David Dickinson TV Antiques show personality & Mark Monohan (TV actor”Holby ciity”)



LOOKING THE PART? !  When I am out and about, camera in hand ,the commonest question I get asked is “What newspaper or magazine are you from?”   and , occasionally ” You’re not from Social Security are you ?!”  Another common reaction is , “You’re not paparazzi are you?”

Why is that ?

The reason I  tend to get noticed in public is because  I go out  equipped professionally with what  for most people is not your everyday camera.  Mine ( I always carry a backup ) are  visibly larger than you’d normally see. Screwed on, to the underside of each of my  camera bodies, is a quite expensive “powerpack” which holds two large Li-ion batteries and increases the camera’s dimensions by a third. That accessory also makes the camera very comfortable to grip ( so important when at times you are going to be holding it for hours !) and has an inbuilt  shutter release side button which means it is easy to shoot with the camera held at 90 degrees when shooting  portrait rather than the normal horizontal (landscape) style. I also tend to have a long 200 mm auto zoom sports lens  on the one of the bodies I am currently using because it is so flexible for shooting things further than say ten feet away and bringing things and people nearer when they are some distance away.

Although the camera has an inbuilt “pop-up” flash, that  drains the camera  battery more quickly, and isn’t powerful enough for all uses so instead I use a detachable tilting flash head unit that sits on top of the camera which connects to a power pack clipped to my belt.  This gives me control of light in dimly lit contexts but also allows me to light out shadows , on people’s faces , for example in groups  ( so called fill in flash)   I am not talking about me posing here, but it is handy to have equipment that looks the part, i.e. it identifies you as a serious photographer.  It is quite surprising the effect that can have , people actually want to have their photo taken and so often ask to see it straight after I’ve taken it ( on the viewing screen back.)  think they want assurance that it is a nice pic of them, fair enough!

Granada TV’s Coronation Street Soap stars actors Alan Halsall & Anthony Cotton


The paparazzi  are the “soft porn” mavericks of the industry! They’re often either lone freelancers or pap agency based , or newspaper “staffers.”Agency and freelance “paps”  are essentially mercenaries in a part of the industry where a single image of people in the public eye, celebs especially, can net them thousands if it is exclusive and the more salacious the better! It is a high pressure job if that is their bag- if they can’t deliver , they don’t get paid. I never suffer such pressures and most of the celebs I have deliberately shot, as part of my work,  are world class athletes and players and most of them are not household names so the potential value of those images is not great and appeals to a limited market. Where I live, Greater Manchester,  I come across TV celebrities only occasionally as these four examples show , all shot with my sports lens , but , and here’s the rub, with their co-operation and consent , because I spoke to them first courteously and asked.

I have the equipment and skills to do the paparazzi thing, but also , I have a fatal virtue; I respect people whoever they are, wherever they are so mainstream papping is not a real option for me! But  , I do have the means, skill and long experience of doing media standard work,  to shoot social events and give people’s guests the red carpet , celebrity treament, and these days, providing that experience for my clients has become the pillar of my business. Mostly that is through word of mouth.

Paparrazi is an eponym ; someone’s actual surname now used as a general noun.  These guys ( girl paps are paparazza) are controversial and even the origins of the actual word are shrouded in controversy.  The word  has only been in modern usage a mere forty years or so,  from the name of a fictious character, a photographer ,  in the Fellini film, “La Dolce Vita.” The mythology goes that ” paparazzi”  stems from an Italian dialect word describing the nuisance noise maded by a mosquito. More likely, either Fellini or his scriptwriter, found the name in a random search  for a surname in a book!  However, the word is firmly  fixed in the public consciousness and normally describes an intrusive form of photography and often involves taking extreme liberties with people’s privacy.


The Paparazzi  or the press photographer would struggle to survive  if we did not have such an appetite for images and stories, true or false, featuring celebrities. Celebrities, TV, screen , sports wherever , great pictures of the rich and the famous sell papers and magazines- and are the real threat to the rain forests! Celebs enjoy a life style that most of us can only dream of, whether it is simply the constant media spotlight or the life of relative luxury. But the everyday  person usually may enjoy a number of social events that break up the drugery of the week , the month or the year, an evening out, a party, a milestone family  event , the school prom, a club presentation evening , a fundraising ball and thats when I can do constructive, ethical  papping for you!  So many people love to dress up for a special occasion and look their best for a do.  With for example, the imported from America,  fashion for the “rights of passage” school prom, girls and boys get really togged up, like celebs, instead of the gear they pull out of the wardrobe for a typical Friday night out. Being “papped” is all part of the fun of it.

Celebs for the night- the school Prom finery.

