now repeat that process at the colleges and universities near you. The best chance for a beginner to approach truly famous people is by covering them on the college lecture circuit. By now the local newspaper editors you've met will vouchsafe that you are a "news photographer," so the college publicity department will grant you access.

    With photos of a ten or so renowned people to your credit you can contact big celebrity news agencies like Black Star or Getty Images. If you work is good they will provide you with steady celebrity photography work, notifying you of what celebrities are visiting your area and offering to purchase any photos you take. (Steady work means two or three jobs a month, paying about $100 each.)

    If your work is not good, or if you are a quarrelsome bother, you will lose credibility as a news photographer and press agents will deny you access to their clients. That is how a photographer ends up as a paparazzi, resorting to ambush photography of people who no longer welcome him.
  14. hey, that's all good advice. stuff I hadn't thought of. Actually I hadn't though of any of that.
  15. still lookin' for a paparazzo. if you don't wanna post, that's cool, just get me on AIM at "Photo Spectre"

    or any of you people that have posted useful information. Especially the last guy that talked about legit celebrity photogs.

    From yesterday's LA Times. Look for the book on Amazon.
  17. Good discussion. I notice that there are harsh opinions about being a paparazzo. I think it's short sighted and not answering a reasonable and professional question that Jonathon asked: What is it about?, how do you get started?, etc. The question was not asking if it's a honest living or should we attack paparazzo's personalities.

    Paps can distinguish when they are paps and when they are photographers. Most paps have little formal photo training. A successful pap said to me, "I'm horrible as a photographer but I'm great at spotting celebs, tailing them, and anticipating their moves".
    My personal opinion is that a good photographer needs to be at least 60% business oriented to make a living out of this life and not just use it as a hobby like most people with a camera.

    I share my story:
    My background began with just 1 year in a photo program in California. As most students concentrated on the skill I worried about making a living with it so I dabbled in weddings, taking actor headshots, and local magazines. I decided that making photography work required that I needed a job not more schooling. I asked myself: After 3 years and $20K at school, would someone hire me as a photographer? NO. Most jobs were ass't photographers or internshipa. Never the photographer. Photographers take years to be the shooter. I wanted to shoot everyday. Most of the students were shooting in studios for projects while I was shooting at clubs, live people, at events. A respected instructor explained to me that pap business was difficult and used little traditional methods. All these people remained teaching, shooting in bldgs w/ no windows all day, going into debt with no real job shooting.

    What can I do with limited funds and experience? How can others see my work instead of me handing a porfolio to them in person?
    After showing my photos in independent magazines to all my friends and teachers, the lab tech at school referred me to someone he met once who said he was a pap. Will continue later......
  18. Like photojournalism, paps need to follow a story 75% of the time. Yes it's true that mags will request certain photos of X or Y in a week. They make those requests based on stories like who is the new love interest, who is starting in a new movie/show, what is the new purse/exercise/car? etc. It's not always about getting the photo. The most extreme 'job' was a pap told me he followed a story/subject for 3 weeks in Europe and waited until the right moment to shoot. A more simple story is that I may not take a photo and tail a celeb till they go home or to their lovers house or to their crack dealer. Why? So I know where they will eventually drive to at least once a week.

    A story accompaning a photo greatly increases the sale of a set of photos.

    Risks involved: I've seen and experienced things that most studio photographers would pee in their pants, and that is rewarding in itself. All hypo: Imagine Nicole Kidman slapping a bus boy's face who she accused of him of taking photos when it wasn't, Bruce Willis trying to pass a vehicle at 70mph and then facing a school bus on the opposing lane and still doesn't stop (just to get away from people with dangerous cameras), Paris shop lifting, etc.

    In the law: As a pap most things we do are within the law. We take photos of people going into a restaurant, going into a gym, and we take the photos thru the window which is legal. We drive on the same public streets as the celebs and drive just as fast as the celeb drives. It is lawful to take photos from a public area. Notice all those outside cafe patios, people jogging or making out on a beach photos? It is unlawful to prevent people from taking photos in public. This point is always the one that opponents easily brush aside when it comes to: Is it legal?.

    I'll try to add some info about right&wrong vs legal/illegal if I have time next time I log on.
  19. dude. do you have AOL instant messenger? PLEASE message me, my screenname is "Photo Spectre"

    I'm enthralled in your little story
  20. Jonathan-- Excellent answer above. From time to time, my former agency used to send me on celebrity shoots, though they weren't the "stalker" type of shooting the previous respondent mentioned. They were mostly the "red carpet entrance" type, parties and premiers. It wasn't my forte, but it did help pay the bills. Here are some things I learned from the experience.

