Interesting facts about the paparazzi

It isn’t often that you hear a good word about the paparazzi. Even if you aren’t moved by the shrill complaints of besieged celebrities; the idea of someone spending their life snapping unflattering, long-lens pictures of stars going about their everyday lives is still offensive to most people’s sense of decency. There’s also the perception that the job is easy and it lacks prestige. After all, snapping a photo of Cameron Diaz walking down Rodeo Drive without her makeup doesn’t seem to require much skill. Nor does the trade rank particularly high on the photojournalistic rung.

But believe it or not, not everyone can be a well-paid tabloid sharpshooter. Becoming a viable paparazzo actually requires a variety of skills, as it takes more than mere doggedness (although you will need that in spades) to succeed. The best celebrity photographers are equal parts glad-handers, independent businessmen, and secret agents. They cultivate a myriad of contacts and tightrope risky budgets, they are constantly on the make in a relentlessly competitive industry, and, yes, they actually have to know how to take a high-quality picture.

In the wake of the rare kind words I just threw their way, here are five things that you didn’t know about the paparazzi.

1- They have large networks of assistants

The general public’s widespread use of digital and cell phone cameras at movie premieres and galas has caused red-carpet celebrity shots to become a dime-a-dozen — hence, they don’t sell for much more than that. Due to this intrusion on their traditional territory, successful paparazzi need to be as resourceful as possible in order to ensure that they can snag the rare candid shots that haul in the big bucks.

Therefore, the best paparazzi are now also the best connected, with networks of informants — bodyguards, doormen, waiters, hairstylists, intimates, and even autograph hounds — whom they cultivate or bribe in exchange for a tip about an elusive celebrity’s whereabouts. Noted paparazzo Mel Bouzad claimed to have nabbed £90,000-photos of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez together in Georgia after their breakup based on a tip from “Matt Damon’s wife’s hairdresser.”

Find out the paparazzi’s earning potential and their true power…

2- They can earn in the range of £150,000 a year

Paparazzi are so often viewed through a shady prism that it’s not widely known that they can rank among the best paid photo-journalists in the world. In fact, while most established paparazzi earn around £40,000 to £60,000 a year, a significant number of very successful paparazzi haul in the same income as your average corporate lawyer — about £150,000 a year.

This salary doesn’t include the “big score” or one-time bonanzas like New York paparazzo Steve Sands’ reported £200,000 score from People magazine for pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s second child. Also, the market for a picture of Tom Cruise‘s and Katie Holmes‘ offspring reportedly reached seven figures. But aspiring photographers should note that, like in any profession, you have to work your way to the top. Unless you know Matt Damon’s wife’s hairdresser, entry-level positions generally pay about £2,000 per month.

3- Media savvy celebs share schedules with the paparazzi

Paparazzi commonly argue that though celebrities gripe endlessly about getting their pictures snapped every time they pick their noses, those same stars realize they need the paparazzi to ensure that they remain in the public eye and maintain their popularity. Some stars, at least partially, embrace this theory and have made a conscious decision to cultivate a more mutually beneficial relationship with their tabloid “friends.”

Common conciliatory acts include offers of temporary access or exclusives in exchange for a little privacy, and even celebs voluntarily coming out of homes to provide easier access for the paparazzi on stake-out duty. Some celebs actually work overtime to ensure that the paparazzi follow them around 24/7. Predictably, the talent-starved queen of all tabloid-anointed celebrities, Paris Hilton, has embraced this tactic by notoriously offering the paparazzi her schedule, ensuring a weekly parade of heavy-lidded, Jagermeister-addled, ”I’m about to vomit in an alleyway” snapshots.

4- Paparazzi have organized “boycotts” of stars

Although they are historically on the wrong end of celebrity tongue-lashings and punches, the paparazzi have occasionally acted in tandem to eschew their usual state of victimhood. Witness the case of George Clooney, a notorious critic, after he blamed the paparazzi for causing Princess Diana’s fatal car crash in a 1997 interview. At his next public appearance at the premiere of 1997’s The Peacemaker, the entire contingent of pissed-off paparazzi refused to take publicity shots of Clooney and booed him as he signed autographs for fans.

Clooney survived his freeze-out to become an even bigger star, but others have suffered long-term damage to their careers due to similar battles. Sharon Stone has had a running feud with the tabloids, and vocally backed a new privacy law aimed at stopping photographers from hounding celebrities. In response, the paparazzi has been ruthless in casting Stone in a poor light, including snapping an incriminating shot of her adopted son sleeping in a parked car — under the chauffeur’s supervision — as the star dined with a date.

5- Their expenses can be enormous

The axiom that states that you have to spend money to make money certainly applies to the paparazzi. Photographers often have to shell out big bucks to get within camera range of a key celebrity sighting. Locked outside the gates of a swank star wedding or left ashore as a scandalous Hollywood romance blossoms at sea are mere obstacles to the determined paparazzo. It is common for the paparazzi to hire motorcyclists, helicopters, yachts, and even submarines to get in prime position for a clean — and lucrative — shot.

Yearly budgets aren’t publicized and the range depends on the size of the operation; one paparazzo estimated that the total expense of staking out Brad Pitt‘s and Angelina Jolie’s Paris apartment in the hopes of getting a picture of Shiloh would exceed £6,000 — without any guarantee of return on the investment. In addition, pesky libel claims and restraining orders can eat away at earnings, so like the tabloid press they sell their wares to, independent paparazzi incorporate pricey lawsuit expenses into their budgets.

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Paparazzi at work

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