Instagram May Soon Turn Paparazzi Into an Endangered Species


In recent years, photographers — and particularly photojournalists — have had to compete more and more aggressively with the everyday Joe and his smartphone who happens to be at the right place at the right time. And with technologies like CrowdOptic in the works that will help sift through the plethora of photographs taken every second, news agencies may soon be able to find that Joe in record time.

But according to an article by Jenna Wortham of The New York Times, one branch of photography is already taking a significant hit: the paparazzi are being replaced by Instagrammers. Using a recent photo of Beyoncé and her daughter as an example, Wortham shows how the paparazzi are already losing their battler with those same amateurs.

The photo in question was taken by Instagram user Raquel Sabz in Brooklyn. And after it made the necessary social networking rounds, it was purchased from Sabz by Splash News and sold to several outlets including People, PopSugar, New York Daily News and The Huffington Post.

This particular photo, however, is just one of many that are acquired the same way every day. As Senior Editor at PopSugar Molly Goodson put it:

The average person has eyes in places where regular paparazzi don’t have them. The whole world becomes a photo agency at that point. More so than ever before.

From the Oscars to everyday candids like the aforementioned Beyoncé photo, agencies and news outlets are finding it easier and easier to acquire their content from the pages of social networks and photo sharing apps. As a consequence, Paparazzi are not only being replaced, their photos are being devalued. As Goodson told the NYT, in a hyper-connected world where everyone is carrying a camera, a celebrity sighting just isn’t worth what it used to be:

Before, the asking price for photos could stretch into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the rarity of the sighting. But now, because most people see them first on sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, it’s harder to command a hefty price tag. Photos can go for a fraction of their historically high cost. It’s certainly devalued by the fact that it’s already out there.

What this means for the paparazzi and photography as a whole is up for debate. Alyssa Rosenberg of Slate laments the death of “gracious encounters between celebrities and the people who love them” now that every photo is for sale. Derrick Harris of GigaOM wonders how privacy laws will have to change now that everyone’s a paparazzo, but not everyone’s a celebrity. What’s your concern?

Instagram and the New Era of Paparazzi [The New York Times]

  • Stewart Doyle

    Somehow my heart fails to bleed for the fate of the poor paparazzo.

  • JohnnyLA

    Agreed. A predatory animal that I would love to see extinct someday.

  • ME

    There are GOOD and honest photographers out there that are not in your face people and instacrap taking over? ummmmm no…lol

  • bob cooley

    Wow.. a lesser of 2 evils – but which is worse?

  • Jesse

    Its not that instagram is what is taking over, its that with the rise of smart phone photo capture and sharing, now everyday people have become papparazzi. And they are already in every restaurant/cafe/clothing store.

  • Jake

    Good bloody riddance! If modern consumer cameras/smart-phones have made anyone redundant, it’s paparazzo. No reason anyone should be PAID to take crummy pictures of celebs shopping or surfing.

  • Jesse

    paparazzi, because they get paid to be absurd and annoying.

  • ennuipoet

    First one wonders what the value of a photograph is when it free on Instagram. Second, I doubt it will truly kill Paparazzi, they are like roaches. Third, at least with Paparazzi you know they are there (except when they are hiding in the bushes) having everyone stalk you with their phone would be hideous. Fourth, I can’t decide which I hate worse so I will hate them both equally,

  • Greg McKay

    paparazzi = a breed worth endangering…..

  • Mike

    What about handing out licenses to hunt them down and control the population?

  • bob cooley

    Fair enough :) +1

  • bob

    Is there an alternative for this blog that covers actual photography? When I am looking into my feed reader in the morning and see 5-10 new posts on PetaPixel I already get annoyed. Why not do 1 or 2 good posts per day?
    Sorry for the rant, but I will still unsubscribe now.

  • Violet Gomez

    this is an article about an article about an article. a piece about a popsugar piece about an nytimes piece. your quote from popsugar is a partial quote from the nytimes piece. wonderful journalism. you should be proud.