It’s not always easy, but D.C. paparazzo takes his shots (Photos)

WASHINGTON — It’s not Hollywood, but D.C. is a great place to spot movie stars, musicians and other famous faces — and one photographer is making a living capturing celebrities in the D.C. area.

Locally based celebrity photographer Mark Wilkins says he thinks the nation’s capital is one of the top three or four cities in the country for stargazing.

“People never expect to see celebrities in D.C., but with Obama in office, we’ve had celebs here every day practically,” he tells WTOP.

Wilkins, who goes by @DCCelebrity on Twitter, often takes photos at Reagan National Airport, which he calls his “office.”

He’s been doing it for about 10 years.

“I was driving limos for 25 years, and I was tipping out other photographers, and then I realized they were making a lot more money than I was,” he says.

He scans the web and newspapers and relies on a network of tipsters to let him know where celebrities will be and when.

Wilkins says A-listers love the Four Seasons Hotel and the rest of Georgetown.

“I got Usher there a couple months ago when he was on tour,” he says. “They just go for walks. No one really recognizes them until they see one of the paparazzi taking pictures of them. They’re just regular people, just like us, except they make a little bit more money.”

Wilkins says most celebrities are fine with what he does, and some, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, even interact with him on Twitter.

But not all of them.

Shia LaBeouf was in D.C. in 2010 to film a “Transformers” movie, and took a break to drink coffee and read outside. When Wilkins tried to get in position to photograph him, LaBeouf took off after him.

“He got up slowly, and I wasn’t running from him but I was running across the street to get pictures of him walking, and he came behind me and threw the coffee on me, which was cold. My camera wasn’t damaged, so I didn’t press charges,” Wilkins said.

The whole thing was caught on video:

What does Wilkins say to others who don’t like the paparazzi?

“If they didn’t buy the magazines, we wouldn’t be getting paid. People love to hate us.”

Wilkins’ photos have appeared in publications such as US Weekly and the National Enquirer, as well as on websites such as Just Jared and E Online.

He says for a series of photos, he can make as little as $5, or as much as $10,000.

“I feel I’ve been lucky doing what I do,” Wilkins says. “I’ve got pictures with five or six presidents.”

That’s right; in addition to taking photos of people, many of them let him pose with them for additional shots.

Which famous people whom he’s never met is he most interested in posing with?

“Paul McCartney. That’s who I really want a picture with. I want a picture with him as a fan.”

He would also like a photo with the Pope, and he plans to try during the pontiff’s visit to D.C. in September.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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