Seasoned photographers share their tips on what to bring, how to act, and the best way to capture a timeless red carpet photo.
Chances are, you’ve seen the glitzy, glamorous photos from a red carpet event packed with A-List celebrities. As awards season gets under way, there will be ample opportunities for photographers to go to one of these events and snap a picture of a star.
Though it may seem like high energy chaos, there are practical ways to navigate these events and leave with valuable content. We spoke to a few seasoned red carpet photographers who shared their tips on what to bring, how to present yourself, and the best way to capture that iconic photo.
What to Ask Event Organizers
Experts agree that before you get to the red carpet, you should consult with the event organizers. Brian Friedman, a red carpet photographer who has worked with Shutterstock in the past, says he always asks organizers if the event is going to be inside or outside.
Hunter Abrams, a red carpet and event photographer, says they always ask organizers about security and whether or not there’s going to be a designated area for dropping off your bags and other belongings.
Be a Team Player
Shooting as a red carpet photographer may differ from other gigs because you will have to negotiate and work with other photographers. For instance, when you’re shooting a wedding, you’ll likely be the only photographer there. But for red carpets, you’re one of many people who have been sent by magazines, newspapers, and other outlets.
Though the frantic nature of a red carpet may lend itself to competitiveness, red carpet photographers agree that the best approach is to be mindful and courteous of others.
Presley Ann, a celebrity and fashion photographer, recommends being diligent and speedy with your approach and respecting the line of others behind you who also want to snap a shot. She says when you initially start to shoot these events, you’ll probably be behind the line and, therefore, extra respectful.
“They’re waiting for you to exit the shot so they can get the same shot too,” she explains. “So, it’s really important to be a team player.”
“A lot of people will get very annoyed when they lose eye contact for somebody else who’s yelling further down the line that should have probably already had their shots,” she says.
Ann stresses that it’s important to be on good terms with the publicists and get to these events early. Friedman also encourages photographers to be “cool with one another” so “everyone gets what they want and need.”
Ann explains that though the atmosphere may get tense, you need to carry yourself with a “decorum” because when you’re working these events, you’re also serving as a representative for your company.
How to Behave Around Talent
Yes, you will be taking photos of celebrities at their most glamorous. You should expect plenty of designer dresses and luxurious jewelry. You may even get a little star struck and come into contact with some of your childhood heroes.
That being said, it’s best to keep things strictly professional. Even if there’s underlying, unspoken expectations between photographers and subjects at the red carpet, you shouldn’t be too aggressive or overly eager. Friedman suggests striking a delicate balance.
“You manage the excitement . . . you sort of contain it to an extent but you also want to exude it, too,” he notes.
“It took me a few times to realize that your eye contact and your demeanor, to get the talent to look at you is a really big part of things,” he elaborates. “And so, the etiquette really lies within that, whether it’s patience, whether it’s a smile, whatever it may be, the etiquette is . . . how am I going to have this millisecond with the talent?”
Ann believes that red carpet magic stems from approaching celebrities as regular human beings and developing personalized connections.
“There’s just like a different sparkle in people’s eyes when they’re really happy to see you,” she says.
Abrams says that though “it’s very easy to get frustrated” on the red carpet, you should also be level-headed and act “warm and friendly.” They stress that means absolutely “no shouting.”
Friedman says that if the red carpet doesn’t have a tent, you’re likely going to need more flash to “get enough light to the talent from where you’re standing.” The seasoned photographer also brings extra flash with them in the event of “harsh lighting.” Also to prepare for the worst case scenario if one of the flashes overheats.
To give her photos a “soft, Hollywood-esque look,” Ann uses a KOBRA modifier on her flash. She also brings gels in her bag just in case the event has “really crazy lighting.”
“As much as you’re doing a Kelvin and you’re trying to correct for that, the only way to achieve a pure white balance is going to be putting a gel on your flash and then adjusting that . . . . you figure it out as you go because sometimes there are rooms where it’s so yellow so you’re going to use the most orange filter to counter correct that,” she notes.
She also sets her white balance to custom in preparation for the lighting being “slightly off.”
Ann, Abrams, and Friedman say that it’s crucial to bring backup supplies of your equipment because you never know what could happen. Bring backup lenses, two separate flashes, and two separate bodies.
Ann also brings “very fast SD cards” because “if you don’t have fast enough SD cards, they’re not going to write at the same speed in which you’re shooting.” This is particularly important for after the red carpet event simply because your editor will need to quickly download and process the images from your camera.
Friedman says that he makes sure to have a mobile WiFi hot spot. Though hotels and event spaces may provide their own WiFi, there’s no guarantee that your camera will be able to log on as well and you’ll need to be connected if you want to instantly send images to your editor.
He says that he also makes sure to pack some water and snacks because those aren’t always provided.
Shooting a red carpet event is an exhilarating experience. Even if it may get chaotic at times, you’ll do a great job as long as you bring the proper supplies and approach the work with a level-headed, respectful attitude.
License this cover image via John Locher/AP/Shutterstock on Shutterstock Enterprise.