The eyes of star-gazers around the world are on the Italian castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are tying the knot this weekend. But even after the big event is over, the contest of who got the best picture of the biggest celebrity wedding of the year -- and also the biggest paycheck for it -- will still be in full swing.
"Everybody's looking for that money shot, and there's a lot of money on the line," said Harvey Levin, managing editor of the celebrity gossip and photo website TMZ.com.
Exactly how much money is on the line depends not only on what is captured on film, but also on how many photos of the wedding find their way into the public arena. The big business of stars caught on camera is based on a simple economic concept -- supply and demand.
"For one photo owned by one entity, it could be worth a huge amount of money," Levin said. "If 50 photogs get a shot, it'll be worth a lot less."
For the "TomKat" wedding, the second scenario is more likely. While the details of the nuptials may still be under wraps, the location and date of the wedding were made public, and that means there are likely to be lots of pictures. Levin said Cruise can't afford to be camera shy right now.
"There is a business side to this wedding: There's a business side for the photographers, and there's a business side for Tom Cruise," Levin said. "He's been beaten up over the past year. … This is all about image."
Of course, not every celebrity couple lets the specifics of their big day slip. When Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore got married last September, no one even knew for sure that they were engaged, much less the when-and-where of their wedding.
When celebrity couples try to keep the event private, that potentially means a chance for a mega-paycheck for the paparazzi if they manage to get a shot, Levin said.
But even those celebrities who run from the cameras can't afford to be too successful at it, Levin added, because in Hollywood every star needs face time in the glossies. Far worse than being harassed by photographers is being ignored by them.
The going rate for a celebrity's photo says a lot about their status, and celebrities are more status-conscious than popular girls in high school.
"If you can't pull in the figure that another big star can, it says something about you," Levin said. "All of that is a measure of celebrity. If the paparazzi ignores you, it's a sign that your career could be going down."
The competition even extends to photos of celebrity children. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie turned the tables on the paparazzi, selling their daughter Shiloh Nouvel's first baby pictures to raise money for charity. People magazine reportedly paid $4 million to get the photos.
That set the bar very high for other proud celebrity parents.
Cruise and Holmes famously kept their new daughter Suri under wraps until a photo spread appeared in the October issue of Vanity Fair, for which the magazine paid them nothing at all. That sparked rumors that they had been unable to beat the price of the Brangelina baby pics and had opted out of the competition.