Top Ten Tips to Become an Amazingly Successful Celebrity Event Photographer

By Marvin Thompson

Photographers taking photo of Gwyneth Paltrow © Daniela Kirsch / NameFace

The Photographers. You’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them: The massive horde of cameras and shuffling feet that seem to haunt the dreams of popular movie stars and models, whether in Hollywood or at a movie screening on the other side of the globe. To be a member of the Photographer Crowd is to be willing to immerse yourself in the fast­paced, competitive world of celebrity photography.

It’s a lot more than just snapping pictures of popular Movie Stars, Fashion Designers and other notable social figures; This profession requires a specific set of skills, as well as a heightened level of commitment to survive. It can be exciting or frustrating, depending on how well you play your cards.

If red carpets and movie screenings are in your future, take a look at our top ten recommended skills that you’ll need to get you ready for the main floor.

Camera © Daniela Kirsch / NameFace

1. Know your Gear

This is the big one, which is why it comes first on our list. Before taking a grand leap into a bigger stage, you need to obtain a better understanding of the vehicle that’s going to take you to the top. You need to know about your camera in the same way that a Guitar player knows about his live rig, or a professional chef knows his menu and recipes.

Of course, that means researching models and brands, experimenting with different lenses, and getting familiar with using your camera on more than a basic level. Utilize your camera like an extension of your body: The more you exercise that muscle, the stronger it will become. Trust me, it’s going to show in the results, for better or worse.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

If you’ve never taken photographs in hectic or noisy settings, it’s time to start getting your feet wet. People move, Celebrities move, and as it so happens, you will be moving too. A lot.

The best thing to do is to stretch those muscles out ahead of time. Attend a family party or small social gathering, and taking a few pictures of some friends and some of the guests attending. Go to an event, and get used to the practical movement of your future goal before heading out into the Red Carpets ahead of you.

3. Be first, and Be loud

Alright. You’ve studied your gear, and you’ve been able to take some pretty good photographs of people at events and gatherings around your city. Somehow, you’ve been able to get your foot in the door into a big movie screening, and you’re ready to start adding a few names to your repertoire of captured celebrity photographs.

However, among the thousands of flashing lights, big stars and masses of people, the only thought that seems to echo in your head is a resounding “What now?”. Luckily, you’ve stumbled across the article before getting to the deer in headlights stage.

Both celebrities and events can be overwhelming. Whether or not that’s due to the stardom or the hectic nature of said events can be disputed, but i’m sure seeing Angelina Jolie in person ­ and then yelling to get her attention ­ is never easy.

Use your voice. You have to keep in mind that there are literally hundreds of you vying for the attention of one person!

Not to mention that maintaining the attention of a celebrity for a long time is a feat of its own. Let your voice be heard at these events, and move at a pace that gets you meeting the right people and grabbing your shots at the right time.

4. Get Social

If you’re at the center of one of the biggest social events, standing next to the biggest stars and socialites, the worst thing you can do to yourself is stay isolated.

Talking to a few people and making some connections can never fair wrong for your future in the business. Make friends with producers, directors, musicians, other photographers, record companies and newspapers to spread your name among the photography scene.

5. Get in free

Everyone loves publicity. The difference between you and them however, is that you’ll know how to take advantage of their wants and turn it into profitable needs. In order to have close access to celebrities, you’ll need to have access to these events, but in a way that costs you way less than you’ll earn.

Nightclubs and Venues are usually up for negotiation in regards to event photography. It isn’t uncommon to have a deal where you get free entry, drinks, and pay in exchange for house photography services.

Take advantage of this, and you’ll be getting in free to party and hang out with the celebrities, and making a decent pay out of it as well.

6. Do your homework

Research is your best friend. With the explosion of the internet, there are now easier ways for you, the eager event photographer, to stay on top of upcoming events, celebrity moments (Trials, etc), concerts, movie screenings and fashion shows in your city.

Reading up on tabloids, newspaper/magazine articles, and doing some internet searches can put you in the face of incredible photo opportunities, and this can all turn into profit in the long run.

Stay up to date, and stay open to the opportunities that will arrive for you from the connections you make along the way. Your portfolio will begin to fill up, and you’ll become a common face at these events, which can only go well for you in the future.

7. Database

Keep things on record. Being that your opportunities may sometimes arise only based on your credibility, it would be wise to keep a record of the individuals you’ve worked with.

Compile a database via spreadsheet (Google drive, Dropbox, etc) of bands, celebrities, companies and venues you’ve worked with in the past to bolster your own marketable opportunities in the future. Simply having a database isn’t enough in this highly competitive field.

Also, keep in mind that past opportunities can easily become lucrative ones as the years go on.

8. Press credentials

Understandably, this point is a crucial one, and it should’ve been closer to the top, However due to the levels of importance in the previous points, this is being placed here. Press credentials are vital in the sense of gaining access to high profile events and concerts to conduct your photography.

If you’re just starting off, a good place to go and obtain press credentials are through local news agencies or community colleges. You can also go to your local police department to obtain press credentials, or through a photography agency. Using these credentials, you’ll be able to get closer than the average photographer, and be one step closer to taking amazing, sellable shots.

9. Sell! Sell! Sell!

Knowing your craft is half the battle in turning your field into a career. Now, it’s time to use the results of the events and concerts you’ve covered and turn that into dollar bills.

Newspapers and Magazine companies often use the work of freelance photographers, so you’ll be able to sell your work to them for varying prices. Keep in mind that every publication has their own set price ranges, usually going from $25 a shot to $500, depending on the value of the picture, the celebrity, the location, etc. Some scandalous shots of high profile criminal cases can even be sold for upwards of $5000 a shot.

It’s important to understand the value of the shot, and to remember the golden rule: The bigger the celebrity, the bigger the possible profit margin.

Also, if you’ve successfully marketed yourself in negotiations with musicians and agencies, you can turn in a constant profit due to you owning the rights to those photographs. Utilize your relationships, stay on top of your opportunities. Keep the cycle going, and you’ll be living with a comfortable profession in no time.

10. Have fun!

Take a deep breath and look around you. You’re now getting paid to make friends, meet musicians, party with celebrities and company executives, notable socialites and pop culture icons in the modern era. Most importantly, the only thing you need to focus on is something that you already love doing: Photography. And you’ll be making a killing doing it.

Enjoy the ride and wherever it takes you, because it’s a crazy one, and it’s worth every second.