How to snap the snappers

An insider's guide to beating the paparazzi. By Glenda Cooper
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From time to time, polls reveal the most unpopular and untrustworthy professions. Usually MPs, journalists and estate agents fight it out at the top. But one species is more hated than all the rest. Spurned by the man in the street, reviled by celebrities, we have the hapless newspaper photographer.

This weekend, two more fell victim to angry public personalities. When Martin Stenning followed the Princess of Wales on his motorbike, her solution was simple and effective. She jumped out of her car, pinched his ignition keys and drove off laughing. A classy act for a media manipulator.

James Aylott had a less pleasant experience. Disturbing Paul Gascoigne on his honeymoon in Hawaii, Aylott found himself in hospital after someone struck with a stone. An effective technique, but involving less finesse than the Princess showed.

A photographer's lot is not a happy one even within the newspapers they work for. Usually nicknamed "snappers", the alternative, crueller term is "monkeys" - because of photographers' tendency to jump up and down, run backwards and climb trees. But for any celeb who has borne the indignity of seeing the inside of their nostrils all over the front page or their cellulite revealed getting out of a limo, there is no love lost.

In the old days, of course, the simple way to avoid appearing in the papers in an unflattering light was to cover your features with a newspaper or umbrella. Sadly, this no longer works unless you want to affix an umbrella permanently to your forehead. Even then, editors have discovered that photos of people trying to hide are funnier than those of them walking normally, and so are much more likely to be used.

No, in today's world, avoiding photos is a more sophisticated process, requiring careful planning and superb execution. So here we can exclusively reveal the insider's guide to beating the paparazzi.

First, perfect the art of blinking slowly and regularly. Nothing annoys a snapper more than a picture ruined by someone's eyes closed (unless, of course, the story is that you have a drink problem, in which case rumours may be fuelled).

If this is too difficult, it is time to hire burly minders, each armed with sharp scissors to snip the camera strap at the crucial moment. Minders can also distract snappers with comments such as, "Look, mate, Madonna isn't here and she told me she's not coming downstairs today," while you slip out the back door.

The truly professonal solution is to hire lots of security guards to hustle your lookalike (preferably under a shawl) out of the hotel front door amid shouts of "ou'ofmiway!" Two hundred photographers will immediately pursue said lookalike around Kensington for hours, leaving you free to browse happily in Soho.

The other alternative is to offer one photographer a place on your private plane without specifying a name. Let the monkeys fight it out among themselves - it's prudent to call the ambulance in advance - and taxi down the runway leaving the yells of pain behind.

Perhaps the most effective technique, though, is treating photographers like human beings. Used to hurled insults, stoney silence and physical abuse, a photographer who is treated in a civilised manner will be pathetically grateful. At the height of the Sara Keays scandal, Cecil Parkinson invited snappers soaked in the rain to shelter in his garage. Later, he brought out a bottle of whisky to warm them up. When one raised his camera, the offender was quickly and effectively squashed by the rest.

Here a tribute must be paid again to the Princess of Wales, probably the most photographed woman in the world. She has pioneered many innovative techniques. In the early days she caught a bus to avoid a photographer (a truly remarkable achievement for a woman who admits she doesn't know how to use a public phone box). Now she employs the more subtle tactic of crying in the middle of the road so that most feel too sorry to take advantage of her.

And finally, remember that photographers are like you and me. They crave excitement, glamour and huge expense accounts. In Hawaii, James Aylott overheard Gazza saying to Sheryl: "Wish we'd gone to bloody Majorca." Gazza: no photographer wants to spend two weeks in Magaluf when he can be in Hawaii. So, next time you want to travel incognito, book yourself into a cosy apartment in Torremolinos, spread a rumour the Princess is in St Lucia and enjoy the peace.