How to Become a Red Carpet Photographer

by Kendall Olsen; Updated September 26, 2017
Making a living by taking pictures on the red carpet isn't as easy as it seems.

Photographers make and help create visual imagery that records an event or tells a story. Photographers who record images of special venues or important events, such as those on a red carpet, are also called news photographers or photojournalists. Photographers who focus on more candid shots of celebrities are sometimes called paparazzi. Although the job of celebrity photographer appeals to many because of its glamorous nature, it requires skill, technical ability and some luck. Red carpet photographers must secure proper credentials, find or create photo opportunities and make compelling images in a field that can be highly competitive and challenging.

Step 1

Obtain a high school diploma. Most photographers employed by news organizations, including magazines and newspapers, are required to have college degrees in fine arts, photojournalism or photography. The requirements for freelance photographers are less stringent; however, most freelancers gain experience and build their image portfolios through formal training or experience.

Step 2

Gain experience in taking photographs, developing photographs and using digital equipment and computer technology. Build a professional portfolio of images that clearly demonstrate your abilities of photographer, as well as a range of work. Include images that use both natural and artificial light, posed subjects and candid shots, traditional photographs and digital images. While working, gain experience adjusting shutter speeds, aperture, lighting, field depth, motion, film speed and film type. Because your goal is to become a red carpet photographer, be sure to include many images of people to demonstrate your abilities.

Step 3

Obtain press passes and credentials through an employer or by joining a professional organization. Paying dues to a formal press association, such as the American Press Association or the U.S. Press Association, can provide you with a formal press pass. Passes are often required to gain admittance to special events and locations. Make contacts within the organizations and get to know fellow photographers to gain information about special events and receive invitations or the credentials necessary to photograph certain events. Add images of these special events to your professional portfolio.

Step 4

Gain employment with a news organization or photography agency. News organizations, magazines and Internet sites often provide steady employment and income by requiring photographers to fulfill specific assignments. If freelance work is the goal, contracting with a photography agency can provide assignments or give you the ability to have a direct outlet for your work. Photo agencies often have a large bank of employees who sell their own images and also work to find specific images the agency is seeking. According to Slate Magazine, freelance photographers typically affiliate themselves with an agency. Magazines or news outlets may commission specific images and then pay agencies for the photos; leads for photos often earn the agency 50 percent of the proceeds and the photographer gets 50 percent of the earnings. Photos taken and sold through agencies often mean 60 percent of profits for the photographer and 40 percent to the agency.

Step 5

Continue gaining experience and developing your portfolio throughout your career. By taking and selling photos, you can gain the confidence of employers or agencies. More photo opportunities and better assignments often result from continued excellence and finding rare images. The most sought-after photographers often have years of experience, an artistic eye and are technically proficient.

Tips

  • Photographers must have good eyesight and perception skills and be physically able to take photographs. At times, physical agility is necessary to secure a good image. Red carpet photographers must have a creative eye and internal design sense to create a style that is appealing to viewers.

    While some photographers may primarily use single lens reflex (SLR) cameras to take pictures, most competitive photographers have the ability to use both manual and digital equipment. The use of digital photography and computer programs requires individuals in the field to have both experience with and access to sophisticated equipment.

    In addition to technical skills and artistic ability, photographers must often have a good business sense to help them negotiate deals or fees, read contracts, market images and gain employment.

    Photographers must often be personable or have a good customer service skill set in order to gain leads from local businesses, concierges or other contacts. Maintaining good relationships means more information about special events and photo opportunities.

    Because it can be expensive to travel and because some events can be spur-of-the-moment, many photographers live in large cities where such events are common. Celebrity photographers often live in places like Los Angeles or New York.

2016 Salary Information for Photographers

Photographers earned a median annual salary of $34,070 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, photographers earned a 25th percentile salary of $23,480, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $52,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 147,300 people were employed in the U.S. as photographers.

About the Author

Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images