Pap snaps at the heels of stars
From weekend weddings to chasing down celebs around town
MARGOT Robbie, Chris Hemsworth, Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Samuel L Jackson, Barack Obama, Adele, Blake Lively, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift – what do they have in common?
They’re all far more famous than us and they’ve all been papped by Tom Delaney.
The Gold Coast-based photographer’s feathers aren’t ruffled by the negative connotations associated with his industry – on the contrary, his focus is clear in more ways than one.
“I do paparazzi on the side for two reasons: it’s always interesting and you make a lot of money from it,” he says.
“But my full-time role is a wedding photographer. I do weddings all over the country. I’m booked every weekend basically until this time next year.”
Tom’s career began when he was just 16. Armed with a standard digital camera and a police scanner obtained “out of curiosity”, he began turning up at crime scenes and shooting amateur footage.
His hobby caught the attention of Channel Nine, who contacted him asking to use some footage he’d uploaded to his MySpace page.
It was not long before he was embarking on the six-month internship that concreted his passion for papping.
“It was a bit confronting (starting out), especially because I started at such a young age,” he says.
“But I was pretty good at it so I managed to make a name for myself and it’s been ongoing ever since.
“I get tip-offs from certain people in certain places that have taken me a long time to establish.”
While a strong network is crucial to any paparazzo, Tom, 24, is so well-established that celebrities themselves often tip him off to ensure those notoriously unflattering photos don’t reach the media – think Madonna sans make-up or Orlando Bloom’s cheeky paddle-board faux pas.
“I have a big network of people, which comes back to working at Channel 9, but I’ve had celebrities themselves contact me as well,” Tom says.
“Sometimes they tip off the paparazzi they know as well in order to get the right photos out there.
“I can’t say too much. Margot Robbie used to tip me off but that stopped after I papped her wedding.”
The Gold Coast’s hottest export right now, Robbie and Tom had a long-standing working relationship until the aforementioned nuptials.
Robbie’s Byron hinterland wedding in December last year made headlines worldwide and, thanks to an inside tip, Tom was the only person to nab pap shots, resulting in a big payday.
“Margot Robbie’s wedding shots were upwards of $45,000 for the exclusive,” he says.
“I was the only one with pictures of her.
“Because it was a big effort in getting those pictures ... I trekked through bushland for more than an hour and a half, and then you’ve got to go through the process of selling them, the contract and the legal ramifications.
“I received a notice of cease and desist the next day from a solicitor’s office in LA from Margot Robbie.”
Tom doesn’t pocket the whole $45,000 though. There’s the cost of equipment, travel and overheads, but there’s also a commission involved for hot tips.
In this case, it went to someone involved with the wedding who was willing to share those tightly held details.
“It (Robbie’s wedding) was a tip-off, but in regards to where it came from I can’t say,” he says.
“I do a commission for my sources depending on how much I need it and how much it’s going to pay.
“For the Margot Robbie wedding that person got cut 25%. You do pay a lot out of commission but you have insights you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
While Robbie had previously tipped off Tom, she desperately wanted privacy for her special day. So aside from the money, how does Tom justify forcing his way into that sacred moment?
“I am a human being so I understand where it comes from from their perspective,” he says.
“But as someone once told me, once you hire PR (public relations assistant) your privacy kind of goes out the window.
“You hire a PR assistant to get your name out there, so if you’ve got someone trying to pap your wedding you can’t be too angry. If you stay current in today’s news you make money.”
Even though Tom is dedicated to his work, he’s adamant that all paparazzi should not be lumped into one category – like all professions, there are good and bad examples – with Tom
I trekked through bushland for more than an hour and a half, and then you’ve got to go through the process of selling them, the contract and the legal ramifications.
preferring to describe his style as more “humane”.
“I will push to a certain extent,” he says.
“There are paparazzi out there who will go to the extreme to make money.
“I’ve told people if I see them at the airport and they’re not looking their best I’d rather get in contact with them and arrange a time to get a more flattering photo. I’m a little bit humane in that way.
“Certain celebrities tip me off, so if they can control the shots that get out there they will.”
That’s not to say that all celebrities are willing to play the game. Tom’s got the battle scars and lifetime bans to prove it.
“I’ve been assaulted a few times and had my cameras broken, but it all comes with the job,” he says.
“It depends who they are. Probably the rudest celebrity I’ve dealt with was Samuel L Jackson, followed by Jarryd Hayne. (Hayne’s) pretty aggressive when it comes to paparazzi.
“And you don’t seem to deal with too many friendly restaurant managers either. I’m actually banned from Koi.”
With reality show contestants on every second magazine cover, sometimes you’ve got to wonder how certain “celebrities” get a spot in the press. Turns out it’s not so organic.
“Those lower-grade celebrities don’t necessarily pay to be papped, but there are people off say The Bachelor and reality shows that want to get their name out there,” he says.
“They’ll tip you off and arrange a so-called paparazzi shoot and also approve the images before they go out. Then they’ll usually pretend they had no idea.”
Considering the saturation of reality celebrities, it poses the question of who would possibly pay for these pictures, and why – but Tom still cashes in.
“They do still get bought because they come across as a paparazzi-style image,” Tom says.
“It’s tabloid ... if they’re current in the news then people will buy them, but it also depends how much you’re asking.
“You can’t ask for a couple of thousand for someone who was on The Bachelor. You’d be lucky to get $500.”
Despite the driver of that big pay day, Tom admits it’s not a job for the faint-hearted.
“I think to be good at this job you need to be streetwise and confident in your work,” he says.
“We say ‘Shoot first, ask questions later.’ To invade someone’s privacy you have to push the boundaries – and deal with the consequences later.”
Those lower-grade celebrities don’t necessarily pay to be papped, but there are people off say The Bachelor and reality shows that want to get their name out there.
◗ Margot Robbie on her wedding day in the Byron hinterland.
LEFT: Tom Delaney photographs a casually dressed Cate Blanchett at the Gold Coast airport. MIDDLE TOP: Australian DJ Havana Brown. MIDDLE CENTRE: Tom Delaney on location. MIDDLE BOTTOM: Samuel L Jackson flips the bird. RIGHT: Chris Hemsworth lands at Gold Coast airport to start filming of Thor: Ragnarok.