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Any photographer will tell you that it can be difficult to shoot portraits at the best of times, but if the subject is famous it can be even more challenging. This is something that Rodrigo Lizarraga, photographer, art director and creator knows all too well. Having held photo shoots with such big names as Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish and Harry Styles, he knows a thing or two about how to capture a celebrity’s personality in an image.
Here, he gives his insider’s guide to the art of the celebrity photoshoot so that would-be celebrity photographers can get the edge over their competitors and learn the basics of working with famous faces.
Preparation Is Key
“It’s true that being prepared will always be important as a photographer,” Lizarraga says, “however when you’re shooting celebrities it’s even more essential. Usually, you have hardly any time available to you, even if the shoot is scheduled and planned. In extreme cases you might have just minutes, or even seconds, to get the job done. That means you need to be ready and on the ball.”
He recommends that if you want to get a number of shots, you should set them up in advance so it’s easy to move smoothly and seamlessly between setups in minimal time since it isn’t unknown to have less than 60 seconds in which to get the perfect image of the celebrity in question.
“I also advise doing some research into the celebrity before you attend a shoot.” Lizarraga advises. “Just spending a few minutes Googling them can let you know the basics. For example, you can get enough detail to start a conversation about a relevant and engaging subject, and you’ll have some idea about what to avoid discussing. It may also help you to come up with ideas to use in your shoot.”
Of course, it goes without saying that you need to ask some essential pre-production questions about the shoot. Where will you be shooting? What kind of shots are required? Is there enough budget to hire more equipment or additional personnel? How long will you have? He also stresses the importance of checking that the kit is all working correctly and that everything is in place to get all the necessary shots, including backups and spares.
Avoid Anything New And Untested
There’s a time and a place for experimenting with new equipment or different techniques. Shooting a celebrity isn’t one of them. Lizarraga strongly recommends sticking with methods that have been tried and tested.
“Celebrities want usable shots.” He says, “they don’t want confusing images in which you played around with lighting or angles. If you go down this road, you could ruin your reputation.”
The Psychological Effect
Although it’s something that few photographers consider, there is actually a psychological element involved with shooting celebrities.
“Some celebrities can be rude, difficult and challenging to work with.” Lizarraga says. “On the other hand, some can be wonderful and friendly. Most are professional and polite and just get on with the job in hand.”
He points out that celebrities are just doing their job and they expect their photographer to get on with their job too instead of acting star-struck.
“Be confident in your abilities.” Lizarraga says, “hone your craft and put in the practice so that you aren’t fazed under pressure.”
He reminds would-be celebrity photographers that celebrities rarely turn up for a shoot alone. Usually, they have a bunch of others in tow. That can lead to shoots being quite crowded, with stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, managers, agents, family and friends in the space.
“It’s essential that you don‘t get distracted.” Lizarraga warns. “And don’t let your own ego get in the way. That said, you’re should flatter the celebrity but you don’t have to simper. Asking intelligent questions regarding their work is a great way to break the ice, especially if you can bring in something based on your own experience, but simply telling them that you loved the last film they did is bordering on unprofessional.”
And professionalism is key, Lizarraga stresses. Not only for the photographer themselves in terms of their kit and appearance, but also for their crew.
“Working with celebrities can be a wonderful experience,” Lizarraga says, “but it’s important to bear these top tips in mind. The key to getting more work and enjoying the experience more is to behave professionally throughout. Treating celebrities respectfully and politely but without groveling is the best way forward.”
So, no matter how much you want to kiss the feet of the celebrity that you’re shooting, it’s important to take a step back, put your professional head on, and get to work in a confident, reassuring and efficient manner. That’s how to ace a celebrity photoshoot!