Some people are so famous that other people get paid just to photograph their everyday life. These are called celebrity photographers, more commonly known as "paparazzi." Although rare pictures of a famous celebrity's most intimate moments can command hundreds of thousands of dollars, most paparazzi in the United States make a much more humble salary due to heavy competition for celebrity attention.
Most celebrity photographers earn about $40,000, as of 2009. Celebrity photographers depend in part on royalty checks every time a magazine makes use of their photos, which can mean hundreds of dollars in passive income each month. The actual salary for a celebrity photographer depends on how much the person works and whether they can get any in-demand photos. Some of the best celebrity photographers can earn $100,000 to $250,000 and more. Annie Leibovitz is one of the most famous celebrity photographers in the world, and earned about $2 million in 2009 for her work for Vanity Fair alone, according to Ula Ilnytzky of The Huffington Post.
Pay Per Photo
In general, magazines only pay a few hundred dollars for pictures of a celebrity at a movie premier, because there usually are dozens of paparazzi at the event taking essentially the same photos. The best paid shots come from a celebrity's private life. In 2005, for instance, "US Weekly" paid a reported $500,000 for pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on a beach during their vacation to Africa.
Befriending a Celebrity
Some celebrity photographers do not bother hunting down celebrities, but develop a personal relationship with one that allows them exclusive access to highly sought-after shots. In 2005, paparazzo Steve Sands negotiated a deal to photograph Gwyneth Paltrow's newborn baby -- an assignment that earned him between $300,000 and $500,000 -- in return for agreeing not publish any unflattering photos of her, according to "Forbes."
Becoming a Paparazzo
There are no requirements to become a member of the paparazzi, but it may pay to have some photograph experience, suggests former paparazzi Tiffany Miller of PayScale. Magazines tend to pay more for shots that include a celebrity's entire body, so you may need to learn how to stake out spots for adequate lighting and angles. Also, many paparazzi work as freelancers, so they generally pay their travel and meal expenses. A trip might end up as a loss is the paparazzo cannot get any photographs that sell. Some paparazzo develop a network of informants who tip off the photographer in exchange for money.