How to Photograph Hollywood Celebrities at the Toronto International Film Festival

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The first two weeks in September are a magical time in Toronto. Everything is still warm, green and alive, and there’s an excitement in the air. The University of Toronto starts its fall semester in September, and thousands of students settle into new apartments and explore the city, some for the first time. The evenings are cool and alive with music.

September is also when the Toronto International Transfer 16mm Film to Digital Toronto Festival dominates the city. Known originally as “The Festival of Festivals”, it was founded in 1976 at the Windsor Arms Hotel. TIFF has grown since, but is still centered in Yorkville, an upscale neighborhood with several luxury hotels and movie theatres.

For celebrities, it’s a deliberate splash. Like Sundance or Cannes they come here to be photographed and of course their very presence adds to the excitement of the spectacle. With even the most basic photography equipment, anyone can lens a ‘moment of their time’ and depending on the circumstances, that photo could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Being an amateur shutter bug is not against the law, nor is it immoral, as celebrities at TIFF are actually ‘on tour’. Their press agents would probably encourage you to snap away.

Become Digital Photo Hunter

To get some perspective on the Film Festival, use Poynt on Microsoft® Windows Live(TM) Messenger and do a comprehensive local search of the Yorkville area. Set your location the Hotel Continental, or the Four Seasons Hotel on Cumberland and find the night clubs, coffee shops, book stores, and upscale clothing stores that attract A-list celebrities. Map a route between the hotels in the area.

Don’t Wait Out Front – Go Watch the Movies

Powered by for Canadian listings and® for American listings, with movie listings powered by CinemaSource, Poynt is a very efficient movie data dispensary – Most of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival movie listings will appear beside easy-to-understand enumerated text matched to corresponding pins on Microsoft Virtual Earth(TM) maps.

Sell Your Photos Online

There are several websites hungry for good quality, original celebrity photographs, especially if they are less than a few hours old. First and foremost appears to be Show Biz Spy which is mentioned in the mainstream media quite frequently as the source of some truly amazing candid shots. The very popular Snitcher Desk has a helpful ‘tips list’ on their site which outlines exactly what makes good and bad celebrity photo. And there is an online celebrity photo stream supporting the services of Mr. Paparazzi in which he spells out exactly how and why he takes half of everything.

Many professional photographers in Toronto endorse an American agency called Star Max Inc . People here have come to believe that good agencies do not offer to buy pictures; they broker other people’s work to media outlets all over the world for a ten to thirty percent of the royalties. Typically, a different deal gets cut for every country. The biggest players are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Professional photographers are more than willing to let agencies like Star Max* broker the deals. In each country one dominant publication will typically buy exclusive rights to print your photo for a few months – but then it could be sold again. Try to get a piece of the photo’s revenue for perpetuity.

How to Protect Your Work

Before you send emails with photo attachments, use picture editing software to crop the images, chop heads and add captions. Then email the pictures in a digital format to any of the websites listed above. Professional photographers send low resolution copies on which their business logo appears in a watermark. This discourages freeloaders. Only after you confirm a deposit of cash in your Paypal account, should you send a high resolution image with absolutely no alterations.

How to find Famous People at TIFF

Almost everyone in the media scrum that lights up the sidewalk at TIFF is paid by the hour. Their work is standard high quality content. A freelance photographer hunting a great shot cannot hope to compete here – its impossible to improve on their angles or get anything unique in that environment. You could stand outside the Gala and take ninety two amazing photographs, and ninety one of them would be totally worthless. The very best might fetch five, or ten, or maybe even twenty dollars for a hot celebrity couple. THE SECRET is to get real content alone – and for that I make a route and ride a bicycle, at night. You should patrol Yorkville and surrounding area from ten pm to three am, and if you ride a bicycle you’re five times more effective. Mobility is critical, but also having the ability to cover a lot of distance can also be key to capturing that rare, one of a kind shot. Another secret is to buy a police scanner at any consumer electronics store and monitor the emergency bands downtown during TIFF.

Photograph Movie Stars acting like Real People

The real art to making money and selling good pictures is to try and capture movie stars interacting with the city, shopping, eating dinner and hailing taxi cabs – even walking dogs. Actually celebrities with pets are great and such candid shots sell at premium prices. If you see a famous actor enter an upscale dance club, it might pay to wait around to capture his exit. Take note of others waiting with cameras – these people are professional paparazzi that have probably paid informants inside the club scene to report spontaneous celebrity appearances.


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