One field of photography that is both famous and infamous is celebrity photography. As with every branch of photography, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about capturing images of celebrities — especially if you’re hoping to do it as a field of photography and not just as a fan (most celebrities don’t mind fans asking to take a photo of or with them but it would generally be a good idea to ask when they’re at a public event where photos would be a given instead of asking them when they’re out getting ice cream with their children). So, here a few quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to snapping shots of someone famous.
1) For an event, contact the public relations department of the venue, the production company, and/or the publicity/celebrity managers — This is especially necessary for “red carpet” events like movie premieres, awards ceremonies, public speaking events, or other big news stories. Oftentimes, access to certain parts of the event are restricted to those with press passes only and each venue will have its own rules regarding how those passes are granted and to whom.
2) Don’t show up and think you can shove your way through — If you’ve neglected to get a pass or were denied one, don’t show up and try to shove through the crowds to get your photos. That’s just rude. Also, some venues will tend to prefer to grant access to local journalists or to photographers who have a well-established professional reputation and you can bet they didn’t get that reputation by breaking the rules of the venues and the rules of common courtesy.
3) If you catch a celebrity out in public, be polite — Famous people go out just like everyone else. And, when they’re out grabbing lunch at a shop, picking up milk, going to their office, or taking their kids to the park, they do try to keep a low profile. Generally, if you approach them and politely ask for a moment of their time for a photo, they’ll grant it (or will tell you who to contact if you’re interested in doing a photo shoot). Some of them are remarkably supportive of new photographers and will try to work with you so long as you respect their privacy. So, ask (or if you snap a photo without asking because of a timing issue, approach them soon after and show it to them as a common courtesy, especially if it involves children).
4) Yes, you have a telephoto lens. No, that doesn’t mean you should use it — One of many celebrities’ biggest pet peeves is photographers staking out a location well out of normal eye shot of their property and using a telephoto lens to take pictures of them and their family going about their daily lives at home. Unless you’ve been specifically hired by a private investigative firm, please don’t engage in this paparazzi-style behavior. In some places, it’s even illegal.
5) If you’re asked not to use flash photography, then don’t use flash photography — Many venues forbid it because of the problems with lighting and with distraction it can cause. Some celebrities — notably those who have epilepsy — may ask that flash be avoided or be used in a certain manner so as not to trigger a seizure. Even if you think you know exactly how your flash would affect someone with epilepsy, respect their wishes because chances are, unless you’re a neurologist, they and their doctor probably know more than you.
6) If possible, send a copy of your finished photos to the venue or to your contact prior to publication — This is just a way of being polite and professional. Generally, a publicist won’t call you up and tell you not to publish photos that you’ve selected from your collection and edited for publication. This is just a way of letting them know what to expect and to show off your quality of work (and it can sometimes lead to you getting on a short list of preferred photographers).
7) Never mess with a production company’s camera crew — If, by some chance, you were invited to do photography on a movie or television show set or location, don’t get in the filming crew’s way and don’t disrupt the actors while they’re in character. Try to be as unobtrusive as possible and save your silly or candid shots for when they’re not in the middle of a scene.
– da Bird