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  • Writer's pictureLeMareschal

Shedding Some Light on the Paparazzi: Why Flashlights Are No Match for these professional 'Shooters'

Let’s talk about the use of flashlights by some #celebritybodyguards in their effort to keep paparazzi away and ruin their pictures. When you use something as a countermeasure (tool, method, etc.), make sure you have a great understanding of the science of what you are dealing with and what you are using. Improvisation is an amazing talent, BUT it must be realistic and effective, otherwise, you will look like a fool. Now, to someone who has no idea about paparazzi tactics and the equipment they use, using a flashlight may seem like an effective strategy, but in reality, it is a foolproof method. We reached out once again to one of our contacts who is a retired #paparazzi (We will call him Jay for this article) and this is what he told us as to why this tactic won’t work:

1) Camera settings and technology: Paparazzi are professional photographers, they make their living from the pictures they get and their career is based on these pictures. The quality of the picture is equally important to the publicity of the person they are photographing. Therefore, their equipment is very sophisticated and more expensive than your monthly pay (think about that next time you cause damage to their camera). Modern cameras, especially those used by professional paparazzi, are equipped with advanced features and settings that allow them to adjust to various lighting conditions. This includes automatic exposure adjustment, ISO settings, and sophisticated metering systems. While a flashlight can temporarily disrupt the exposure, paparazzi photographers can quickly adapt their camera settings to compensate for the additional light, ensuring that they can still capture usable images.

2) The light must be pointed directly in the middle of the lens: For your flashlight to disrupt the paparazzi and ’ruin’ the picture, you must direct your flashlight/light beam directly to the middle of their lenses. While doing that, have in mind, that means pointing accuracy, so ask yourself how will you be able to do that while you are walking your client out and paying attention to everything else (physical threats). Not to mention, it will never be one paparazzi so even if you managed to disrupt one, the other 10 have managed to capture perfectly clear pictures.

Pic is a screenshot from the following published video

3) Distance and angles: Paparazzi photographers often operate from a distance, using long-range lenses to capture images without getting too close to the celebrities. Jay says he has been able to get perfectly clear and highly sold pictures from 800 meters away, think it like a ‘’photographic sniper’’. In some other cases, Jay was hidden inside private yachts he had rented, or coffee shops, vehicles etc. Even over the distance and the fact there was glass in between them, the pictures were so perfect they were sold for thousands of dollars. Again, sophisticated equipment. So, in such cases, the flashlight held by a bodyguard would have a) limited reach, b) most likely will not effectively reach the specific camera lens, c) the photographer is so far away and so well hidden you don’t know where he is or if there is someone out there at all. Also, remember photographers can change their shooting angles to avoid direct exposure to the flashlight and still capture images.

4) Multiple photographers and angles: In most situations, you will have to deal with multiple paparazzi photographers at the same time/location, each with their own cameras and positions, which makes it somewhere between challenging to impossible to be able to effectively ruin all the pictures. Even if one photographer's pictures are affected by the flashlight, others may still manage to capture clear shots from different angles.

Pic is a screenshot from the following published video

5) Timing and reaction speed: Paparazzi photographers are experienced and skilled in their field, often anticipating and reacting quickly to capture shots. The brief flash from a flashlight might momentarily obstruct their view, but they can adjust their timing and take pictures in the intervals when the light is not present. Many will use the burst mode for continuous shooting that allows them to capture multiple frames rapidly by holding down the shutter button. In burst mode, their sophisticated cameras can achieve burst speeds of up to 20 frames per second or even higher.

6) Safety regulations and legal implications: Oh yes, you can be sued! Deliberately attempting to ruin paparazzi pictures using flashlights can potentially lead to legal issues. While celebrities have a right to privacy, interfering with a photographer's work through disruptive means could be seen as harassment or an infringement on their freedom of the press. This could result in legal consequences for the bodyguards or celebrities involved. Although flashlights used by bodyguards typically have limited power compared to specialized professional lighting equipment and even though they can be bright, they are not typically powerful enough to cause temporary or permanent blindness. However, attempting to blind someone with a flashlight can have legal implications and may be considered an assault. Another thing to consider is the people who are sensitive to flashing lights or are suffering from photosensitive epilepsy. While you are pointing that flashing light toward the paparazzi, most likely you will be also pointing it at people who are standing among or behind them, i.e., fans, bystanders, etc. Direct exposure to bright or flashing lights can potentially trigger seizures or other adverse reactions. While these cases are relatively rare, it is important to take such sensitivities into consideration, again, it could leave you and your client open to legal consequences.

So, the question you may ask is: How do we protect our clients from the paparazzi? While it is not within your capabilities to provide physical protection against paparazzi or interfere with their work, there are several measures to help manage the situation and create a secure environment for your clients such as:

Use alternative exits: Because almost all public venues have a secondary or multiple exits, utilizing an alternative exit can be an easy option, however, it should be conducted with utmost care and discretion, considering the specific circumstances, venue layout, and potential risks. This method requires pre-planning and reconnaissance, access control and coordination, timing, and coordination with the client, securing alternative exits, effective team communication, and transportation arrangements.

Use different vehicles: By using different vehicles, you can minimize recognition. You can reduce the chances of the client's vehicle being easily recognized by paparazzi or individuals who may track their movements. This helps maintain a level of anonymity and prevents the paparazzi from easily anticipating or following the client's transportation. You can employ a fleet of vehicles that differ in make, model, color, and other identifying features. This will make it harder for paparazzi to identify or track a specific vehicle associated with your client. Using a mix of sedans, SUVs, or even inconspicuous vehicles further aids in blending in with regular traffic.

