We Spoke To A Photographer Who's Worked The Biggest Night In Fashion

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock.
At this point, we don't have to tell you what Monday is. We all know what the first Monday in May brings (spoiler alert: it's the annual Met Gala, ICYMI), which also means we've spent the last week or so speculating what to expect. How will the celebrity attendees interpret the theme? Will Rihanna actually show up on time this year? Who will get the most-liked group selfie? All will be revealed come Monday night, but ahead of the spectacle, we chatted with someone else inside the event who gave us a little more insight into what's like to actually have a front row view of the "Superbowl of fashion."
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Shutterstock photographer Stephen Lovekin let us in on some of the minor — and major — details of the night, including a memory of past Met Galas that's kind of insane. Lovekin has been photographing the Met Gala for years (including one year, in which he was on crutches and refused to miss it), which means the lens master has pretty much seen it all. Who knows what will go down tomorrow night, but this guy and Shutterstock's team of veteran photographers will be front and center, capturing all of the glitz and glamour as it unfolds. Tough life, isn't it?
On how many photos are taken...
"It's thousands upon thousands. For me alone, it's at 5,000 to 6,000 images between two or three cameras. And that's on average; it can go above that. I try to have at least two, maybe three cameras on me, with different settings, for getting different things. And you're switching back and forth, shooting as rapidly as possible, trying to get what you can, as quick as you can."
The daily schedule...
"Well, there's prep time at home — getting your gear ready, making sure you've got as many backup flashes and batteries as you possibly can. For example, I'm thinking of taking four flashes this year. You go through the flashes pretty quickly, and you don't necessarily always have time to change batteries, so it's a lot easier to just snap on the second flash and continue shooting. So, that entire process takes a couple of hours.
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Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock.
"Check-in is usually between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. And they put you in groups, so you'll go in with about 10 photographers at a time to your assigned stations. And then it just starts filling up. There've got to be a couple hundred photographers, it seems. You've got press on both sides of the carpet, so it fills up pretty quickly. That can take a few more hours.
"The carpet itself is about three hours. But it's the editing that can go all night. Luckily, we have editors working on-site. We're tethered, which means that the images that are captured in the camera go directly to our editors who are onsite working on them in real-time. That relieves a lot of the workload on us so we can just focus on getting as many images as we can. But, once it's all over, you go home and you go through second and third edits, and that can turn it into a 12-hour day."
How many batteries are used...
"Well, there are camera batteries, flash batteries, and then batterie packs. Usually, one fully-charged battery pack with three flashes...that's four double-A's per flash...so yeah, I'll usually take a pack of 24 fully-charged double-A's, one battery pack, and then at least three camera batteries per camera. So, there's a lot of weight in that camera bag. You may not use them all, but it's nice to have. In my opinion, i's the most important event of the year. It's bigger than the Oscars."
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On running out of batteries...
"Years ago, one of the first times I was shooting the Met Gala, there was an instance where my flash died and I couldn't reach my spare, and Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise were walking on the carpet. It was not a good time to have your flash go down. And it was back when they had just started being a couple, so it was important, but I basically had to think quickly and did what's called 'dragging the shutter'.
Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock.
"You lower your shutter speed to pick up more ambient light, and so I shot wide because I knew I didn't have a flash and wasn't going to get my full-length that I wanted, but I was able to get a nice shot of Tom holding his arm out and her reaching to grab him with a lot of flashes going off simultaneously. And that picture actually ran more than any other picture I'd taken from that Met Gala. And that was the picture from when my flash actually died! You make lemonade out of lemons, I guess."
On who arrives first (other than Anna Wintour)...
"Karlie Kloss is usually pretty early. It's usually models, I would say."
On the photographers' favorite attendee to photograph...
"I'd say it's usually Beyoncé or Rihanna, who usually come last. They're who everybody is waiting on. They are the big event. So, when they do, that's when all the excitement ensues. The carpet is cleared, you have a nice shot, they usually have a long train, and you can get a variety of different shots. There are plenty of people who will pose for you — like, Taylor Swift or Allison Williams — but, a lot of the times at the beginning of the carpet, since it's so crowded, you might miss somebody that's posing on the other side. And because there's such backup when they're coming in, their publicists will just tell them to exit the carpet and all of the photographers will lose their minds because they missed somebody. But I'd say the last people to come usually gives really good photos, because they know that they're there to show off their gowns, and they're going to give you what you need."
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