‘It’s so important to get the pictures just right’

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Rubbing shoulders with the rich and 
famous is just part of the everyday life for celebrity 
photographer Dave Nelson.

The Blackpool-born, raised and based snapper is a regular on the red carpet at top awards nights, making friends with many of the country’s most recognisable faces.

Dave Nelson, Blackpool celebrity photographer, and twin brother Darren with Hollyoaks actresses Stephanie Davis, left, and Jorgie Porter

Dave Nelson, Blackpool celebrity photographer, and twin brother Darren with Hollyoaks actresses Stephanie Davis, left, and Jorgie Porter

But the stars would be forgiven for thinking they’d maybe indulged in a glass of bubbly too many and were seeing double at their glitzy events.

And that’s because Dave has one very distinct advantage over many of his competitors – his twin brother Darren regularly joins him on the red carpet.

Darren first got involved when Dave couldn’t attend a job in the North West, as he was working in London.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, their double act has caused the typical twin-related confusion.

Dave Nelson, Blackpool celebrity photographer

Dave Nelson, Blackpool celebrity photographer

“Initially the Corrie cast didn’t know I was a twin,” Poulton resident Dave said.

“Even now, I will meet a cast member, then send Darren to the next job and they’ll ask him why he’s not speaking because they think it’s me.

“Darren was actually the first person to have pictures of Michelle Keegan [ex-Coronation Street actress, and girlfriend of Mark Wright] published, and she always remembers that. Jorgie Porter from Hollyoaks is the same.”

With the pair of them able to cover the major awards events in tandem, they’re able to ensure the best coverage of the night.

“For example, at the Inside Soap Awards in October, I was the official photographer inside, while Darren did the boards outside,” Dave explained. “Then I was doing the after party and going where I wanted for the magazine itself.

“As a regular photographer on a red carpet, you turn up about an hour before and put your press card into a draw, where it gets picked out for the positions on the carpet or in the pit. You can end up in a good position or end up on ladders at the very back.

“When you know a lot of the soap stars, like we do, even if you don’t get the best draw, they’ll often pose for you first and make sure you’ve got the shot before moving on. It’s eye contact that’s the key, and they’ll give you that first.”

And they do all the North West diary coverage for OK magazine – which sees them booked as one of the main photographers for the National TV Awards (NTAs), which take place at London’s O2 Arena later this month.

The relationships they’ve built up with the soap stars is crucial to this.

“It’s very rare I go to an event and get nothing,” Dave said. “TV Choice Awards made everywhere. Anything TV and soaps is always a good job as I know so many of them – I’m guaranteed the eye lines from the stars and I have contracts with the magazines.

“What was interesting at the Soap Awards this year was EastEnders had a lot of new actors, the Carter family especially with Danny Dyer, and I wasn’t so aware of them all.

“But one thing I have got from that is someone asking me to photograph their wedding – which is a great honour that I’m looking forward to in the New Year.

“I’m in a privileged position, attending parties like these and I don’t see anything. They’ve grown to trust me, and that’s why an opportunity like that comes about.

“At the NTAs, OK sponsor the red carpet so I’m in prime position for those shots and then move inside to get the winners as they’re announced.

“It’s important to get the pictures just right – not just the good eyelines from the stars, but also featuring the branding for the magazine too.”

What started out as a hobby for a young music fan and then Warbreck School pupil, who snuck his camera into gigs at the Winter Gardens, has over the years become a full-time job, allowing travel up and down the UK, as well as overseas, for festivals and concerts.

And while celebrity parties, events and awards nights may pay the regular bills, Dave’s favourite jobs still tend to revolve around music.

“Music does get me over to Europe for festivals,” he said, and he’s attended the Cannes Film Festival in the past too.

“We don’t get to know artists as much as we used to, which is one of the things which have changed.

“People have asked my favourite event. It was Live 8 in 2005 and getting to photograph Pink Floyd.

“It was really emotional and you will never get to see the original line-up again. I’ve shot Kylie so many times, and she still looks great. Jessie J is fantastic too.

“The last thing Michael Jackson ever did was the World Music Awards at Earls Court. As he walked off stage, he turned and threw a flag into the crowd and I got the shot.

“They say never take your eye off the artist, and that paid off on that occasion.”

And he’s seen the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele rise from low-key gigs in Camden to the international stars they are now.

While missing out on a performance by a then unknown girlgroup called the Spice Girls when they played in Preston cost Dave an estimated £20,000.

“They were due to play in Blackpool, at an event organised by The Gazette the next day, so I didn’t go to Preston,” he said. “Then Wannabe went to number one and they didn’t come to Blackpool.”

He recently shot a national shoot for the Comic Relief launch in February.

Opportunities in Dave’s hometown have increased in recent years – with the growth of events such as Lytham Proms and the Illuminations Switch-On Festival, as well as Strictly Come Dancing’s annual trips to the resort.

Having recently turned 50, Dave’s considering a change in tone to his work and has been developing his lifestyle and portraiture portfolio, and he loved shooting the official images for Blackpool’s Funny Girls nightclub’s Winter Show recently. I’m getting too old for festival fields and night work all the time, so this is an area I’m building up now,” he said.

“I loved seeing Funny Girls, it’s been years since I went along. But the production quality was so high, it was an honour to do that right here on my doorstep instead of it being in London where I have done similar jobs. The work is very seasonal; autumn is dominated by the TV awards, going into the winter, January has the NTAs and others.

“Then in late spring, there’s the Radio One Big Weekend although that clashes with the National Soap Awards – but the Radio One line up was so good last year I went there and sent Darren to the soaps.

“Then it’s the summer festival season. I do music gigs for the Daily Star, reviewing most of the gigs outside of London, but these days, generally, they go to the London date rather than the first night of a tour.

“More people are getting into the pits now at gigs, because of the internet and people blogs.

“People get confused between paparazzi and agency red carpet photographers. Paps are on the street, they won’t attend events but are at the celeb haunts waiting outside.

“It’s because I’ve kept away from that which has helped me do well, and knowing when to put the camera down – that’s so important. I’m not looking for some salacious angle, or to shoot them staggaring out of the club door at 4am.”