Use body doubles or different outfit: Many celebrities utilize body doubles for their public appearances. If your client does not want publicity at one specific time, consider utilizing a body double. We have also found it very effective to carry a backpack in your vehicle with different clothing, something that your client wouldn’t wear in public, you do not have to have a full outfit change but a jacket, sunglasses, face surgical masks (one positive thing covid mandates left us that it can be used in our advance), and a hat. Something to consider for this to work is it needs a lot of coordination from the security team and the drivers. This cannot work if you have five bodyguards entering a restaurant with a celebrity, and five coming out with someone dressed differently. If you are going to proceed in something like this, you must make the exit as much as low profile as you can. Leave part of the team behind that can follow later and have part of the team go ahead and provide covert protection while your client who is in different clothes goes out from another exit or even the same entrance.

Secure perimeter: Establish a secure perimeter to control access and maintain privacy. This may involve coordinating with venue staff, security personnel, or event organizers to enforce restricted areas or designated spaces where photography is not permitted.

Advanced planning and risk assessment: By conducting thorough risk assessments, you can identify potential areas of vulnerability and develop strategies to minimize exposure to paparazzi. This may involve selecting secure transportation routes, using alternative entrances or exits, and avoiding publicized locations or events.

Maintain OPSEC: Take measures to protect sensitive information, maintain confidentiality, and prevent the disclosure of operational details that could compromise the safety and security of the client.

  • Limit information disclosure: Have under control the release of sensitive information regarding the client's schedule, travel plans, routes, or any other details that could be exploited by potential threats, including paparazzi or individuals with malicious intent. Only essential personnel directly involved in the operation should have access to this information on a need-to-know basis.

  • Discreet communications: Employ secure and encrypted communication channels when discussing or sharing sensitive information related to executive protection operations. This ensures that conversations, messages, or documents are not intercepted or accessed by unauthorized individuals.

  • Maintain a low profile: Adopting a low profile helps reduce the likelihood of attracting unwanted attention. This can involve using unmarked or inconspicuous vehicles, dressing in a manner that blends in with the surroundings, and minimizing overt displays of security measures or equipment.

  • Break the routine: To prevent predictability, it is important to vary routines, travel routes, and modes of transportation. This makes it more difficult for potential threats or paparazzi to anticipate the client's movements and increases overall security.

  • Secure information storage: Any sensitive operational information, such as itineraries, contingency plans, or client profiles, should be securely stored and accessed only by authorized personnel. This helps prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of critical information.

  • Make sure your people are paid well: One of the reasons household employees, event employees, hotel concierges, etc. give away tips and information to paparazzi is because they aren’t paid well (there is a reason for that good tip), or they are not treated well and respectfully.

Maintain situational awareness and practice dynamic risk assessment: Maintain constant vigilance and remain attentive to your surroundings, identifying any potential threats or risks. This will allow you to proactively adjust your client's movements, anticipate paparazzi presence, and take precautionary measures accordingly.

Crowd management: Depending on the situation you can apply crowd control techniques to deter overly intrusive paparazzi or manage crowds gathering around your client. This may involve maintaining physical barriers, employing verbal communication to request respectful behavior (always be professional and use respectful language, remember they are just doing a job, you may not like it, but it is what pays their bills), and coordinating with venue or event security to assist in crowd management.

Communication and coordination: Maintain good communication with your client, their management team, event organizers, and their PA.

Use legal recourses: In situations where paparazzi behavior becomes overly intrusive or violates privacy boundaries, legal options may be explored. This could involve seeking restraining orders, pursuing legal action for harassment, or collaborating with law enforcement to address any illegal activities.

How about using #Antipaparazzi clothing someone may ask. There is a lot of buzz lately related to garments or accessories designed to deter or obstruct the capture of photographs by paparazzi or unwanted individuals. While these products may claim to offer privacy or prevent clear images, their effectiveness can vary, and they often have many limitations same as with the use of a flashlight. The most two important limitations are:

1) Flash reflection: Anti-paparazzi clothing incorporates reflective materials or coatings that aim to cause a bright flash or glare when a photo is taken. The intention is to overexpose the image or obscure the subject's face. The effectiveness of this approach depends on the distance, angle, and intensity of the camera flash. It may not work consistently in all lighting conditions or if the photographer uses a low-intensity flash or shoots from a different angle.

2) Design limitations: Anti-paparazzi clothing may have specific design features like intricate patterns, LED lights, or reflective elements strategically placed to confuse or disrupt the clarity of images. However, these designs may not be practical for everyday wear or may draw even more attention to the wearer, which could defeat the purpose of maintaining a low profile.

So next time you see a colleague using a flashlight to deter paparazzi bear in mind that it is a very bad and ineffective method. If you are working for a celebrity client, it is important to have good communication with your client and consider what we wrote about effective methods and implement them. #Celebrityprotection is not an easy job, especially because your clients have very public profiles, can be easily recognizable, and have different threats, including paparazzi. It is important to note that the primary focus is on ensuring the safety and security of your client, rather than engaging in confrontations or obstructing paparazzi photographers. The objective is to strike a balance between protecting the client's privacy and allowing them to maintain their public presence.


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