    First, the bigger a stock file you have, the more your sales grow exponentially. Once I was shooting a major party in Washington, DC, and a couple of shooters from LA were there. The guests were mainly Hollywood celebs, which was rare for DC. Talking before the shoot, we took an informal poll of who was shooting under a "buyout" and who was shooting with a 50% split with their agency (we nearly always have a choice). All the LA people were taking the split, and all the DC people were taking a buyout. The reason? There just wasn't enough buisness of that sort in DC to generate a critical mass of historical images. If you're going to do it full-time, make sure you keep your rights to your images.

    Second, the best thing I ever did was hook up with a group of very serious autograph hounds. I mean to tell you, these guys were slick. They had the cell phone number of every limo driver in the DC area, and they lived, slept, and breathed every day to get celebrity autographs. I kept these people on retainer, but on the job, we acted like we didn't know each other.

    It is true that with modern cameras, you don't need to know that much about photography to be a paparazzi, but trust me, technical capability will still help. I took a look at the really shi**y lighting and backdrop conditions at one reception, pulled out two powerful, home-made, battery-operated, clamp-anywhere strobes, connected them via radio slaves, and proceeded to get shots that were far superior to what everybody else was getting. It's a good way to sell more.

    My problem was that I didn't get cable and rarely turn my TV off of a PBS channel. Except for specific assignments regarding specific people, at mass events I didn't know who half the celebrities were that I was taking pictures of, and except for the monetary aspect of it, I really didn't care. If all the other shooters were taking pictures of a person, I shot too, took notes, and checked against the party roster that the P.R. flacks handed out to all of us before the event (yes, there IS a symbiotic relationship going on!).

    And occasionally, an agent or publicist will sell-out one of his top-tier clients to help a second tier client. What this means is a magazine editor (and sometimes a well-known celeb photographer) will get a call that goes something like, "My (Super-Big A-List Client) is currently having an affair with (Other Big Celebrity). If you can get some good paper space (quarter-page picture) for three of (My Up-And-Coming Soon To Be A-List Clients), I can feed you the details on (Super-Big A-List Client) and where your shooters can catch him."

    Happy shooting. -BC-
  21. Stock photography is true for both paparazzi, red carpet to scenic images. More you have, the better. The photo maybe used in the distance future.

    One thing that is different with paparazzi is we shoot without the subject knowing and our opportunities are limited. On the red carpet you know the star is arriving, you know it'll be infront of you, or for a scenic shot you know you can take you sweet time setting up.

    Say I see a B-actor or a not so popular celeb like Jim Ballushi at a park with his family. I'll have to decide if I want to look for parking to position myself, if I need to shoot from the trees, or spend time on him. I have to think the last movie/film he made, remember if there's anything controversial (divorced, battered wife?, alcoholic?). I recall if there has been any photos of him lately. Accessing the situation with my celeb knowledge (from reading mags/websites/publications every day or week) I decide if I will shoot. Overall Jim wouldn't sell and I probably wouldn't spend time 'working on him'. However, paparazzi always need to think about the What If factor. "What if he dies today? on the way home?" I'll shoot a few frames and leave. Stock photography of B-list celebs would sell when the celeb gets into the news like when they die/surgery/etc.

    Some might ask why leave the opportunity? I already decided he doesn't sell even if I shot tons of photos plus the chances of him not making it home is less than 1%. Time is money to paparazzi so we need to keep moving: checking the hot spots, making calls to waiters, visiting cafes or gyms, keeping up with gossip.

    Here's another thing that a paparazzo can experience like no other photographer. Say I'm shooting Jim Balushi at the park with his family and he just recently had surgery. (Remember: photos need to be accompanied w/ stories.) I'm trying to capture 1. Jim playing with his family, 2. Tell/show how he is recovering from his surgery. Just as I get a good spot to shot I see Helen Hunt walking her dog. Now there's less than a minute to decide which subject to work on. Jim or Helen. Helen or Jim. Quick quick. Decide.

    Times like these are what I enjoy as a pap and not a regular photographer. Paps need to think, be creative, and improvise because our situations and subjects are not under our control. I think that most paps can produce what a studio/portrait photographer shoots but it's not as easy the other way around. Are paps better photographers. No, absolutely not. But more people want our photos and willing to pay to have it. With my few years in the business I had my work seen more than 1,000 photographers' images combined and they probably been shooting twice as long as me. This last comment is more fact than showing off.

