Self-taught photographer Chelsea Lauren has been working major events, from red carpets to awards shows to boxing matches, for almost a decade.
For the past few years, she’s worked for Shutterstock as a press photographer, capturing unique moments and an array of celebrities. Working on a crowded, unpredictable red carpet can be stressful, and Lauren offered a taste of what it’s like ahead of Sunday’s 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.
“When you’re working on a red carpet, it’s truly hard to get unique photos,” she said. “You have to make sure you get the bread-and-butter shots everybody [publications] needs, but that means it’s hard to stand out.”
Once she gets the obligatory photos most reporters are interested in, namely dress details and full-length fashion shots, Lauren can move on to more individualized moments—if the opportunity arises.
If a photographer is assigned “behind the line” at a red carpet event, Lauren explained, they’re essentially elbow-to-elbow with everyone else trying to get the same shots. Photographers can get stuck with what’s in front of them as they attempt to scream more loudly than whoever’s standing next to them.
“You’re battling for eye contact back there,” Lauren said. “I try to just tune out the noise so I can do my job.”
Part of that job, she said, has been to cultivate more meaningful relationships with celebrities over the years and “[treat] them like people instead of like an ATM.” Her conscientious approach to working with talent, publicists and other photographers has allowed her to capture the more unusual shots she’s managed to capture.
Actresses like Gina Rodriguez, who’ve worked with Lauren in the past, will notice her on carpets and strike a special pose. Others will ignore their publicists trying to rush them along because they recognize Lauren and want to ensure she gets her shot.
“Plus, they trust me never to post any bad photos or takes,” Lauren said. “Being friends with them is a byproduct of what I do, but building that trust is key to what I do.”
If Lauren’s not stuck behind the line, then she’s one of a few roaming photographers at an event.
When male photographers work together to block her out of shots, as they sometimes do, Lauren said, she just moves up and down the carpet looking for potential opportunities like extemporaneous cast reunions, someone silhouetted by other photographers’ flashes or otherwise unexpected moments. By setting up unique shots for herself, Lauren ensures that Shutterstock stands out among the other press agencies and outlets.
“Sometimes you don’t bother them on the carpet and just let people interact with each other,” Lauren said. “Getting really great, organic photos is key.”
Lauren doesn’t know how she’ll be positioned during the Emmys or whether she’ll also have to cover the show itself, but her whole job requires her to be flexible and a quick thinker.
“You never know what you’ll be doing in two weeks or sometimes in the next four hours,” she said. “It’s a job, but my life is full of some of the most talented, amazing people that tons of people would give anything to meet.”