The idea of using photography to disseminate images of famous men and women is as old as photography itself. From the middle 1850s and onwards almost all of the large portrait studios entered the celebrity picture business. Every photographer had his or her specialty. As competition intensified, each studio was encouraged, within budget, to attract celebrities and, if possible, obtain exclusive rights to them.
Celebrity photography is a sub-specialty of photojournalism and deals entirely with celebrities in a variety of settings and events. Magazines and newspapers typically buy and run four main types of celebrity photographs: celebrity portraits, music photographs, event photographs, and pap, or paparazzi photos. Celebrity photographers typically specialize in one of these types of photography, with paparazzi being the least respected of these.
Celebrity portraiture is the branch of celebrity photography that involves taking official pictures at a formal photo shoot. These photos may be for a publicity campaign, advertising, magazine or newspaper spreads, or for use as promotional location shots. These photo shoots are carefully arranged with a clear purpose and mission in mind.
Music photography is another area of celebrity photography that deals solely with musicians and musical groups. Photos may be posed or may be taken during performances. Many of the shots end up in magazines, newspapers, or websites while others are used for promotional items and fan club memorabilia.
Event celebrity photography is another field that consists of arranged, authorized photos. Events may include parties, film premiers, awards shows, weddings, music shows, and private functions. These photos are usually included in entertainment magazines and other publications that follow the activities of celebrities.
Paparazzi is the least respected of all types of celebrity photography. Paparazzi photographers shoot candid photos of celebrities, often without consent. They go to great lengths to capture shots that they hope will be worth a lot of money, including trespassing and using very long telephoto lenses. These determined photographers have been known to crash family events and participate in car chases in order to get a good pic. They then sell these pictures to the highest bidder, which often turns out to be tabloids or ‘trash’ publications.
As long as people hold a fascination for celebrities and their lives, there will be photographers who will go to great lengths to get the interesting shots. Some of these are ethical professionals who respect the boundaries of decency while others will do anything necessary to get a shot that will pay off.