"A lot of it depends on whether it's a private party or if [the celebrities] are in a public space," Sharon Schweitzer, a cross-cultural coach and etiquette expert tells Billboard. "If it's a private party and private invitation, they will have an expectation of privacy if they are public figures. So you can't be snapping photos as freely as if you were in a public space." Schweitzer notes that some hosts will tell guests ahead of time to minimize their Snapchat/Instagram posting, often with a not-so-subtle warning that failure to comply will result in no invitation the next time.
As a resident of Austin, Texas, also the home of favorite son Matthew McConaughey, locals know better than to try and snap shots of the actor and his wife at a party on the sly, aware that their names will be stricken from the list in the future. There are several other ways hosts can make sure proper protocol is followed, according to the Access to Asia author.
"If it's the first time in a while this individual is back in town, they might ask people to check their phones at the front door. If they're expecting a crowd, they'll put a 'no photos' note on the invitation or they can make sure there's no WiFi or guests' phones are turned off." She's also been at soirees with Hollywood stars where the venue will place minders around the notables to look out for phones and let attendees know that if they want to greet the A-lister, they need to put their iPhone back in their purse.
Lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann concurs that when trying to take a pic with a celeb you have to always ask first, don't just bum-rush them or try to do it in secret. More important than that is being prepared. "Before you even ask, though, be ready -- find a person to take the picture for you, or if it's a selfie make sure the phone is turned around and you are in position so you don't waste too much of their time," the founder of the Swann School of Protocol tells Billboard.
Actually, more important than any of that is waiting for an answer, which might be no, in which case you must gracefully walk away and respect their choice. If they say yes, though, get it over with quickly and wihtout complication. "In this kind of instance it's very important to pay attention to body language and the enviroment," she says.
"If someone is in a conversation, then it wouldn't be proper to step in. If you're invited to an event with a guest list, find out from the person who invited you if it's appropriate to take pictures of celebrities." The planner might say no, but that doesn't mean you can't ask the person whose mug you're after, though you should also be prepared for them to shut you down. She gave a recent example from the opening of Tyler Perry's movie studio where The Real panelist Loni Love asked Bey for a shot and the singer said yes, but whoever took the shot didn't get the angles right, so 'Yonce asked them to do it again.
"You have to keep in mind that that person owns the right to their image or likeness and if they don't like the picture, to avoid any further displeasure, it's in your best interest to do what they asked," she says.
Schweitzer also suggests that you could call the host in advance to find out the photo policy, but use your common sense and don't do that if the host is Diddy. He's busy. One thing she never, ever recommends is trying to sneak a pic. "It's not OK. I would say your chance of getting a good shot is not very good and if they figure it out they won't like it and you probably won't like the shot and won't feel good about it," she says.
If they do say yes, you're way more likely to get a social media-worthy snap, you'll probably feel better about the interaction and are much less likely to get tossed out. And lastly, if the star is out with their family or is clearly not "on" and they make that clear to you, respect their choice and don't make them feel bad. "It will always feel better if you ask and they say yes," she says.