    I'm interested and ready to hear from the regular photographers. Please keep your opinions to facts and figures. If you do resort to name calling, we won't get anywhere.
  22. I have been a professional photographer for years, mostly studio work, models, headshots etc... I have taken the past 2 1/2 years off from "working" as a photographer and am strongly considering becoming a part time paparazzo. And why not, it's still photography, and it does seem to pay pretty well if you take it seriously! I can still shoot my artistic photos when I feel like it, and after working with actors and models, I'd rather shoot them from my car than deal with some of them in the studio! It's all just taking photos, and it's what we all love to do. We all have our own nitch in photography so for someone to say one is better and one is worse is completely rediculous. In fact, I've seen some photos hanging in galleries in SoHo that I personally wouldn't care to ever see again.
    So we all have our styles, and we all decide what is art, so I might decide to shoot famous people from my car, at least it's with a camera.
  23. I'm watching the movie Paparazzi right now. How accurate would you say this movie is? If you as a pap saw, or better yet, caused, an accident. And the star and their family were trapped inside the car, unconsious, would you stand around and take pictures instead of trying to help?
  24. Let me put this into prospective. Car accidents in big cities happen everyday. Many of those accidents are promoted by drivers who: drink and drive (Hell my girlfriend does it and I hate that fact), take drugs, speeding, racing, tailgate, delivery trucks UPS, etc. Which brings me to the story about Lindsay Lohan's car accident. Yes she was being chased by the pap but there not enough $$$ earned to recover the $35K bail, the lawyers, the fine. One would need to sell at least $85K to be make the accident worth it (and they didn't). I know the guy who crashed into her but never got to speak to him after. We as paps would not cause any accident to get a photo UNLESS it's worth it, and the law makes it not worth it all the time. There have been stories I heard that paps would let the air out of celebs' tires which created a excellent set of photos. "Pamela Anderson fixes her flat tire to her $85,000 Range Rover". I think this is wrong to do. Is it illegal to let air out of tires? You think about it while the photographer goes to sell his $10K photos.
    Princess Diana: A highend, Mercedes sedan with a drunk driver behind the wheel racing in a tunnel with 2-3 mopeds/scooters in pursuit. Who was more in danger? The people in the 2500 lbs car or the guys on the 400 lb bikes?
    It's not cool and sometimes not right when it comes to some of the tactics that paps use, however most are just annoyances or inconviences to stars; referring to the times annoying tactics are used which are 5% of the time. Remember, a good pap takes photos, gets what he needs, and leaves without a celeb knowing.
    I didn't see the Paparazzi movie but I heard the paps were sleezy, fat, ugly, mean and ruthless. Kinda sounds like some real life paps. But lawyers and going to court is something we don't like to get ourselves into. Getting restaining orders limits our opportunity to shoot. In summary; creating accidents, confrontation, sneaking into homes is not worth it.
    Reflect on the idea that if paps did this to regular non-celebs, who one would care plus it wouldn't sell magazines/papers. But because it's a celeb that complains, gets into a car accident, hits a photographer, people like to hate the paps.
  25. People who perform life saving procedures on the injured, from good samaritians to medical personelle can be and have been sued. I think that most lawyers would tell you not to touch or move a subject/body after a car accident occured. After I got certified in CPR, the medic explained that there are legal issues to helping people. Asking the injured for permission to help is vital to limit liability.
    If I got into an accident I would call the police and emergency crews. I already caused a collision, I'm not going to make it worse. Perhaps all I would do is nothing, just stand there. I may take photos.
  26. Just before Christmas I was walking down a quiet side street I use to avoid the mass of tourists you find here in Barcelona. I usually walk with a camera on me, I hate missing shots. Two chaps were walking towards me and I recognised Javier Bardem, who was wearing sunglasses. I continued to walk and stopped, turned and approached the two men. I tapped Javier on his shoulder and introduced myself in Spanish. My cameras were strung over my chest and hung down in the small of my back. As I handed him and his friend my business card, he didn?t realise I was loaded and ready to shoot! He turned down my offer and I didn?t push it, allowing him to walk away, with the agreement that should he want photos in the future, he?d give me a call. Javier is one of the most famous Spanish actors and has been seen with Penelope Cruz on numerous occasions. I missed out on the shot, and felt pretty messed up afterwards. A few weeks earlier I?d confronted Prince Felipe (Son of Juan Carlos, King of Spain) who was attending a private wedding with his wife. With special permission from his Guardia Civil bodyguards, I?d got a single frontal shot of the royal couple standing in the street outside my art gallery in the gothic quarter of Barcelona. I?ve been in many situations, where the paparazzi urge has leapt up inside my belly. I want to work for Reuters as a war photographer and have found that these small celebrity incidences have really improved my photographic skills. An unquenchable desire to sniff out situations with a camera has got me the shots I needed.
  27. "Mike, you are absolutely right. I bet Curtis thinks photojournalists covering wars and natural disasters are parasites, exploiting the victims too."

    They are much worse than that. They wallow in blood and feed on misery in order to keep their bloated egos inflated and to advance their own pathetic politics. They are worse than the flies that feed on the dead; at least those are part of the natural order of things.
  28. Yeah, it's much safer to believe the soothing nonsense the various governments put to keep their sheep in their pens for the shearing.

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