To be strictly legal, an non-commissioned photograph destined for publication must be taken when at least the photographer, and preferably the "target," are both in a public space. The lucky (or well-informed) paparazzo will be in the right spot to click the shutter just as the celebrity walks out of his or her house, studio or hairdresser's. Sometimes, a paparazzo will resort to alternative tactics to get a valuable shot -- and not all of these tactics are legal. There are those who climb trees or even hire a helicopter to spy on celebrities, and there have been cases where paparazzi have staged fake emergencies (such as bomb scares) to get a celebrity out in the open. Or how about brazen impersonation? Paparazzi posed as family members to get into a hospital to photograph Michael Douglas's newborn son. Other paparazzi have provoked fights and even camped on celebrities' properties. The reason they do these things is simple: money. The most sought-after subjects can fetch a fortune if they're caught on film. People magazine paid a reported $4.1 million for pictures the baby Angelina Jolie had in 2006 [source: Forbes]. Those in the business know that a sensational, exclusive shot will probably be worth the legal fees involved in working outside the law.
Interestingly, while you might think of a paparazzo as a solo agent, the successful ones actually have support teams. In order to get close to celebrities, the paparazzi usually have whole networks of informers paid or bribed to pass along information about their targets -- where they will be, who they will be with and what they will be doing. They may also work together with "autographers," who follow celebrities in order to collect autographs, which they later sell. An autographer not only provides information on a celebrity's whereabouts and routes of travel -- he or she can also help a paparazzo set up a good photo-op by stopping the celebrity for an autograph. The efficient paparazzo will also have a driver, an agent to sell his or her photographs and a lawyer, on the always-present chance that legal troubles arise. Some paparazzi will also work together with other photographers to get good shots of celebrities.
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