Becoming a successful paparazzo is no easy feat. Yes, anyone with a camera on-hand can go out and give it a shot at the next movie premiere, but to make a real living out of it takes another level of skill (including connections and knowledge). So, read on for a complete breakdown of this often-controversial type of photography.

What is a paparazzo photographer?

Typically, a paparazzo photographer is a freelance photographer who keeps abreast of celebrities and other popular figures (such as sports stars, politicians and entertainers) movements, aiming to capture candid images of them going about their daily lives. The goal is to sell these images on to newspapers, magazines, television shows or websites.

The practice, in general, is a cause for controversy, with many people seeing it as a blight on the lives of those who are in the spotlight. Of course, it’s easy to see taking a picture of someone without their permission as an invasion of privacy, but while media outlets are willing to pay there will always be a willing photographer.

How much does it pay?

There is no definitive salary for paparazzi photographers; rather, you will often rely on selling shots independently to media outlets. Good photos can net you anything from a few hundred pounds to over £1,000, but due to royalties and re-selling over time, the money can come in slowly. The real key is to snap a shot that no other paparazzi have got.

For this, you’ll need to be incredibly savvy, able to find the most famous celebrities at a moment when nobody else knows what they’re doing. If a photographer was able to do this consistently, they could earn over £100,000 a year! Alternatively, some agencies do exist for paparazzo photographers, but you still need to have the ability to capture great shots to make any decent money.

How do I become a paparazzo photographer?

Advice is readily available on the internet, but you’ll need a few things in order to be truly successful. First of all, you’ll need to be technically sound with a camera in your hands, able to quickly adjust settings for the perfect shot. The window of opportunity for you to get your image may only be a few seconds, and after hours of preparation, the last thing you want is a blurry photograph!

As we mentioned earlier, connections help, and tip-offs play a huge role in the life of a paparazzo, unless you are so street smart and in the know about celebrities in general, then tips will be essential. Often, for a tip, you will need to offer payment. Additionally, you will need a determined attitude and no small amount of cunning – if you are someone who gives up easily, then this is not for you.

The work involves countless hours tailing leads, taking shots and then working hard to sell them. Only the most dedicated ever really make a good living from paparazzi photography.

What qualifications do I need?

None. You can get started without any official degree to your name, as long as you have the right camera for the job you can get out there and give it a go. However, it might be beneficial to you to earn some sort of media or press qualification. If you’re looking to sell your work to a magazine this will always hold you in good stead, along with a high-quality portfolio of course!

Who is the most famous of all paparazzi photographers?

Ron Gallela is arguably the most famous of all paparazzi photographers, having snapped mega stars such as Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and many more. Due to his efforts Newsweek labelled him the “paparazzo extraordinaire”, and he is also largely seen as being responsible for creating the culture of the paparazzi that exists today. If you’re looking to be inspired you can view more of his work here!

Can you think of someone famous? Let us know in the comments below!