Tips & Techniques - Jerry Avenaim    

Celebrity Photographer Los Angeles Jerry Avenaim shows you how to disarm celebrities.

For film and digital still photography in the Los Angeles area, Jerry Avenaim is ranked at the top of the profession by advertising, fashion, corporate and editorial clients.

Disarming Celebrities
Text and Images by Jerry Avenaim

"Jerry Avenaim realizes most celebrities are not truly comfortable in front of the still camera, but they are all performers and overachievers. If they feel sympatico with their photographer, the results can be incredibly rewarding and lasting." -From Studio Photography & Design Cover Story

Antonio Sabato
Antonio Sabato Jr. Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

I love celebrity photography, because I have such a great respect for the actor and their craft. I love planning it. I love shooting it. And I love the results. But getting there is not always the shortest distance between two points. Every session is unique. Every individual is indeed, an individual.

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron 
Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

There is, of course, a bit of psychologist in all photographers, and never is its need more apparent than in the celebrity session. Celebrities are very strong-willed people and can be demanding; and to a great extent, they have the right to be. Their faces and forms are their fortunes. And if it's not captured, rendered and reproduced appropriately (read according each celeb's own personal standards), it registers less than zero. When it comes to photography, celebrities have the pick of the litter (even in amagazine editorial they can choose any photographer on the planet), and a failure on this level can truly nip a budding career prior to bloom. So I have always shot every session as though it were my first.

Brooke Burke
Brooke Burke Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

Fortunately, I've always gotten along well with people. Couple that with a lifetime dedication to this wonderful art, meaning that the tools I use become extensions of my being and extensions of my soul. Lens selection, camera angles and lighting are second only to vision and passion that is akin to breathing. That's critical because it allows me to dedicate my entire energy to becoming at one with my subject. And they are all unique and equally appealing to me. I am dedicated to making them love the way they look in my photographs. And they know it. That alone--is transmitted without fail--to every subject who appears before my lens.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

The ultimate "trick" for making a celebrity feel comfortable is, of course, a life's history of photographing great celebrities. Nothing succeeds like success. And nothing gives a celebrity a greater feeling of confidence than knowing that he or she is being photographed by a wily old vet--someone who has been in the trenches--working with and pleasing "the industry" for years. And of course the obvious reality is that one good session with an individual makes the next an absolute piece of cake (well, not exactly...but it sure makes it easier).

Jada Pinkett-Smith
Jada Pinkett-Smith   Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

My sessions are catered, and each and every celeb knows it is about them not me. There is always plenty of good food and drink, (a recent cover shoot the editor of TV GUIDE hired a DJ to spin), the besting hair and make up artists and the best stylists in Hollywood to make the celebrity comfortable, confident in my abilities and ultimately relax. I engage my subjects, I talk to my subjects. I direct my subjects, I kid with my subjects, and I try to disarm my subjects, whether by joking, prodding, or anything I have to do to come away with an image that captures the very essence of what I perceive that individual to be. If I don’t know them already, I spend time studying about my subjects long before the day of the session. And my greatest desire is to capture an entire career in a single image.

American Idol
American Idol Judges Jerry Avenaim All Rights Reserved

At the end of the day, most celebrities are not truly comfortable in front of the still camera. To a great extent they would rather have a lobotomy. But they are all performers, and over-achievers, and if given the opportunity to perform, and if they feel simpatico with their photographer, the results can be incredibly rewarding and lasting. The results become a bit of Hollywood history.


Disarming Celebrities | Discipline | Power Lighting on Location | Behind the Shot | Light em' Up | Behind the Cover