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Celebrity Photographer Salary


Celebrity Photographer: A Paparazza Confession

Is a photo what motivates people to read celebrity gossip magazines?

If there were a list of most hated professions, paparazzi might earn the top spot. Few people besides telemarketers earn wrath like these professionals.

But Julie Smith doesn’t have the cold heart you’d expect.

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The freelance photographer and sometimes paparazzi member fell into the job on accident. She was working for a now defunct entertainment magazine when she suggested they start covering more movie premieres and celebrity parties. Suddenly she was fighting for a spot with the rest of the paparazzi.

“It was just a few years ago when celebrities were just starting to be hunted,” she said.

Celebrity photographer is the sort of profession where you truly are baptized by fire, at least less so than her previous photojournalist career. She said you’re forced to yell at the celebs to get their attention.

“I once yelled at Matthew Broderick, calling him Andy on accident,” she said. “At least it got his attention. He thought it was funny.”

The rest of the paparazzi weren’t so amused, telling her to ‘Get it together!’

She learned to use her wit and sense of humor.

“They do respond to jokes,” she said.

While she doesn’t mind packing in with the press on the red carpet, she gets butterflies when she goes undercover.

But that didn’t stop her from photographing a well-known recovering alcoholic at a party with her girlfriend in the Hampton’s.

“I was jumping over tables to get a good shot,” she said.

The picture is still circulating more than a year after it was taken. For a little insight into a celebrity photographer’s salary, Smith gets a check every time it’s used, about $50-$100 each month. That’s the residual from just one photo.

She admits it’s not a flattering photo.

“It makes her look like she’s wasted. But I’m not sure she was even drinking,” she said. Such is the life of a celebrity photographer.

Smith said it was once easy for celebrity photographer to make a good salary at the profession, simply following the big names around.

“It’s much harder now. So many kids go out to LA and get into it. There are so many more people following the stars,” she said.

So Smith has just decided to pursue a nobler career as a photojournalist at a magazine. She says she may sell photos again, but for now she sleeps better at night.

What do photographers make?

Salary of a freelance photographer   $35,728

Salary of a photojournalist   $37,403

Salary of a news photographer  $43,001

Salary of a fashion photographer  $48,710

*Salary data is from Salaries listed are for full time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses or profit sharing. For updated salary information, click each job title and see its listing in the Career Research Center.

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Tiffany Miller
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