Celebrity Photography: How I Got Started and How You Can Too
I have been working within the entertainment industry, photographing celebrities for publication for the past 12 years and am consistently asked how I got started in such a seemingly glamorous industry. In 1999, I began shooting red carpet events (everything from movie premieres to award shows) as well as concert photography (and no, I wasn’t a paparazzi. The celebrities always knew I was there and I never hid out in bushes).
I found that what I enjoyed most was photographing teen celebrities and began submitting some of my images to the teen publications (the first magazines I ever worked with were Popstar!, Tiger Beat and Bop). I built relationships with the magazines and with publicists on the red carpet and began to do more exclusive types of shoots (celebs at home, behind the scenes set visits on popular Disney and Nickelodeon type shows). I found that the one on one interaction versus yelling at celebrities to look into my lens from behind a barricade alongside 60 other photographers, was much more appealing to me creatively (although photographing the likes of Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp isn’t to hard on the eyes either). I eventually stopped doing red carpet/event photography all together with the birth of my son (I just couldn’t see being away from him during the evenings while I shot events and staying up all night doing edits). It’s not for everyone but for those who are interested…
I am going to share some insight as to how to get started in celebrity event photography.
You don’t necessarily have to be located in Los Angeles or New York to do it either (although that is where the majority of A list events take place).
First, It can be challenging to get your foot in the door, as you will need proper credentials to get into events. A worthwhile organization to check into is IFPO (International Freelance Photographer’s Organization). You can get assistance through their organization to get credentialed in order to cover celebrity events, sporting events, concerts, etc. or you can always call a local newspaper (maybe not the NY Times but a small newspaper in the area) to see if they would be interested in you covering the event for them. They may ask to see your portfolio so you better have something to show.
I would begin to cover events on your own and submit them to magazines and publications. Some publications are very time sensitive (newspapers for example need the images the day you shoot them in most cases as it runs the following morning). There are ways you can find a list of publications in the area you are pursuing (celebrity, music, sports, etc.) –visit your local newsstand and look at what magazines feature the types of images you want to photograph and copy down the editor (or photo editor’s).
With red carpet photography, the most important thing is eye contact, which can also be the most challenging (how in the world do you get the celebrity to look into your lens when 60 other photographers are yelling at them to look in theirs?). You also have a few basic shots you will need to focus on: the headshot (mid chest and up), the half shot and the full-length shot (head to toe). You will also encounter the “over the shoulder” shot for women especially if they are in fashion attire.
Then… advance from there:
Once you have built a portfolio, the best way to build a solid reputation and career as an event photographer is by getting a syndication agency to represent you. They will get you credentialed for events and syndicate your photographs to publications worldwide. Some reputable agencies include Wireimage, Film Magic, BEI Images. Interested in knowing what agencies are getting their photographers published in the magazines? Check the byline credits. You will find the photographer’s name/agency!
Some excellent resources to find out what events are happening include Seeing Stars (they have press releases for movie premieres, award shows, celebrity sporting events and more for the Southern California area which contain publicist contact info. Press releases are a great resource. You can search for listings in your area online (example: PRWEB). You can also search for publicity companies in your area and let them know you are interested in receiving their press releases.
Once you are out there on the line – build relationships with other photographers, with publicists and with the talent when you are able to. Be someone people want to work with and have the work to back it up.
Rena Durham specializes in working with kids and teens (celebrity and commercial photography, headshots and kids portraiture). She is also a wife, a mother, a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild (she just recently played a supporting role in the film ‘Lyla Wolf: Infractus’). She believes that within every child there is pure beauty and enormous potential and that the best sound in the world is a child’s laugh. Feel free to connect on facebook and check out her blog!