Of course as with other events I am hired to cover there are always people with a variety of digital compact cameras  taking snaps of family and friends as they were here at the school prom. But having a professional photogrpaher there added to the experience , what I call the RCT , the red carpet treatment. Snaps don’t always turn out how you wish, red eye, out of focus, too dark, too bright, heads and limbs cut off. My work comes with a guarantee that I will deliver hundreds of shots that won’t suffer any of the common faults I described. Indoors of course the big flash gun comes out, adding to the buzz. I catch guests as they arrive, getting  them in couples or small groups. My parallel career as an educational professional, 25 year but now retired, gives me an edge, the ability to use my voice and direct and encourage people, and a friendly nature usually quickly puts people at ease. Once installed, I’ll spend the rest of the evening crusing round the floor either taking long lens candids but most of all responding to requests for group and couple portraits either standing or at tables.

Dressed up in your best , you deserve the professional star treatment an a “keeper” of a shot for the album or maybe even to frame.

To get consistent high quality results requires just one quality. Quiet confidence ! First, you have to know your equipment as often you have to make minor adjustments on the hop , know when to change lenses, when to tilt the flash head, get your settings sorted. You need confidence to inspire the trust and attention of people you don’t know, have never met! I think very probably being likeable, unintrusive and sensitive  is useful too!

You need to develop the knack of getting the subject to engage with the camera.

 ENGAGEMENT : typically a paparazzi will call out a celebs name to get their attention-a simple technique where a shot of someone looking at you is usually always preferable to one where they are looking in any other direction. A basic for the pap style of social event work is getting  groups and couples all looking your way  and keeping their attention. GSOH? Yep a good sense of humour is an asset, raising a smile, or drawing in a reluctant subject. I always check each portrait in the screen viewer on the back of my camera, especially when using a detachable flash gun. Variations in furnishings, backgrounds, ambient lighting, colour of clothing, mean you may well have to adjust the settings and quickly re-shoot. At such times I am chatting away to  the subjects-“Great but one more” and “oops that’s a bit bleached” , or “you blinked one more with your eyes open!”  People are out for  a good night out, having fun, and you can add to that sense of fun! I try to add to the ocassion!

A sports , long zoom lens is great for getting candid portraits without the subject even realising it from a discreet distance!

It is my common experience that , at social events, I quickly blend in and people will actually come and find me and ask if I can get a shot them, often its friends wanting a decent shot together. Some times a person turns out to be a camera shy and pulling in a best friend  usually quickly overcomes that. The wide angle lens can be helpful, getting maximum faces in the frame, but for some it is too much “in your face” , in their comfort zone, so I might step back and use the long lens so I am out of their personal space but can zoom in close enough to get the full frame shot. The long lens is also perfect for getting great shots from a distance, as here with the lady in red, completely unaware I was photographing her.

PAP FOR HIRE : WHAT SORT OF DEAL?My introduction to social event photography was weddings and receptions but based on feedback, yes the formal , standard posed album group shots and the reportage stuff come very easily but it is the informal side of the job I think where I excel!  Also , of course with weddings, not everyone makes it to the church or ceremony venue  and so receptions tend to have larger numbers of guests with so many opportunities for informal and candid portraits. (Candid being shots of people , looking good of course, doing their thing but unaware they are being photographed.) For those “committment ceremony events ” I am hired for a negotiated one off fee, and usually that includes all the orginals, depending on what package the couple opt for.  At first I’d  cover some club socials, presentations,  charity dinners  on spec ( with no pre-payment of fixed fee) and put images onto website albums with a view to selling prints.  I quickly learned that doesn’t work- it simply generates a lot of traffic to your site and window shopping. Simple logic really, if the albums are easy to view any time free of charge, why pay for prints!

Nowadays for what I’d call black tie events, galas, balls , fund raisiers etc where people are dressed in their finery or even fancy dress, I will negotiate a single fee beforehand. Depending on the package , this may include shared rights to all the images so they can be shared , printed off, or shared on social networking sites. That can also be useful, say to sports clubs who might like to sell prints or copies of picture files as an additional fundraiser.  I may put albums on line, but now solely on a closed web page so that clients can view while they wait for the originals to arrive in the post either as selected prints or as original resolution digital files.  The client has shared rights so they can copy and share any of the images with friends and family , print anything off and make personal use of any images on social media . I have a range of packages so, if you want star treatment for yourself , family and friends or guests and a guaranteed  large number of great shots, call me any time for a competitive quote.  As a rule of thumb I rarely charge more than £150 for a full evening session and of course happy to negotiate.


  1. […] 9. How I cover ( you could cover ) sports club and other organisation social events as a documentary record or for fund raising purposed  PAPPING YOUR EVENT […]

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