Chasing Celebrities: A Paparazza Confession

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If there were a list of most hated professions, paparazzi might earn the top spot. Few people besides telemarketers earn wrath like these professionals. But Julie Smith doesn't have the cold heart you'd expect.

The freelance photographer and sometimes paparazzi fell into the job on accident. She was working for a now defunct entertainment magazine when she suggested they start covering more movie premieres and celebrity parties. Suddenly she was fighting for a spot with the rest of the paparazzi..

"It was just a few years ago when celebrities were just starting to be hunted," she said..

It's the sort of profession where you truly are baptized by fire. She said you're forced to yell at the celebs to get their attention.

"I once yelled at Matthew Broderick, calling him Andy on accident," she said. "At least it got his attention. He thought it was funny" The rest of the paparazzi weren't so amused, telling her to 'Get it together!' She learned to use her wit and sense of humor. "They do respond to jokes," she said..

While she doesn't mind packing in with the press on the red carpet, she gets butterflies when she goes undercover. But that didn't stop her from photographing a well-known recovering alcoholic at a party with her girlfriend in the Hampton's..

"I was jumping over tables to get a good shot," she said.

The picture is still circulating more than a year after it was taken. Smith gets a check every time it's used, about $50-$100 each month She admits it's not a flattering photo. "It makes her look like she's wasted. But I'm not sure she was even drinking," she said.

Smith said it was once easy for paparazzi to make a living at the profession, simply following the big names around. "It's much harder now. So many kids go out to LA and get into it. There's so many more people following the stars," she said.

So Smith has just taken a nobler job as a photographer at a magazine. She says she may sell photos again, but for now she'll sleeps better at night.

What do photographers make?

Freelance photographer -- $35,728
Photojournalist -- $37,403
News photographer -- $43,001
Fashion photographer -- $48,710
Sports photographer -- $44,686

*Salary data is from PayScale.com. Salaries listed are for full time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses or profit sharing.

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