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March 2, 2014

Behind the scenes at the Oscars from the eyes of a photographer

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Written by: Lawrence

Behind the scenes at the Oscars from the eyes of a photographer is not a topic that you don’t read much online.

Oscars to most press row photographer’s aka “Red carpet photographers” is the last of the major award show in the award show season. Well the Oscar award show really isn’t all that glamorous with the exception of the beautiful celebrities within a feet of you.

DISCLAIMER: Images taken via mobile phone detailed in this article at the Oscars were taken before 2PM as non-photographer roles weren’t allowed to take pictures of the event once the red carpet arrivals started at 2PM as i was informed by the photographer I was helping.


So what do I mean that the Oscar awards aren’t that glamorous? Well my point of view is from a non-press photographer view. Again you can get the definition of press photographer by checking out this wiki .

Let me begin with my behind the scenes take at the Oscars from the eyes of a photographer.


Working condition:

I am going to break it down to the 3 different elements that I am exposed to attending these types of events.

Press Photographer: NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH PHOTOJOURNALIST. I found this great resource online that differentiates the two . First that comes to mind for a press photographer at an award show: “Cattle call”. So what do I mean by cattle call? When you watch Oscar replays look at the behind the scenes videos of the red carpet and look for a raised step platform with a lot of blinking lights. Now raise your volume, you will notice photographers yelling and screaming to get the attention of the celebrities on the Oscars red carpet. So if you’d like to be a press photographer you might needs some yelling power.
“Runner”: Just in case you aren’t familiar, a “runner” is a person that “runs” the memory cards from the press photographer to the digital tech or photo editor. First that comes to mind: “Relay race”. Can someone say foot blisters galore? From my experience, a comfortable shoe is key to survive the day as a runner on the Oscars red carpet due to the distance and amount of stairs from the pressroom to the red carpet press box. Sometimes due to the dress code, this isn’t always possible so this is where Dr. Scholls, heel cushions and blister cushions are lifesavers. Believe me, the first award show I ran for my feet were covered with blisters. Yes, I’ve learned my lesson.

Digital Tech or Photo reviewer: First that comes to mind: “sweat shop” Well it’s not that crazy, but that is the first that comes to mind for me at least. Imagine yourself pretty much confined to one room for the entire day going through images and tagging/naming adding descriptions, identifying celebrities. Imagine the deadlines from some publications to ensure they have the first images up online of a particular celebrity.

PHOTOGRAPHERS BARRIERS TO ENTRY from my observations at least

– Credential: You’ll need to acquire this from some type of news outlet.
– Gear: Two to three DSLRs that can shoot out high ISO, fast FPS,memo recording feature, flash with fast recycle time, 10 or so memory cards and a good gear bag.


I saw a lot of think tank photo bags in the press box, the photographer I was running for used the Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator which is also my personal favorite. In regards to flash, I did notice one set of celebrities (which I am not familiar) that had an escort holding up a light stick with a mini softbox. Now this is more of my style as you can see from the red carpet event I captured at Fashion Minga where I had an assistant to hold my off camera flash.




I am not sure if one of the press photographers had a Pocketwizard Flex TT5 controlling the power output remotely using the AC3 like I did for the Fashion minga red carpet event but if the press photographer did much respect to you.


– Skill: Know the basics of exposure (Scary right? If you don’t believe me do a google search on “Oscars red carpet 2014” The pictures look similar right in that you can’t tell which photographer captured the image? There is no variation in lighting and composition. Doesn’t it seem like spoon fed paparazzi where the celebrities walk in a straight line to get their picture taken at the Oscars or any award show for that matter?


After attending two award shows SAG and the Oscars and photographing a few red carpet events, I’ve noticed some consistent inefficiencies. Maybe, I am just an efficiency junkie and the only person that can see this but at least hear me out. My suggestions won’t hurt right? These process changes might even help out the industry. You be the judge.

Media Delivery: Transfer of images from Photographer to Digital tech or Photo editor.

Observation: Photographer capture to image delivery to photo editor. (Runners pick up the memory cards from one photographer and needs to run or walk to the location of the press room which for the Oscars was maybe half a block and maybe 3-4 flights of stairs. The Oscars is all a blur to me now.

Suggestion: Eliminate runners all together and invest in technology similar to the Eye-Fi pro cards that can transfer not only high res jpgs but also RAW files if necessary.
Positive results from suggestion:
1. Almost immediate delivery of images captured from photographer to photo editor.
2. Eliminate the loss of memory cards from photographer to runner to photo editor transport.
3. Eliminate the accidental overwriting of captured images.
4. Eliminate runner blisters, aches pains or discomfort, as the role will no longer exist.

The Photograph: The action of the photographer pressing the shutter to capture the image of the celebrity.

Observation: The press photographers on press row/box are battling each other with their voices calling for the celebrities attention to get that eye on camera money shot at the red carpet. If you are just capturing one celebrity it might work as long as you have that finger on the shutter and ready to take the shot once you see the eyes lock in. Imagine the “12 years a slave” group of celebrities posing for their Oscar’s Best Picture nomination and now Best Picture Win. Is it possible to have everyone look directly in your camera without having to leave your finger on the shutter blasting away at high FPS with the chance to get that “money” shot? This process could easily take 4-5 minutes.


Suggestion: Similar to wedding photography, when you capture bridal and family portraits of groups totaling more than 10, you’d tell everyone within the vicinity that has a camera to put down their camera so that all their attention is on you and then once I finished getting my image, I then put down my camera and allow the next photographer to capture their image. Wouldn’t the same work for the red carpet? For the red carpet press row, I envision the press box separated by quadrants and have the celebrity look at each designated quadrant in order from left to right and clockwise starting from top to bottom.

Positive results from suggestion:
1. Eliminate stray eyes and have everyone looking at the camera.
2. Eliminate the frustration the celebrities have when being yelled at to multiple places at once.
3. Save photographer voices from injuries due to excessive yelling.
4. Minimize the time it takes for celebrities to pass through the press row of the red carpet.

Please don’t take my views and opinions as a form of disrespect as I do respect press photographers for their passion and perseverance to get the shot and make that money. Again, these are merely my opinions and should not be taken as fact. I am and surely most photographers are all about improving the state of the photography community in all areas/genre of photography. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your comments below. You can simply sign in to your facebook account to leave a comment. Thanks!


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About the Author

Lawrence Atienza is a Jack of all Trades and Master of ALL. Whether it be in the realm of Advertising/Advertising operations with over 10+ years of experience to dabbling in the creative realm of photography and founding/writing for, Lawrence Atienza gives his all. You can find him on Google+,Twitter and the major social media outlets.