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The world of paparazzi photography is cut-throat to say the least!

The right snap at the right time can earn a photographer an absolute fortune, so it’s not surprising a paparazzo will go to great extremes to secure it.

In part one of an OK! Investigates special feature we take you inside the world of paparazzi—blowing open how they get that elusive money shot, the lengths they will go to, what they earn and which celebrities actually tip them off for a cut of the profits—or just for the publicity.

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What do they earn?

When it comes to money there are three categories of paparazzo—the rookie, the intermediate and the veteran pro.

Rookie paps are really relying on luck if they have any hope of making bank—while learning the ropes, gathering intel and finding their feet, the rookies work extremely long hours for next to nothing—often they are following the herd, meaning any photos they do manage to get will be far from exclusive and therefore far less valuable.

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Intermediates have a few tricks under their belt and some good solid knowledge—often they will work in a staff position for a paparazzi agency who sends them out on assignments and they earn a flat salary of anything from $80,000 – $250,000 depending on their ability.

Veteran paps earn in excess of $250,000 – $300,000 a year depending on the quality and exclusivity of the photos they get. The majority of the established paps are freelance, meaning they are not employed full time and therefore retain the rights to shots that they get—but have a “first look” deal in place with a paparazzi sales agency who will syndicate their photos worldwide—a typical deal will be 60% to pap and 40% to agency which can make for a very sweet pay day.

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Case in point, the pap who took the exclusive photos of Kristen Stewart making out with Rupert Sanders last year syndicated them through pap agency, Fame Flynet, who initially sold the exclusive rights to US Weekly for $60,000 for a set period, then went on to sell them around the world—they are estimated to have raked in a cool $1 million so far, and still charge media outlets up to $500 per picture to this day.

How do paps get their pics?

It’s a combination of several different factors:

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Experience and solid knowledge of the celebrity world, knowing where the celebs hang out, where they live, where they shop, where their kids go to school, where their friends and family live, what the hot spots are for catching stars.

Sources, sources, sources! A successful pap has a whole ton of sources at the hottest hotels, clubs, restaurants, shops and bars on the payroll—valet parkers, waiting staff, bar tenders, front desk staff, maids, security—they can all earn a cut of the profits if they tip off a pap when a celebrity arrives and it results in a good photo. They will also have stars’ family members, neighbors and friends on the payroll.

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Celebrity co-ops: Ever wondered why a star is fully made-up with perfectly styled hair when “unexpectedly” caught on camera by a pap while out jogging? Nine times out of ten it’s because they’ve tipped the photographer off! Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have both been known to complain about “intrusive photographers” but both have worked closely with paparazzi agencies in the past—tipping them off to where they will be and then splitting the profits of any resulting photo sales.

And, it’s not just the D-listers who have been known to tip off the paps! It’s not unusual for even an A-list couple who are reportedly on the outs to tip off a pap to snap some pics of them engaging in a little “private” PDA in a bid to prove the reports wrong. And, who can forget those now famous photos of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Maddox on a remote beach together in Kenya back in April 2005? Various sources confirm that a publicist, acting on the orders of Angelina herself, tipped off a trusted paparazzo to take the photos which were the couple’s way of going public with their romance.

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Paid assignments: Paps will often be sent out to take photos on behalf of a photo agency or media outlet who have been tipped off themselves.

Pure, simple luck: There’s nothing like being in the right place at the right time with your camera ready to go!

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What lengths will they go to to get THAT pic?

Paparazzi are a patient bunch—there’s often a LOT of sitting around in a large SUV with blacked out windows just waiting….and waiting…..and waiting… for the right moment.

They’re also not adverse to risking life and limb—literally—to seal the deal.

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One pap resorted to extremely dangerous measures in his bid to get an exclusive Britney pic back in the day. The pop star was holed up at a Miami Beach hotel and was rumored to be with then fledgling love interest Kevin Federline.

The photographer and a reporter managed to book into the hotel room directly above Britney’s and spent the next few days staking her out—to no avail—as she didn’t leave the room once, ordering in and hunkering down for some one-on-one time with K-Fed. After three days straight of no sightings, the frustrated pap decided on a plan—he firmly secured his ankles to the balcony railings with some rope and then, with the assistance of the reporter, he hung himself upside down, with his long lens camera, from the balcony so he had a clear shot into Spears’ love nest below—unfortunately for the unlucky pap…. her curtains were firmly drawn!

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One story that just sounds way too insane to be true—but is!—is the lengths paparazzi went to to get exclusive photos of Michael J Fox’s wedding to Tracy Pollan back in 1988. With the Back to the Future trilogy under his belt and a starring role in Family Ties, Fox was a huge name at the time and photos of his wedding would have equated to a major pay day. Unfortunately for the baying paps, the actor rented a very private and remote location for his wedding, which was surrounded for miles by a Llama farm, making it very easy to spot any trespassing paps. But, what about trespassing paps dressed in Llama costumes? Not so easy—And that’s exactly what the intrepid paps did—hired Llama costumes, entered onto the farm and mingled with the herd, allowing them ample access to photograph the nuptials!

Check back tomorrow for a run down of the craziest pap stories ever as experienced by some of the leading photographers in the field!

What do you think about paparazzi? Sound off in comments below ad tweet us @OKMagazine

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