Smile for the cameras! It’s a Q&A with Getty Images’ Roxanne Motamedi

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You think those red carpet shots appear out of thin air? And even if they did, do you really think thin air could keep up with the demand for celebrity photos?

As the world of entertainment news coverage grows, the photographic evidence necessary to do it becomes even more important. Which is why we were excited to have an e-mail chat with Roxanne Motamedi, who created and now oversees the entire entertainment department for Getty Images, WireImage, Film Magic and Getty Video. No pressure there!


Motamedi -- who has to have her finger on the pulse of the latest in celebrity news -- knows all too well about protecting her sources, so she was too much of a lady to give us any dirt on who she thinks is about to crash and burn or which rising starlet we’ll be all a Twitter about next week. Still, she was willing to give us some insight into her industry.

You oversee the entire entertainment photo department for Getty and its partners. How much of Getty’s inventory is made up of entertainment photography? Has there been a shift at all over the years?

When I first joined the company in 2001, Getty Images was just entering into the entertainment market and knew there was a tremendous opportunity for us to build a world-class offering not only for our customers, but for celebrities as well.

We have built our organization by hiring world-renowned photographers and building strong relationships with celebrities and their gatekeepers including agents, managers and publicists, to become a trusted source in Hollywood and abroad. These relationships have led Getty Images to shoot some of the industry’s leading celebrities’ most personal pictures, including [the] first photo coverage of celebrity babies for Brooke Shields, Gwen Stefani and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In addition, the company has also been the exclusive photographers for some of the most anticipated celebrity weddings of the year, including the Trump weddings.

Entertainment continues to be a strong area of growth as part of overall editorial offering, in part to the ever-increasing consumer demand for celebrity imagery. The demand is being driven by online publications and blogs that publish articles at breakneck speed, therefore sourcing images immediately.

Have you seen any changes or trends in the world of celebrity photography in recent years?

One change we have seen in recent years is more images of celebrities appearing unguarded or accessible, with more shoots happening at their homes with their family. It creates a much more powerful connection with the public as the celebrities now appear more real, ‘more like people like you and me.’ The public has grown increasingly enamored with the idea that they can get a peek into celebrities’ private lives, which continues the demand for this type of imagery. As long as fans continue to buy magazines and media licensing these images, our industry will continue to respond.

Has there been a change to quantity versus quality? How have prices for photos changed?

With the digital technology available today – from affordable digital cameras to cellphones -- anyone can be a photographer. However, quantity does not always equal quality.

Experience is required in order to capture compelling high-quality imagery that today’s media outlets are looking for to set them apart from the competition. In addition, it is having access to events that is essential in capturing the unique images that customers are looking for. Not only are they looking for the image from the red carpet, but they are also looking for the behind-the-scenes imagery from the event as well.

Premium content has and will continue to demand a higher price than content that is poor in quality. Celebrity exclusives at home and with their family have become more popular in the industry mainly in response to paparazzi. In recent years, the paparazzi were (and still are) so aggressive that pictures of celebrities would end up in the strangest places, usually unplanned and of poor quality, devaluing pictures that the celebrities should have the opportunity to treasure. Celebrities have responded out of a desire to want better quality and more control, so they turned to the high-quality photography of Getty Images Entertainment. We are trusted by celebrities and publicists to control the distribution and placement of these images in a timely fashion, managing the rights, etc., without the risk of being leaked prematurely.

What about the level and skill set of the photographers and editors you hire? Is there a different style of shooting for Getty Images than there is for say, TMZ? Do you have different standards or restrictions as to what you will buy?

Getty Images photographers are entertainment specialists with experience to capture bold, compelling and unforgettable photographs – images that everyone will be talking about. They are true professionals who develop rapport and relationships with celebrities and their agents and publicists. The result is intimate portraiture, unique access to events and one-of-a-kind shots that stand out from the rest of the competition.

In regards to your last question, Getty Images does not ‘buy’ imagery. We work with our network of photographers to shoot all of our own content for our clients.

How has the increase in camera phones, Twitpic and the like changed the celebrity photography landscape?

The increase in camera phones and photo sharing platforms like Twitpic have changed the dynamic of news distribution. Media outlets no longer control the news cycle. It is consumers who are now in control as they are able to disseminate celebrity images within minutes of being captured and appearing in unlikely places.

This form of citizen journalism, much like paparazzi, has influenced mainstream media and even the consumer’s perception of ‘quality’ imagery.

How do you feel about bloggers and gossip websites using your content, sometimes perhaps without permission?

We are a media resource and we don’t discriminate what types of media use our content as long as they properly license our imagery and adhere to our terms and conditions such as not writing on our images.

-- Whitney Friedlander