Behind the Lens: Rob Rich

Jon Bon Jovi performing at The Clubhouse in 2021 by Rob Rich
Jon Bon Jovi performing at The Clubhouse in 2021
Courtesy Rob Rich

Rob Rich is a Long Island native event photographer who went to school at Southampton College with a focus in photography and marine biology.

He has photographed events such as the 80th and 81st Academy Awards and the 2016 Tony Awards, featuring the stars of Hamilton, including Lin Manuel-Miranda. He has also photographed such events as Paris Hilton’s 21st birthday and more recently Jon Bon Jovi at The Clubhouse in Wainscott.

That’s in addition to photographing such local Hampton celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Madonna and many more. Rich recently photographed NYC’s struggles during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic while also supplying PPE and food to places in need of assistance, including local hospitals, fire stations, as well as to underserved communities.

Lady Gaga at the National Board of Review in Manhattan in 2018 by Rob Rich
Lady Gaga at the National Board of Review in Manhattan in 2018Courtesy Rob Rich

What inspired you to become a photographer?

I’ve always had a passion for photography since I was a kid and won a Kodak competition for a photo taken while I was in the 8th grade when I used a Voigtlander rangefinder camera my dad brought home from Germany when he was in the service. I took photos every day, whether I am hired or not! I find many things interesting to shoot, depending on where I am at the time.

Who is Your Biggest inspiration?

I love the work of Ansel Adams. The landscape photos he took during the period he was alive were incredible and groundbreaking.

Is there anyone or anything specific that got you into photography?

As far as my socialite photography, it was a publicist named Catherine Saxton. She was the publicist for many high-profile people, including the Hiltons and the Trumps. She discovered me and was the primary force in my socialite photography career.

What is your favorite type of event to shoot?

The one that pays the most for the least amount of stress involved!

Do you have a favorite photo you have ever taken?

Lady Gaga, as she is friendly to the photographers and gives you time. She is not just running through the gauntlet to get to the other side of the carpet. She is the most impressive person I have ever photographed.

What is involved in a photoshoot, from start to finish?

Let us talk about event photography, for example. Before you shoot, make sure all batteries, including backup batteries, are fully charged. Expect equipment to fail. Carry backups of everything, then fire away! After the event, there is photo editing. Oh, the fun part! You will spend hours on the computer typing in all the names of the people you shot. And you better get the names right! If necessary, compensate for color balance and exposure. Editing can take twice as long as the photoshoot. There are three aspects of a shoot. The travel time, the time to shoot the event and the after editing time. Many people who will hire you just think it’s about snapping a button.

Paris Hilton at The Fragrance Foundation’s FIFI Awards in 2009 by Rob Rich
Paris Hilton at The Fragrance Foundation’s FIFI Awards in 2009Courtesy Rob Rich

How do you operate? How do you get the perfect smile?

You have to get into the person’s mind and get the perfect expression from somebody’s face. I’ll give an analogy. When you’re a bartender, as an example, you make money through tips. You have approximately one minute to learn someone’s personality in order to get a tip out of them. So you have to learn how somebody is like in a very short amount of time to make them laugh or smile. You have to get into somebody’s brain and make them happy to get what you need. The happiness is that smile, and you have to have the ability to get that smile for that photo.

What equipment do you recommend to new photographers?

As far as equipment, I suggest you use what you are comfortable with. Certain people are relaxed and find it easy to use the controls on certain brands of cameras, and others have a hard time using the menus on others. Find your comfortable fit. Many people ask me what’s the best camera to use. I tell them the one you are comfortable using and controlling to get the best possible photo!

Finally, what is the biggest compliment you can receive as a photographer?

Someone liking a photo I took of themselves. That is the highest compliment a photographer can receive.

Rob Rich is currently working on On My Way Home, a book showcasing the homeless population he encountered on the streets during walks home in his neighborhood. The book is coming out soon. For now, check out his work on his website nysocialscene.com.

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